8 Ways To Improve Your Yoga Teaching
Teaching yoga is no easy gig! It takes time, training, a deep personal practice, not to mention all of the logistical stuff like appropriate cueing, learning how to make hands-on adjustments, alignment…the list goes on. While improving as a yoga teacher can only come with time and experience, there are a few simple life hacks that you can start practicing today. Here are a few simple hacks I have found to instill more confidence in yourself as a yoga instructor:
1. Set a strong intention at the beginning of class.
Don’t ask me why this works — but I have tested this theory time and time again. For whatever reason, the best classes are always the classes where as a class, we come together and set an intention at the beginning of the practice.
Some days I forget to do this, and I actually notice a difference in the energy of the classroom. Maybe it’s the same idea as meditating or praying first thing in the morning, or the idea of setting goals. Whatever it is — we know now that it really works to take a moment to make a clear vision, goal, prayer, or intention.
Whether you invite your students to create their own personal intention, or you offer a collective idea, thought, or even a quote at the beginning of the practice, I promise you will see a profound difference in the mood and energy of the class.
2. Better to be slow than fast.
A common mistake yoga instructors make is moving too quickly through the postures and the breath. Sometimes as teachers, we can get nervous or caught up thinking we need to be doing more than we need to be. Move through the postures slowly, and if you’re counting breaths, make sure you count slower than you think. Slower breath means deeper breath, and we want our students to leave feeling their lungs full and their minds calm.
3. Better to have silence than gibberish.
Remember — less is always more! Sometimes the nerves make us feel like we need to be filling in the ‘gaps’ with ‘inspiration’ or cues. However, usually this results in random, meaningless gibberish that is taking place of what could be profound silence. Give your students the opportunity to tap into their breath and observe their thoughts. If you don’t know what to say — then don’t say anything! Especially in savasana, I’ll often witness myself or other teachers rambling on about ‘relaxation’ and maybe even guiding students through a meditation. While this can be nice, usually silence is better. I find that my classes that offer more silence are usually my students’ favorite classes. There really isn’t anything much to say — your students will benefit from silence.
4. Better to breathe than to move.
Additionally, if you don’t know what posture to move your students into next — then don’t move! Allow your students to stay in the same position and focus on their breath. In yoga, the breath is more important than the movement anyways, and stillness can be way more valuable. As humans in the 21st century, we have no problem moving. In fact, most of us live our lives moving around too much — both physically, and mentally. We come to our yoga mats to learn how to be still. Your students will receive more value from stillness than movement — remember this.
5. Have confidence in yourself.
No matter what you’re doing, and no matter what you’re saying, do it with confidence. If you have total and complete confidence in yourself and what you’re doing — your students will too. However, if you act timid, shy, scared, or like you don’t know what you’re doing — your students will doubt you also. Even if you do feel timid, just fake it till you make it! It’s all about the energy you’re sending out. Even if you think some of the things you’re doing is weird — for example, chanting “Om” at the beginning of class — if you act totally confident and normal in doing it, your students will respond to this energy and find it normal too. Be confident, and trust yourself so your students will trust you too.
6. Look your students in the eyes.
Another trait of confidence is looking your students in the eyes. Do not shy away from eye contact! When you look your students in their eyes, you’re acknowledging their presence, and instilling confidence within themselves. It also helps them to recognize that you are there. Present, and available to support them as they need.
7. Be aware of your body language.
Strong spine. Heart open. Be aware of your body movements – are you fidgeting? Can you stay still? Can you stay present and breathe?
Strong spine. Open heart. Repeat again — Strong spine. Open heart. Repeat this to yourself as you’re teaching class. Whether you’re seated, demonstrating postures, or walking around the classroom, try to keep a strong spine and an open heart. This small body adjustment will radiate confidence and groundedness in your energy, and your students will be able to feel it. This is not only a sign of a good yoga instructor, but a good leader. I actually learned this technique in business school, believe it or not. When you have a confident “power pose” (as they call it), studies have shown that you show up more powerfully as a leader, in all walks of life.
8. Be authentically, unapologetically yourself.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken” — Oscar Wilde.
As you grow as a teacher, you will start to find more and more of your own style. Sure, in the beginning we might follow a certain sequence or a certain style that we learned in our teacher training, but eventually allow yourself to dive deep into your own personal style and authenticity. In my own experience, I have watched myself try to teach similar to my favorite teachers who have inspired me in my practice. While it’s beautiful to have teachers and guides to inspire you, eventually you’ll find that there is nobody like yourself. (And how beautiful is that?) Now, when people ask me what style of yoga I will be teaching, I simply respond with “Brooke style”. And it’s true! After teaching for many years, I am most confident to teach in my own, unique, expression — and this always results in the best classes. Some people don’t like my style. And guess what? We are not here to be liked. We are here to show up as the fullest, best version of ourselves. Some people will love your classes, and others might hate your classes. And that’s okay! Stay authentic, stay unique, and stay true to you.
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