Yoga teaching can be a fulfilling career. Teaching yoga for fifteen years has been a passion of mine. It’s not easy. Teaching was not a job I could sustain for seven years. It took me a while to develop my teaching skills and learn from my mistakes. I was not valued professionally or monetarily after I gained more experience. I felt less self-worth, which affected every aspect of my daily life. My obstacles were the only thing that helped me improve my teaching skills, my career, and my livelihood.
When I look back on my personal growth as a teacher, I can see that there were some key steps that I needed to take to challenge the status quo. Teaching is like a good yoga practice. It only gets better when you are willing to make changes. These are the six most important aspects of teaching yoga that you should know when you first start.
Make an impact, not popularity
When I started teaching yoga, I was very conscious of the fact that my classes were not well attended. I was disappointed that most yoga studios pay based on attendance. As many new teachers do, I overbooked my classes at yoga studios to accommodate more than 15 classes per week. My class attendance declined instead of increasing as students discovered that they could attend my classes at different times. I felt discouraged, burned out, financially unstable, and resentful towards other teachers and studio management. This cycle was broken only when I realized that I wasn’t everyone’s teacher. Then I made a commitment to my students who are most interested in my classes and who I enjoy teaching. It was useful to see my own journey with yoga and the progress I have made. I found others who were on the same path as me: Men aged between 25 and 55, with backgrounds in sports and navigating injury. There are many yoga teachers out there, so having a niche helped me to be more appealing as a teacher. They found me, instead of looking for more students. I saw my classes grow, and was able to reduce my yoga studio classes. This led to better opportunities in unique locations for those who appreciated my services.
Give value to your students
Teachers often offer classes that are geared toward other teachers of yoga, rather than their students. Talk to your students to get a better understanding of their needs and adapt your teaching to them. My students are concerned about alleviating joint and back pain. They would not be taught a class on chakra-based meditation, chanting or meditation. Instead, I offer classes to relieve their pain. It allows me to deliver classes that are effective in reaching my students’ goals by offering specialty classes. This helps people see that their yoga practice is effective and instills confidence in me and its benefits. This plan would have saved me many years of doubting my teaching if I had implemented it sooner.
Do not underestimate the basics
One of my biggest errors as a teacher was trying to be too creative with my poses and sequences. My classes felt disjointed and forced because of this. My instruction was difficult because I was so focused on me and not remembering my sequences. It is disheartening to see students who are confused and bored. Worse, their progress was impeded by it. This was my goal. I concentrated on teaching the basic poses to students and learned how to instruct them in general form. I didn’t like to mix more than three variations of asymmetrical poses (e.g. warrior 2 or tree pose) and also avoided poses that required you to balance on one leg.
A good yoga sequence to start
An excellent, basic format for sequencing is to start with a warm-up like cat or cow. Next, you will do a few rounds sun salutation where you connect every movement with your breathing. Start by standing on top of your mat. Next, exhale and reach your arms up. Next, exhale and bow forward to touch the floor. Next, exhale and straighten your legs. Then, lift your spine up enough to extend your back. Inhale and place your hands on the ground. For a cobra, inhale and pull your chest forward. Finally, raise your hips and turn your back to form a “V” shape. This will make you a downward dog. Take a deep inhale and step up to the top of your mat. Next, bow. Exhale and lengthen your spine halfway up to standing. Exhale and reach your arms overhead. Then, stand up. Inhale and bring your arms along with your body. Stand.
Next, do standing poses such as side angle, triangle, warrior two, side angle, and lunges. Then, you will do some balancing poses like tree pose and dancers pose. If the class is trying to achieve chattaronga, or a push up, then they can move on to basic arm balances such as crow pose. Next are hip openers, thigh stretching like heroes pose and pigeon. After a deep flexion, pyramid is a good way to counter thigh stretching. Next, you will be able to do supine positions like bridge pose, reclined turn, supine stretch of the hamstrings, and happy baby. The session ends with seated poses, followed by a five-minute savasana. It is worth learning how to teach basics, as most students who attend group classes are at a beginner or intermediate level. It is a great way to heal and gain a lot of benefit for advanced students. The best teaching opportunities that I have been given specifically ask that my classes be accessible to beginners.
Learn to be proficient in verbal instruction
It can be daunting to think about all the aspects involved in teaching yoga classes. My communication skills were poor when I first started teaching yoga. My verbal instruction has been refined over many years. Students can achieve their poses faster and more aligned with concise instruction that is systematic starting from the foundation. This helps students save time and energy. It also allows them to do the poses themselves, without needing to rely on their teacher for additional support. Instructions should begin with the breath. Next, you need to add an action or foundation cue. Finally, the name of the pose. In warrior 2, for example, you would instruct: Inhale, place your right foot between your palms, and then, bring your left heel up to the ground. As they take on their poses, you can refine them and help them to achieve their goals. Active language is important. Pay attention to your voice and how it sounds. The teacher’s energy is a source of inspiration for students. High energy is a must when delivering cues for energetic poses. My students are amazed by the changes in their poses when I modulate the volume with enthusiasm, especially at my tail-end cues. This skill is especially important now that online classes have become more popular.
Encourage Entrepreneurship and be Patient
I didn’t know how to manage being self-employed for years. It cost me time, money, and aggravation. Senior yoga teachers gave me advice to meditate and pray for abundance. Although it is important to have an intention, it is equally important to put it into practice. You can start a small business and make it successful by setting up a website and choosing a brand name that is clear. Make sure your message is consistent across all social media platforms. Focus on a specific area that you are an expert in. Instead of focusing on followers and likes, create content that adds value to your audience. Writing and public speaking are great for other avenues of work, such as blogging and health-related seminars. Start an email mailing list and begin email campaigns. Keep your messaging consistent and give it about one year to see how it grows. The best teachers are also the best students. It makes sense to spend many years learning how to teach. Studio teachers often receive a discounted price for continuing their education in return for teaching classes. This unique opportunity can help young teachers grow. It is important not to get caught up in the cycle of working for nothing. Talk to the studio owner every year about compensation. But, most importantly, ensure they keep their word. It’s easy for people to take advantage of you if they don’t. To reach new students, limit your studio classes to just two per week. Then search for teaching jobs in the local community where you feel valued.