November 16, 2014

So you Think you Want to be a Yoga Teacher?

yoga teacher training, asana, class

“You’re really good at yoga. You should be a teacher!”

Does this sound familiar?

Has your ego ever been flattered by such comments from newbies to class who have looked on in awe as you kick up into headstand or balance, beautifully poised, in crow?

We go home, look at ourselves in the mirror, posing in our fancy yoga pants and think, “Hey, maybe they’re right. I can do yoga. How hard can teaching it be?

Well, my wannabe-yoga-teacher friends, damn hard is the answer.

I’m a few months into my training and, although I’m loving every minute of it, it’s harder than I thought. Here are a few of the challenges I’ve faced thus far as I progress along the path to becoming a certified instructor.

Challenge One:

You will have to start your own home practice and will not be able to rely on going to classes. Sound easy? Finding time (and space) in your home to dedicate to your own practice can be tough.

At the studio, there’s no one banging on the door, wanting to know what time supper will be, or demanding “Muuuummmieee, where are you?!”

You need self-discipline (and a tough heart!) to hit your own mat, without the fancy props, mirrors and music.

Challenge Two:

Classes may never be the same again!

As you progress in your training, the temptation to become hyper-critical rises. You’ll start analysing every cue, every adjustment (or lack thereof), the environment and watching others for alignment.

It takes a conscious effort to switch off “trainee teacher mode” and simply enjoy, not judge, and appreciate that everyone has to find their own teaching voice.

Challenge Three:

You’ll find out you’re not as good as you thought you were. I’m in my mid-40’s and my fellow trainees are fearless young bucks, half my age, fitter, and stronger than I ever recall being when I was in my 20’s.

You’ll need to swallow your ego and accept your own limitations. It’s a great lesson to learn and you’ll have more empathy with the students who come to your classes, each with their own baggage, physical or emotional, which you’ll have to help them manage and overcome.

Challenge Four:

Just because you might be a great yogi, that is no guarantee that you will be a great teacher.

Real, honest teaching from the heart is a gift.

Yes, you can learn the art of voice projection, master anatomy and memorise asanas but, you can’t learn presence or empathy.

Think of the best teacher you’ve ever come across. I bet they all had that certain indescribable quality—presence, charisma, authority. I’ve been a school teacher for over 20 years and I’ve had the privilege of observing many amazing teachers who are able to hold hormonal adolescents enthralled as they deliver a lesson; transforming the mundane into magic.I’m sure all of us on the course will indeed become teachers but, good teachers? Inspirational teachers? Maybe a few of us if we’re lucky.

The ability to inspire is a gift. You are blessed if you have it.

Challenge Five:

Turning a hobby into a business is tough. Do you know how to fill out a tax return? What’s a reasonable rate to charge for classes? Got your website up and running yet?

To make money from your passion, you need to be business savvy. Chances are that you will be your own marketing manager, bookkeeper, personal assistant as well as striving to be a good partner, friend, sibling, etc.

Talk about plate spinning! Your teacher training course may only give you a brief insight into what you need to do to make yourself marketable and financially viable. Ask if any yoga teachers you admire will act as your mentor and help you find your feet.

Yoga is very en Vogue at the moment and this is a double-edged sword. Class sizes are increasing and more people are seeking new studios to attend, but there’s more competition than ever. Be true to yourself and don’t follow fads which will come and go. Luckily, quality yoga, taught with knowledge, compassion and honesty is here to stay.

Challenge Six:

The more you learn, the more your thirst for knowledge increases. I come away from each training weekend with a book full of notes and a head full of ideas. I realised very quickly that my training would mark the beginning of what I hope will be a lifelong process of discovery.

Be prepared to work hard at home, writing essays, reading about the subject, planning lessons. You will have to start teaching your friends, colleagues—anyone who is willing to accept your fumbled attempts at mirroring, your confused cueing and cringe worthy aphorisms. Receiving feedback can be tough.

Still interested? Then send off the application and prepare to be humbled and inspired in equal measure.

My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.



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Author: Helen Portas

Editor: Emma Ruffin

Photo: The Yoga People/Flickr

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