So, you’ve finished your initial 200 hour yoga teacher training. Congratulations! You’ve got the certification in your hand and found somewhere to teach. Now you have to get up in front of a group and lead a yoga practice. Terrifying, right? I thought so too, but I promise it’s not anywhere near as scary as you think it is. Take a deep breath, make a plan, and enjoy yourself.
Breathe. Just breathe.
Yoga students can smell your fear. It’s normal to be nervous, but don’t let it overcome you. I spend a lot of time reminding my students to breathe and then often forget myself! Public speaking is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but it is a skill that everybody can develop through practice. I needed to practice with close friends again and again before I felt like I was starting to get a handle on my nerves. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become. Never apologise.
There’s a good chance you might slip up – get your left foot confused with your right, miss a pose in your carefully designed class plan, forget what that thing connecting your head to your shoulders is called, but don’t panic. Smile at your students and laugh. Never apologise. Of course it's instinctual, to say you're sorry, but try to get out of the habit when you're leading a class. I have, on occasion, seen some of the most efficient yoga teachers I know lose their way. Everybody makes mistakes.The majority of the time, your students won’t even notice. Keep it simple.
You’re new. No one expects you to be teaching complicated classes. I know it's tempting to be creative, but don't get carried away. The more intricate your flow, the more opportunity there is for you to make mistakes, forget what you’re doing, mix up your left and your right, or just simply have a nervous breakdown mid-class. The first time I constructed a class, I tried running through it myself and quickly realised that I was pushing myself too hard, let alone any prospective students. Don’t be too proud to have a plan.
Even the best yoga teachers go into classes with a plan. Experienced teachers will have sequences that they know like the back of their hand and so formulating a class is fairly easy, but as you start out, you will need to put a lot of thought into the structure of your class. I like to have a brief plan written out in a small notebook to keep beside my mat at the front of the class, just in case I get lost and need a quick reminder of what comes next. Teach what you practice.
The most important piece of advice I learned during my teacher training was the mantra, "Teach what you practice." Everyone has their limitations, even yoga teachers! A pivotal moment for me in training was when our anatomy teacher demonstrated that, due to the length of his torso, he was unable to do Parivritta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle). It doesn’t matter how flexible or strong you are, there are just some poses that you may never achieve due to your body type. If you don’t practice Headstand, don’t teach it. If you are not flexible enough to do the splits, don’t teach it. If you don’t have the hip rotation to do Lotus, don’t teach it. It’s not just about demonstrating a pose; it’s also a matter of knowing the asana well enough in your own body to be able to ensure the safety of your students.