I remember being terrified to teach my final class on the last day of my yoga teacher training.
I sat in the corner doing pranayama while my fellow teacher trainees gathered up their courage to teach.
Ever since my first yoga class, I felt inspired by my teachers, powerfully leading their class through the sequences. The thought of becoming a yoga teacher myself was terrifying, but I also had a little bit of excitement when I imagined it.
Up until my teacher training, my biggest fear was using my voice.
When it came time to give a presentation in middle school or high school, I had trouble finding my breath. I realized it was my body’s way of protecting me from the possible embarrassment of speaking up. However, by college I saw how this fear was holding me back in all areas of my life.
After four years of dedicating myself to my yoga practice, my curiosity and excitement about teaching grew, so I packed up my bags and went to Mexico for my first teacher training, ready to face my fear.
The supportive people in my training helped me begin to unlock the fear, but when my turn came to get up in front of the room to teach, I was shaking.
Fortunately, this time was different. The deep breathing practices I had learned in the training helped me find my breath, and I stood knowing everyone in the room wanted me to succeed. As I began to speak, I surprised myself with how much I knew and how poised I felt in the seat of the teacher. I discovered a new side of myself I didn’t know was there before.
Eleanor Roosevelt says, “The very next thing you need to be doing is what terrifies you the most.”
Over the years, I’ve taken this to heart and learned that when I feel fear (and a little bit of excitement), life is presenting me with an opportunity to grow.
I learned that we experience fear when we encounter an unfamiliar experience. When I faced my fear over and over again, it became easier each time.
Not only did it become easier, but it became enjoyable.
Unfortunately, after my training, my familiar fears crept in and I felt like I was right back where I started. I had a little bit of courage knowing I had done it before, so I decided the only way to get rid of my fear of teaching was to simply go out and do it, again and again.
I now teach five of my own classes each week. Facing this fear has prompted me to face other fears in my life, knowing I am fully capable.
I know how hard it can be to start out teaching, so I compiled this list to share the most important steps I took that helped me break through my initial fear.
1. I Spoke the Fear
When I started telling people about my fear, it took away its power.
Before I started speaking about my fear, the fear was just in my mind, and I had no escape from it. However, when I started sharing with people about my fear of public speaking, I started finding solutions. I met other yoga teachers with similar fears when they were first starting to teach and I started feeling less alone.
It was so refreshing to get the fear out of my mind and into a conversation.
2. I Got Support
When I started speaking my fear, one friend recommended I see a voice teacher.
I liked the idea, so decided to take lessons. My teacher showed me how to use my breath lower in my diaphragm and taught me exercises to strengthen my voice.
After several years of teaching I began meeting other women who had completed a yoga teacher training but had not yet started teaching, so I created a program for new yoga teachers to openly share their fears, strengthen their voice and practice teaching. I called it the Young Women’s Yoga Sangha and started offering the program in the Bay Area. I saw that when these women talked about their fear, they were intimately supported by each other, and that support gave them the courage to face it.
When I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my goals and dreams, my mind started telling me, “I’m not good enough, I don’t know enough, I can’t do this…” and almost convinced me not to do it.
Having a consistent supportive people in my life encouraging me, made the next steps so much easier.
3. I Celebrated My Successes
I did not go out and face my biggest fear right away; I started small.
I taught my family and a couple close friends. I then felt ready to face the fear in front of strangers after having those key positive experiences first.
Every time I took a step to face my fear, I celebrated my success and reminded myself of those successes every time I felt afraid to move forward.
4. I Let Go of My Story
Before having a regular teaching schedule, my story was, “I can’t do this, I have never been good at talking in front of groups, and therefore I will never will be good at it.”
This was not even true! Just saying it out loud felt crazy. It was a story my mind made up to keep me “playing small.”
When we live in our story, we tend to procrastinate. We’ll be on Facebook, check our email again and again, or distract ourselves with food, alcohol, sex or anything else we can use to avoid taking action.
So how did I get out of my story?
First, I recognized that there was a story, then I wrote it down until it had no meaning anymore. I saw the words, and what it really was, a story.
Marilena Minucci says, “Your story can hold you hostage or it can set you free. You get to choose.”
Make a choice to write a new story, and remind yourself of that story every time you see your old story play out. Be held accountable, speak the story, and write the story as much as you need to see all it is is a story, and then let it go.
In the book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown talks about cultivating the bravery to just be in the arena. Being in the arena shows you are living in alignment with your values.
No matter what the outcome is, you are daring greatly and living your truth of courage.
When I faced my fear, connected to what I value and wrote a new story, I learned that whatever the outcome was, I was setting an example and becoming an inspiration just by taking action.
5. I Connected to My Bigger Picture and Vision for Myself and For the World
The biggest step I took to face my fear was ask, “Why is it important for me to face this fear?” and “Why is it important for me to make this next step?”
When I asked “Why?” I saw that the purpose of teaching was actually more important than my fear.
It became painful not to share the knowledge I had learned. I saw it wasn’t about me anymore.
If I wanted to create a more conscious and compassionate world, I needed to face the fear.
If I wanted to help people live without pain in their body, I needed to face the fear.
If I wanted more people to rest and love themselves first, I needed to face the fear.
When I approached my fear from this place of service to all the people who could benefit from my teaching and myself, it became much easier to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Marcee Murray King/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Author’s own