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How to Overcome the Challenges of Being a New Yoga Teacher?

by Dawn Boulanoff

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You’re a new yoga instructor who has just finished your yoga teacher training. You’re in front of a bunch of students feeling quite nervous. For the very first time, you’re the one person the class is looking at. How do you cope with that?  

I have found through all my years of teaching yoga that most newly qualified students report feeling tongue-tied and not knowing what to say in front of the class, which makes silences feel even longer. Also, they may worry that the students will know that they’re new teachers or feel awkward adjusting their postures on the mat. 


Take it easy

yoga teacher training

Why would you have the need to constantly talk? Plan your class in a way that allows you to relax. Add periods of stillness and reflection; these moments will not only help you gain confidence, but it’ll also be beneficial for your students.

Think about it, they may have come to your class for different reasons, maybe fitness, or health issues, to relieve pain, for relaxation, to spend some time away from work, or even to meet new people. But one thing is certain, they all love Savasana! If you give them a good space to be calm and forget about everything, they’ll look forward to the next session. 

In today's world where there’s so much noise, it is like a breath of fresh air to have a yoga class where little is actually said and have a wonderful period of silence to reflect. So, make your first few classes simple, give the students a small talk at the beginning and let them know that there will be times of silence. This will also enable you as a teacher to be quiet if you find yourself thinking “what should I say now?” Remember, sometimes less is more!


Feel your class

yoga class

Try to notice how your students are feeling. See if they’re struggling, listen to their breath and use these signs as cues to adjust accordingly. Often times you’ll see that your original plan is just not suitable for a determined class. They may be looking for something a little more dynamic or maybe they already have a more advanced level. For all new groups, have a plan B so you can cater for those moments.

Adjusting the poses of your students can also be something that the new teacher may find challenging. Here’s a simple tip to avoid an uncomfortable moment: at the beginning of the class, ask the group to take 3 minutes to lie on their mats and close their eyes as they breathe. 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. Say that if someone doesn’t want to be touched, to please raise their hands.


To touch or not to touch

yoga teacher training

During your 200-hour yoga teacher training, you might have been told that a hands-on session is necessary to make good progress. It could be preferable, but you have to respect what your student wants. Always be very gentle; adjust but lightly touching the shoulder or the knee and giving directions to lengthen with the ‘in breath’ and relax on the ‘out breath’.  If you’re unsure, instead of touching your students, make sure your words are in-tune with the sequence you’re practicing.

Another obstacle you might encounter is having students with ailments or aches which make it difficult for them to perform certain poses. Give them alternatives to each pose and, if you have props and blankets, offer them to lessen any discomfort. If there’s pain, help the student to ease out of the asana immediately. Don’t try to be a hero! Always advise to seek professional assistance from a doctor.


A few more tips for your first classes

yoga teacher in front of a mirror

Start with a small class. This will help you build some confidence before you take the next step. You could even do a few sessions just for friends and family with small groups of 7 or 8. It can be daunting to start with a group of 19 or more. Be patient.

Another good tip is to do the sequence yourself and talk out loud as if you had a class in front of you. This will enable you to get practice what you’re going to say. Record yourself while you do this, it’ll help you detect some errors and get used to the sound of your voice.

Most of the time we can as teachers put too much into the program and may not have enough time to do everything we have planned. Adjust with the final Savasana and make it as long or as short as needed. Eventually, you’ll have better timing. Find your own way and define your own style.

Lastly, your students don’t have to know that you have just finished your training. Be yourself, gain confidence and enjoy your own class!

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