When I finished my first yoga teacher training in New York City many years ago, it felt as if I still wasn’t quite ready to start teaching. The program lasted about three months, with meetings every other weekend. It was information overload, and with twenty-nine other students in the training, it was difficult for me to get enough practice teaching. I lacked so much confidence that I recall my first class as being stressful, disorganized and students even had to ask me to speak up because my voice was so low. I couldn’t focus, and I kept having to refer to my trusty notes in the back of the room to cue the sequences. In my mind, it was a disaster, and I felt like I would never acquire the necessary skills to be a good teacher.
A 200-hour yoga teacher training is meant to be a starting point, or a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Every class that I taught thereafter revealed small improvements in my cuing, sequencing and comfort level. I continued teaching as much as possible and taking classes from teachers I respected. I made it a point to pay close attention to the way they moved and spoke. Sometimes I went to class with a notebook so I could write down their language and the way they linked poses together. My goal was to teach the best classes possible, and the only way I could accomplish that was to study the best teachers and/or take away the best aspects of every class I attended. After a while, I realized that my repertoire was growing, and suddenly I had so many ideas and sequences to pull from for my own classes. The underlying constant that made the biggest difference in my teaching was that I never stopped practicing. Some instructors get so busy teaching a full schedule that they no longer make time for their yoga, and so their classes get stale. If a teacher lacks inspiration or they get lazy, they end up reverting to their same old go-to sequences because it’s easier. If you want to be a good teacher you can’t just stick to what’s easy. I also tried really hard to keep challenging my physical practice beyond what I thought was possible and I continued to seek out mentors that didn’t allow me to get complacent. Why? Because the way you do yoga is the way you do everything else in life. The minute you think you’ve arrived is the very moment you stop growing, and your classes will reflect that.
One last thing, be patient and kind to yourself. Negative self talk will get you nowhere. Keep learning, keep teaching, and remind yourself often that teaching yoga is an art that requires a lot of time and dedication. You will get better if you care enough to challenge yourself to improve with every class you teach.