Anyone who has taken a 200-hour training knows that teaching yoga is a labor of love, most of which is unpaid. Let’s face it, the yoga industry has blown up and there are more teachers than there have ever been. So how do you do it? How do you communicate well and deliver an impactful yoga class?
Here are my top five things you can start doing now to become a remarkable teacher.
Don’t over schedule yourself
Remaining balanced is an essential part of being a great teacher. I remember times in my life where I said yes to everything and everyone and my teaching suffered! A teacher who embraces balance on all levels, emotional, spiritual and physical shows professionalism and will build rapport and trust. Be realistic about what you can take on and still deliver a quality class. Your students will notice, your studio owner will notice and you will notice.
Keep a yoga journal
The other day one of our teachers told us a story about a friend who carried a journal rolled up in her mat. I immediately resonated with this. While I don’t roll a journal in my mat, I do carry it with me in my bag. It reminds me of where I have been and always be a student first. Keeping a journal is also practical. You can quickly write down the name of a song, or a sequence that you loved. Maybe you get an idea for a class theme, or you read a great quote. Put it in your journal. A word of advice. Don’t scrapbook your journal. Let it be messy and real. You don’t need a lot of time to do this and you will be so thankful that you did.
Teach to the students in the room
Soapbox alert! Have you ever planned the perfect class only to have the class flop? The sequence was hard to teach, the music didn’t flow? what happened? Most likely you weren’t teaching to the students in front of you that day. If you want to deliver a great class that works every time, learn how to adapt. Specifically, become an expert in clearly communicating to the class in front of you. This means that you will need to figure out different ways to say the same thing and do it with flair. A good starting point is to look at one person and cue their feet. Then maybe look to the second person and cue the pelvis, and so on. The point is to cue to the bodies in the room as a whole. You may be looking at ‘Dave’ in the back row cueing him to become light with the breath while ‘Sally’ in the front row is intently adjusting her pose as you speak. You will find that when you approach your teaching in this way, your cues will become alive and fluid with your class, your content will remain fresh and the class energy will be spectacular.
The art of language will never get lost on your audience
A piece of advice I got years ago…Don’t use a bucket full of words to express a spoonful of thought. Your use of language will make or break a class. Keep your cues impactful and succinct. You can do this by using well placed cues with pauses for silence in between. This is a powerful technique that will give your class the time to process your words and then move their body. Discipline yourself to say less with more impact. Opt for clear and descriptive language that describes both external and internal actions. For example: Inhale Warrior 1. Ground through your feet and reach your arms overhead. From your pelvis to your fingertips grow and let the breath fill your back ribs. Note how I used an external action (Inhale, W1. Ground through the feet and reach arms over head). I will follow that up with an internal cue to create a feeling or an experience (pelvis to fingertips grow and let the breath fill your back ribs). It’s also important to think about the types of words you use, the tone of your voice and the enunciation of your words. Use clear action words and avoid floral language for your external cues because it can confuse a client. Use more creative and descriptive words for your internal cues and then give them time to create the experience that you directed. The use of internal cues puts the responsibility of awareness on your student and is a powerful tool in creating efficacy.
Stay on your mat!
Life never stops teaching us, on and off the mat. I have seen so many yoga teachers stop practicing after they graduate from their 200-hour training. When a teacher doesn’t practice the first thing to go is quality of their class. Too many teachers over schedule themselves not leaving time for a personal practice. This may be the single fastest way I have seen a teacher’s class numbers drop. Often when this happens teachers will also face burnout and a loss of motivation. Your personal practice is your compass when you teach. It will help you to stay connected with your students and It will supply you with more breadth of communication by way of tangible experience. You will find many lessons on your mat that you can infuse into your teaching that will deliver a message of authenticity and confidence because you are teaching from what you know. To sustain your teaching long term commit to following the road map of the 8 limbs of yoga. In particular, the first two limbs which describe how to live: self-discipline, self-study, truthfulness…all of which can be applied to a consistent yoga practice, followed by the third limb, asana.
Written by Brandy Jones, E-RYT 500; Owner at Solshine and Yoga Instructor at Clemson University.