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In just the last few years alone the amount of people practicing yoga has skyrocketed! The boom of new yoga students has also paved the way for almost as many new teacher training programs. Some students do teacher trainings just to deepen their own knowledge of the practice, but the majority enroll to become teachers themselves. After completing your first 200-hour training, there are so many different paths to take that simply getting started can feel a little overwhelming. After getting to work with and mentor many new teachers from all different types of trainings and backgrounds, I have come up with a few bits of advice to help new yoga teachers get grounded and feel comfortable in the new role they have taken on.
1. Gaining Teaching Experience
Many new teachers try to pile on the trainings as soon as they can. Take the precious time you have after your first training to absorb all of the information given to you (it's a lot!) so you can fully apply it to your teaching. If you do not practically apply what you've learned, you’ll lose it. Secondly, teach as much as you can! Your teaching practice is exactly like your yoga practice. As Sri K Pattabhi Jois said, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory.” Consistency is key. A minimum of around 2-3 years of consistently teaching is a good indicator that you’ve had some time to apply what you’ve learned and really let it all sink in.
2. Take What You Can Get
This is something not everyone wants to hear. When you first start teaching, try to teach as much as physically possible, anytime and anywhere you can. You are new to this, and like tip #1, the best way to refine your skills is by actually practicing them! That means subbing last minute when the opportunity arises, adding on that weekly 6AM Friday class offered to you, teaching your friends or relatives in the park, or teaching a community class at your local studio. Do it! You will be so happy you did.
3. Be Open To Feedback
Most of the time spent in the beginning of your teaching practice will first be getting comfortable teaching what you have learned. The next chapter is uncovering and getting clear on your truth and values, and your highest intentions as a teacher in order to start teaching from an authentic place. A large part of that growing process is graciously listening to feedback, and discerning whether or not it aligns with your intentions and mission as a teacher. Sometimes feedback won’t always be what we want to hear, but we can only grow when we leave space open for improvement. This can be hard on the ego, but there is nothing more refreshing than hearing someone else’s perspective. Ask for feedback from your studio managers, your colleagues, family, or anyone you think would give you an honest and informed opinion of your teaching. From there, it is your choice to decide what to take to heart as valid and constructive and what to let go of.
4. Find A Mentor You Trust
Find a teacher who truly inspires you and who you’ve been practicing with for a few years. It is crucial that this teacher comes from a place of experience and is someone you have a personal relationship with – not just someone you did a one week intensive with or follow on social media. Having guidance when you need it is everything. Find a teacher you resonate with, take their class frequently, and ask to speak to them about the possibility of forming that relationship together. As students, we usually feel that connection instantly when we have found our teacher(s). Similarly, your intuition will tell you which teaching mentor is a good fit for you. Fortunately, some studios offer mentorship programs with their teachers, which can make the process a little more organized and your time in training will be credited.
5. Forever A Student
The writer Ray Bradbury said, “Do what you love, and love what you do.” The best yoga teachers are those that are forever students themselves. It is so important to be constantly learning and immersing ourselves in our field of study and within our community through reading, meditation, workshops, consistent practice, etc. Try taking classes outside of your comfort zone. If you are a vigorous vinyasa yogi, take a few restorative classes; if you like advanced postures, take some basics classes. When we step outside what is comfortable for us as students, we broaden our knowledge and increase our ability to become better teachers. We can also learn so much simply from supporting and taking other teachers classes in our community.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
We learn most about our truest selves and dive into our inner potential when we connect to ourselves through the yoga practice in meditation. Developing a home practice is essential. When we have a deep connection to ourselves, we are able to connect more deeply and authentically with our students. One of my teachers, Sri Dharma Mittra, will always set aside ten minutes before he teaches each class in order to relax and meditate, so he can come from a peaceful state while working with his students. It’s helpful to set aside time to practice and to meditate before you teach so that your energy is grounded and your words are coming from a place of truth. Committing to a home yoga and meditation practice helps us dive deeply into our practice to discover who we authentically are, at our highest and most true level, which in turn gives us the ability as yoga teachers to work with our students from a clear, authentic and compassionate place.