How hard can it be to teach yoga?

I’ve always liked teaching and presenting in general. And I love yoga. So I thought teaching yoga would come somewhat natural to me. I mean, how hard can it be? If you can do the poses, surely you can teach them, right? But maybe that was an over-simplistic view. I didn’t realize the level of complexity that comes with teaching.

 

My partner always says ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. I couldn’t agree more. Obviously there are some situations where no amount of planning can ever prepare you, however where it is within your control, there is no excuse for not planning.

 

So, step one for teaching – plan your lessons. In all honesty, this is probably the part of teaching yoga that I have discovered I like the most. Although I’ve been doing yoga for 6 years, I’ve only incorporate self practice about 2 years ago. And when I started my home self practice, one of the things I struggled the most is trying to figure out what asana to do when! I love the vinyasa-style flow, so it was important to me that the asanas connect to each other with movement and breathe. Through those 2 years of experimenting and researching movement, static poses, and counter poses, I found my style of flow and rhythm that I now incorporate into my home practice. And lesson planning, to me, is like what my partner calls ‘playing in the mat for an hour’… and I get to call that work!

 

Step two – feel your asana. One of the traits of a good teacher, in my experience, is being able to get a student to cultivate awareness in various parts of their body. That could be through verbal communication, or through physical adjustment. Regardless of the method, a teacher can’t efficiently communicate this to a student until the teacher has felt it for himself or herself. It’s like they say, “You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you don’t go”. So a teacher has the responsibility to really know and feel the asana. It doesn’t mean that a teacher needs to be the most flexible and strongest yogi! There will be students who will be more flexible and stronger than you, and that’s okay. It simply means that you need to feel the movement and energy in an asana before you can try to teach it.

 

Step three, which I find to be the hardest part – share your asana. I thought I had a great vocabulary, until I tried to teach! Every body part and sensation that I wanted to express to my students got stuck in my throat. With 2 years of self practice, although it’s helped me prepare tremendously in lesson planning, it has made vocalising the asana a lot harder. In my self practice, I feel body parts and breathe through them, never having to put words into them. But now, every feeling and sensation that I’ve experienced through my self practice has to come with a “name” so that my students can relate. Although this feels like the hardest part at the moment, I know, just like in yoga, everything comes with practice. So just like what I do daily on my mat with my asana, pranayama and mediation practice, I will keep practicing.

 

Last, but not least – be present. Although a teacher may have the most amazing lesson planned out, with the coolest asanas, but if your students aren’t there with you, you’ve lost the class. I can be quite loyal to my teachers, and the main reason I keep going back is the energy and rhythm of the class. A good teacher is present, and doesn’t just create the rhythm of the class, but moves with the energy of the class. He or she takes the temperature of the class throughout the class. I used to take this trait for granted, expecting every teacher to be proficient at this, not realizing how hard it is to do. When I’m trying to teach an asana, sometimes I get too involved in making sure I’m saying the right things. So much so that it’s easy to forget to check on everyone’s breathing and energy level. But just like the last step, with consistent awareness and practice, hopefully it’s something that I can learn to cultivate more and more.

 

I do strongly believe that everything I learn on the mat could be extended into every part of my life. And, I’ve noticed that it is extendable to teaching as well. It feels hard right now, with a lot of bumps and sometimes road blocks, but I’m confident with practice it will all come together.

 

Sunitha Prasobhan (@miss_sunitha), 200hr Yoga TTC Sept 2017

 

 

 

Teaching Yoga Has Never Been Easy


WITH SINCERE THANKS ,
DEDICATED TO MR PAALU (THE MOTIVATOR) and MISS SATYA WEILING (THE EDUCATOR) and to all Aspiring yogis from Tirisula Yoga School. OM

Lets  remind ourselves that yoga teachers are people too (it’s the truth!), and they have all the burdens and financial responsibilities that we and everyone else in this modern world have. So us yoga teachers, if we want to put food in the mouths of our children and a roof over their heads too, still have to run a viable business, just like everyone else.
That’s fair enough, right?
That means that yoga teachers have to follow all the same principles of business success that everyone else does right?  … and every business owner, whatever their industry, knows that long term success rests on creating happy, repeat customers, right?
Put it this way. If I were a disposable razor company, I would be competing with other disposable razor companies to make the best darn disposable razor possible, wouldn’t I? The problem is that it can’t be too good!  After all, I don’t want my customers to never need another razor!
But is that really the right attitude for a yoga teacher to have? “I want to be a good teacher, but not so good that you’ll never need me anymore?”

NO WAY!
In fact, that attitude, and it is more prevalent in the modern yoga world than we might think because it is the underlying attitude of the modern business world, not only hurts so many sincere, aspiring yoga students, but it ends up killing a yoga teacher’s business, not helping it to grow and flourish!
With the logic that you only give your customers enough to keep them coming back, teaching people how to do yoga on their own, at home, would most certainly lead to the eventual demise of a teacher’s livelihood. … right? But let me tell that this fear is completely irrational. In fact, it is an assumption, that is just plain wrong! When our students grow, through our instruction and guidance, into practitioners of yoga who have the knowledge, wisdom and experience to practice yoga on their own, they will NOT disappear! In fact, they will become even more dedicated to us because we have proven to them that we are indeed a GREAT TEACHER.

It means that they will keep sending new students our way! Swami Gitananda used to tell people that his aim was not to create perpetual students, but to create eventual yogis! And he did!  Yet as he sent knowledgeable, confident yogis, one after the other back out into the world, he continued to have an endless flood of new students. … Tens of thousands of them!But what if we’re not a Great Guru, or even a really good teacher for that matter … at least not yet anyway? Then teach what we can, as best as we can, to students who can benefit from our current level of knowledge and experience. Above all else, keep studying hard, practicing and growing! Our students don’t need us to be an enlightened master. But if they see us living what you are teaching, and if they see us growing and transforming as time goes by, then they will continue to follow us, and they will encourage others to follow us too!
Unfortunately, most teachers do not approach their yoga classes from this perspective. In fact, most yoga teachers have been trained to run classes which are not geared towards teaching their students how to practice yoga on their own at all.
But they should! Learning how to help our students “learn to practice yoga” is an essential skill that a good yoga teacher must have. Do we want to have students who think that we are an amazing yoga teacher? Do we want to have students who recommend us to others time and time again?Then help them to gain the knowledge, the ability, the confidence and the experience to properly practice yoga, on their own.
Help them to NOT NEED YOU anymore.If we do, then they’ll be more dedicated to us than ever before!
Simply put , positivity increases when it is distributed with selflessness.

Lord Shiva Said:  “Those who are instructed by a knower of Truth, they become knowers of Truth… Those who are instructed by beasts are known to become beasts themselves.”
~ Shiva Puranam