So this week we’re handling one of our most frequently asked questions: When will I know enough to start teaching?
Which is usually asked in a variety of different guises, such as:
- Some of my students are more experienced than me—I feel like a yoga teacher imposter.
- Do I need to know more to start teaching?
- I still feel nervous when I teach—will I ever feel confident?
- Will a new style of yoga (or more workshops, classes, reading or study of ayurveda, sutras, koshas, anatomy, chakras, yoga styles, sequencing, mudras, mantra) give me what I’m lacking?
- How can I possibly ever know everything about yoga?
- How can I be a better teacher?
And that’s just a few of the ways we hear this idea expressed by new yoga teachers.
How about you? Do any of these sound familiar? Do you have this feeling about the amount you know?
This is actually a common feeling among teachers. In general, we all seem to feel that we need to know it all—that we need to be able to field any question a student throws at us—and simultaneously rock any asana while doing so.
Do you have high expectations of yourself? Do your expectations keep you doubting yourself and your ability to teach?
Everyone gets self doubts from time to time but from our work with new teachers, we’ve noticed an unusually high standard they place on themselves to be perfect.
So here’s one big lesson we’ve learned:
There’s NO WAY any one person can know everything there is to know about yoga. Period.
In an interview we posted awhile back, BKS Iyengar was talking about how he was still refining his understanding of asana even after decades of teaching. Now THAT’S the sign of a true teacher.
One of the gems we share with trainees is a simple one—go an inch wide and a mile deep.
Pick one topic for a class and really dig into it. Keep coming back to that one topic throughout class, relating it to what they are doing in that moment.
Share from your own experience of working with that one topic on your own mat and how it’s moved you. Students love personal stories. It brings the yoga to life in a personal way.
What is the yoga juice for you? Share it!
Here’s an example of going an inch wide and a mile deep—recently a teacher wrote to us that she was going to teach about the chakras in her classes.
She said she was planning to share one chakra per week, which is a great idea. This way she’s not overwhelming her students with too much information too fast; and by going deep with one chakra, they really feel the effects of that particular chakra. She could also give them homeplay to be aware throughout the week about how that chakra plays out in their lives—what connection do they have with that chakra’s color? What fragrances remind them of that chakra? What issues or themes are showing up for them?
Here’s another example from my early years teaching yoga: One of my favorite focuses was the breath and I shared how it affected my practice AND my life off the mat.
I gave my students a single aspect of the breath to focus on for that day’s practice—for example, just the in breath, or the pace of the inhale related to the exhale or some other aspect of breathing. If you think about it you could come up with at least five different aspects of the breath to use as a focus in class.
This is why having a personal home practice is sooooooo important—you must teach from the place of your own experience. The more mat time you gift yourself, the more gems you’ll discover that are priceless to share with your students.
Now it’s your turn—what would you share with a new teacher?
And if you’re a new-ish teacher, what’s working for you now?
Take a moment, share a tip!
What you can do next
- Please feel free to share in the comments below…we’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections on this article!
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New to teaching? Check out Rupali’s Transform Your Yoga Teaching: The 5 Essential Elements of Teaching an Awesome Yoga Class for an easy-to-follow system of constructing your classes that will deliver a rich experience for both you and your students EVERY SINGLE TIME.