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January 29, 2020

The Unsaid, Untold Truths of being a Yoga Teacher.

You’ve fallen in love with your yoga teacher, the studio, the vibes, and your mat, and you are ready to deepen your practice and your purpose.

You are ready to be the one leading the group through the grunting, moaning, and inevitable bliss at the end of the class.

Here’s the unsaid, untold truth about the process you’re about to undergo. 

The first thing I will say is that you’re about to spend more money on training than you’ll make for the first few years. All you will want to do is learn more, train more, and get more certifications.

I’ve trained with some of the best instructors in the world; I leaned into every certification in the beginning. I was inspired to train with the best instructors possible, but over the past decade not one of my students ever asked for a list of certifications before they rolled out a mat in my class. They only care about how they feel during and when they leave my class. 

Choose your training lanes based on what feels good to you—not what you think will sound good on your resume. Yoga is a business like anything else, and many instructors make their income on you buying into their specialized program, some highly valuable and some not.

Information, learning, and certifications are incredible, but remember yoga is a lifelong journey. Take your time and consider that yoga is also a business and they know how to market like any other industry. You don’t need every course that sounds amazing. 

The second is get ready to dive deep. Yoga is a physical workout and an emotional work-in. You will change, you will evolve, you will grow. It’s going to suck a little—probably more.

During my intensive training, I was away from my kids for the first time, and on my first night there, I found out they were all battling a virus at home. I was also surrounded by a bunch of people with stronger physical practices than my own and louder opinions; my introverted nature was overwhelmed by aggressive extroverts. Many personalities clashed, and pack mentality took over—but we were pushed into bonding exercises, group work, and intense practices.

There are eight limbs of yoga; only one of them is physical movement, which is likely what you’ve been focused on so far. But it’s the other seven that catch you off guard.

You are about to dive into thousand-year-old philosophies that have been translated from different languages and theories that you had never even considered possible and a lot of opinions. This isn’t math, where there’s a clear right and wrong; it is metaphysical, contextual depth.

Breathe. Process. Not everything that is taught as gospel is the truth. This is a lesson that I am continually learning.

Over the past few years, I’ve been open about my sexual assault, and because of that I’ve opened the door for that conversation with my students. I offer free services to assault victims and obtained certifications and courses in PTSD. But if you’re any good at what you do, or authentic at all, people will follow suit.

They will fall apart because you will allow them a safe space to do so. They fall apart in your classes, they fall apart after them, and they often tell you why. They will confess their innermost demons, their traumas, body hatred, their chaos, divorces, abuse, and devastating grief. Many people show up at their most vulnerable stages of recovery, looking for healing—because that’s what yoga offers. 

Practice non-attachment. For every three people who feel close enough to you to emotionally spill all over you, for every dozen who will share with you their joys and tell you what you just taught was exactly what they needed, there is the one who will walk out without telling you why. You won’t see them for weeks, if at all, and you’ll wonder what you said to trigger them, which may have been nothing at all—but you’ll never get closure. For every student you fall in love with, for every student who becomes a loyal devotee, not one of them actually belong to you. Some will move on, move away, or move forward.

If you find your way through all of that, I promise it’s incredibly worth it. Every hour, every person you help, every growth, every triumph, every pose they finally get, every goal they crush, every insecurity and vulnerability and every day they show up is worth more than gold.

Every mistake you make; every time you accidentally forget to put your phone on vibrate; or miss a pose on one side; or teach a flow that is too complicated for most of your class; or don’t know what to do with an obscure medical complication you’re told about 10 seconds before you teach; or when the entire class doesn’t move after Savasana, even after you cue them it’s time; or when they break into applause—worth it.

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author: Paula McDermid

Image: Author's own

Editor: Kelsey Michal