10 Reminders for Substitute Yoga Teachers

This article is for all you yoga teachers who sub, whether it’s for a living or because you have taken maternity leave and are finding it hard to get your regular classes back.

You love yoga and you're following your heart, but it is quite challenging to find regular classes to teach. Hunting for regular classes is a huge challenge in itself. Apart from that, subbing to keep your passion glowing in the dark can sometimes feel like floating on a flowing river and getting dragged by the current. You are constantly striving to feel the satisfaction of getting to teach all those sequences you dream about teaching every time you shut your eyes.

These are Ten Things a Substitute Yoga Teacher Needs to Learn:

  1. Do it for yourself. There are unlimited sequences. This is a chance to exhibit all that is possible by you. Go for it! As the saying goes, “Live like you will die tomorrow.” Bring that feeling to your class. You will love it and so will the people who are on those mats, following your guidance.

  2. Participants are likely expecting a change from their normal routine teacher who carries a certain style. Who cares if they came for Chinese and you offer Mexican. All that matters is that there is food. Don’t go into “will they like me” mode. If you try to please everyone, you'll be left unsatisfied.

Remember that you are opening your arms to lend a hug to others, so you should feel awesome that you are the giver here. Show how deep your passion is in teaching and serving others. Things that come out of your heart center won’t resonate with everyone on Earth. So what? Let your heart glow and flow all at once. Those who don't like your style could still enjoy the energy. Remember: What flows out of the heart reaches other people on a soul level.

  1. There will certainly be some newbies. Address their alignment. At least you’re giving them the knowledge of awareness and rescuing them from potential injury. They will certainly love your cues on how to align. Afterall, it's something they can practice everywhere.

  2. Don’t copy a style. I have tried matching others for whose classes I sub, at least initially, to appeal to all who came because of that teacher’s style. That was the wrong decision. Have you ever copied another person’s handwriting? You will suck big time. It’s like matching home-cooked food to processed food. There's no way you can get the ingredients right. Be original.

  3. People love challenges, so do more shoulder and standing poses. Legs need stability work. No matter how many times students have done standing balances, even advanced level students will sweat it out. It’s impossible for your legs not to get tired.

  4. Know your own style well. All that matters is that you feel satisfaction in your teaching. You will be amazed at how people will catch your vibrations. At the end of class, leave them feeling grounded. A long savasana will pay off in relaxing your students.

You are here only once to serve and show love. Just be open and release it all at once. Not in the form of a million poses all in one class, but by relaxing and stretching. Elaborate on breath. Often, longtime teachers will have a pattern that they follow. They might be in the habit of moving quickly from pose to pose. You should pause on retention of breath in poses. This will come back to you as high praise. Few regular teachers focus on relaxation and stretches.

  1. There will be the occasional person who gives you dirty looks as if to say “I just don’t like your class, I wish I had known you were subbing.” If you come across one of those frustrated, stressed-out, “what do I do now” looking people, be prepared to announce (with complete compassion) that you understand that the style you teach might not appeal to everyone, so they are free to leave with a namaste–preferably before the class begins instead of in the middle. That makes it easy.

Do not feel obligated to overly drain yourself on that one person who doesn’t get what you are saying. That will just frustrate you both. Move on, and you'll feel much better. Know that the people who stayed love you no matter what. Even if there are only two people remaining.

  1. Don’t judge yourself. It’s easy to do, but everyone is different. You will be remembered by those people who are open versus those people who prefer their respective teacher anyway.

  2. If you are subbing for a senior teacher, a little nervousness is okay. But remember that students need a relaxed feeling at the end, so always teach only those poses you have experienced deeper. Try your own way of relaxing them and take them deeper into each pose. Even if you are just a beginner teacher, go for that one sequence that you are completely confident teaching. It is better to take a known path than experiment with a new group of students.

  3. Lastly, remember that you're there to help. You are helping another teacher to happily enjoy a vacation, or giving them the opportunity to care for a sick child, or perhaps to move ahead in their path as they pursue another certification. Whether they remember your help or not, feel happy knowing that you were of service to someone.

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