12 Valuable Tips for New Yoga Teachers
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Just completed your yoga teacher training? Ready to teach your first lessons? Sitting all by yourself in front of a bunch of students is bound to make you nervous. For the first time, you’re the one the class is looking at. How do you deal with that?
Newly qualified yoga teachers often report feeling tongue-tied and not knowing what to say in front of the class, which can lead to long and awkward moments of silence. Also, they worry that the students will know they’re new or will feel uncomfortable when adjusting their posture.
Do keep in mind that you’re probably not the only one feeling nervous. New students coming to their first yoga class often feel overwhelmed and intimidated. You’re there to guide them.
It’s normal to be scared at first. As a yoga teacher, you have to be bold and confident. As a new yoga teacher, you’ll have to fake it till you make it!
Here’s a list of 12 useful tips for new yoga teachers that can help make your first classes a success:
1. Start small
Starting with a small class will help you build confidence. At first, you might even consider doing a few sessions with just your friends and family.
If you haven’t found a job at a studio yet, offer free classes wherever you can – at your place, garden, in the park, the beach, etc. Your goal is to teach as much as possible in order to gain experience.
Even in a studio, it’s best to start with small groups of maximum seven or eight students. It can be daunting to do your first classes with 19 or more. Be patient and your class will grow when you’re ready to handle it.
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2. Strengthen your network & find your niche
Completing a yoga teacher course does not guarantee a job. However, you can open some doors as early as when you begin your training.
Strengthen your network with your teachers and classmates during the course. Once you’ve earned your yoga license, take some time to research your market and find areas where you can excel in. This way, you will be able to distinguish yourself from other instructors.
As the yoga community is extremely saturated, it may be beneficial for you to opt for certain niches where competition is not as fierce. This can be a style that’s not as popular or saturated – for example, you can get certified in Kriya Yoga or Acro Yoga. Or it can be a niche, such as yoga for athletes. Try to find the sweet spot.
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3. Rehearse the class by yourself
Plan the sequence and rehearse it by yourself before teaching it. Talk out loud, just as if you had a group in front of you. Record yourself to detect any errors. Evaluate the tone of your voice and your use of words, which should be in-tune with the sequence.
A common mistake is to squeeze too much into the program, ending up with insufficient time. Make sure there’s a natural pace for all the poses. Depending on the style you’re teaching, it can be slower or faster. Alternatively, you can use the final Savasana to adjust the length of the class, by making it as long or as short as needed.
4. Share your philosophy
At the beginning of the yoga session, take a few minutes to prepare your students. For example, you can start with a short monologue about the importance of not rushing through the poses, of staying present, and of never forcing your body into a position it’s not ready for. Let them know that there will also be moments of silence.
To students, this can feel like a short guided meditation session at the beginning of class that will steady the mind right before working on the body. For you as a teacher, it will remind you of your role as a guide, will help you focus, and get you in the flow.
5. Include moments of stillness
Your students may come to class for a variety of reasons. They might be looking to improve their fitness, relieve pain, relax, cultivate mindfulness, for health issues, to spend some time away from work, or even to meet new people. But one thing’s for sure – they all love Child’s Pose and Savasana.
Keep your classes simple. Plan them in a way that allows your students to take a break from time to time. Add periods of stillness and reflection.
These moments will not only help the students but also you as a teacher. Child’s Pose can give you an ace up your sleeve whenever you forget what pose is coming up next or you find yourself thinking “what should I say now?”. It’ll give you some quiet time to regain your confidence.
Remember, sometimes less is more! If you take it easy and give your students space to be calm and let go, they’ll look forward to the next session.
6. Slow it down
Patience is of the utmost importance. A teacher’s impatience and lack of presence are more visible to the students than you might realize.
Pace your every move. Wait patiently for your students to get into the pose. Unless you’re teaching a very powerful style of yoga, like Ashtanga or Power Yoga, in which you need to maintain a fast flow of movement, then there’s absolutely no point in rushing it.
Move with your breath and remind your class to do the same. This is the best way for both you and your group to stay in the present moment.
7. Keep it simple
As a new yoga teacher, you’ll probably be tempted to share as much information as possible when it comes to alignment. However, for a beginner, too many complicated cues can be overwhelming.
Keep your cues simple. Pick and choose those you’ll be using for each pose and limit them to only three so that your students can familiarize themselves with the instructions. Use simple words like “breathe in”, “breathe out”, “stretch”, “lengthen”, “flex”, “push”, “reach”, “point”, “open”, “lift”, and “feel”. Do the same if teaching in your native language.
You might be used to Sanskrit terminology, but do bear in mind that new students may not be familiar with it. It can confuse them and cause unnecessary stress.
Where possible, use easy words and English (or your native language) translations when introducing new poses. Just say Boat Pose instead of Navasana and Downward Dog instead of Adho Mukha Svanasana.
With a group of newbies, don’t delve into the bandhas and drishti until they’ve become more acquainted with yoga. You wouldn’t want your students to be more preoccupied with wondering what all the Sanskrit words mean and lose their focus.
8. Have a plan B
Notice how your students are feeling. Are they struggling? Listen to their breath and use it as a cue to adjust your class.
Always show the easier variations for all your poses. Just because your first-time students are flexible, don’t assume that they will be able to execute the poses in their full form. As a beginner yogi, it’s always better to learn the simplest form and build a strong foundation before moving on to more complicated versions.
All the same, you may find that your original plan is just not suitable for a determined class. Perhaps you’ve underestimated their level and they’re looking for something a little more challenging or dynamic. For all new groups, have a plan B so that you can respond to these situations accordingly.
9.Create genuine relationships
Pay close attention to your students. Never sacrifice over the majority. If you have one beginner in a class of intermediates or advanced, be there for the first-timer.
When your students enter your class for the first time, it’s a yoga teacher’s job to understand their individual needs and guide them in their journey. You are there to help them.
Make eye contact, show empathy, and offer your help every time someone needs it.
Always be open to questions, whether it is to address any concerns they might have at the beginning of class or to answer any confusion about poses at the end. Be kind in your words and clear in your response. If you don’t know the answer to a question, remember that being honest about it is always better than dishing out inaccurate answers.
Connect with your students, build genuine, long-lasting relationships and they’ll keep coming back to your classes.
10. Make adjustments, but be gentle & respectful
As a new yoga teacher, adjusting the poses of your students can be tricky.
During your 200-hour yoga teacher training, you’ve probably been told that a hands-on session is necessary to make good progress. Indeed, this would be preferable, but you also need to respect your students’ intimacy.
To avoid uncomfortable situations, ask the group to lie on their mats and close their eyes as they breathe for a few minutes at the beginning of the class. During this time, introduce them to today’s practice and tell them that throughout the session you’ll be adjusting their postures for proper alignment. Ask anyone who doesn’t want to be touched to kindly say so.
Always be very gentle. Adjust by lightly touching the shoulder, back, or knee, giving directions to lengthen with the “in-breath” and relax with the “out breath”.
Another obstacle you might face is having students with ailments or aches that make it difficult for them to perform certain poses. Give them alternatives to each pose and offer them props to help lessen any discomfort. If they experience pain, help them to ease out of the asana.
11. Be yourself, but be consistent
When teaching your first yoga classes, you’ll be inclined to use your own teachers’ methodology. That’s normal; you’ve just started out on this new journey. But your teachers should be a source of inspiration and you shouldn’t copy them. Students will sense when your words are not your own.
Allow the class to get to know the real you. By being authentic, you’ll also inspire your students to open up to their true selves.
Find your own voice, style, and way of teaching. Sure, your technique might not “click” with all of your students, and that’s okay. In time, you’ll build groups of like-minded yogis that attend your class because they feel a connection.
You should always keep an open mind and learn new styles and concepts. But part of your responsibility is to also keep consistency. “New” isn’t always better. Don’t make any sudden changes. If you change something in the class that you’ve been teaching for weeks, it can throw your students off course.
12. Don’t forget your own practice
Many yoga teachers will practice with their class as their teaching method, and that’s fine. However, because they spend so much time teaching, many forget to indulge in their own practice.
When you were training to become a yoga teacher, did you forget to practice? No, of course not; you were practicing every day.
Yoga is a lifestyle, not a job. It’s not a one-time thing or a quick fix. It’s a state of mind and a spiritual place of being. As a teacher, you shouldn’t just run from one studio to the other. Always remember to make time for your own personal practice. After all, that’s where it all started.
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