This time last year, I packed my bags and flew over the Indian ocean to Bali, where I spent three and a half joyous and challenging weeks completing my first 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). Reflecting back on my journey over the past year, I’m struck by how much my approach to teaching has grown and changed.
Every month, thousands of new teachers graduate from training programs all over the world, so you’d better believe that at some point you’ve taken a class taught by a recent graduate. And how does that graduate feel about their foray into teaching? I can only speak from my own experience, but my first year of professional teaching has been a rocky river of highs and lows, from which I’ve ultimately emerged with a greater, and deeper, love for the practice of yoga than ever before.
It’s important to remember that there is absolutely no blueprint for how your yoga teaching journey will unfold after your first training. Some graduates dive headfirst into teaching upwards of 10 classes a week, and transition quickly into a full time career as a yoga teacher. Others are more cautionary, either for (completely justified) financial reasons or perhaps giving themselves opportunities to develop their voice and access further mentoring before really putting themselves out there. And of course, some graduates may not teach at all after completing their training. As fledgling teachers, our experiences of the industry, of our students and our own self-criticism vary as vastly as our physical capabilities on the mat. Here are some of my tips for new yoga teachers in their first year of work:
I returned home from my teacher training with one ambition: to begin teaching before I had time to doubt myself. Within a few days I had lined up my insurance, first aid, industry memberships, and had signed up for some cover teaching. I began teaching at a couple of local gyms, as well as offering free classes for family and friends practice my adjustments and sequencing. I took advantage of some flexibility in my work schedule to accept a karma yogi position at a studio on the other side of town.
Karma yogi positions are fantastic for new teachers, because you’re able to get a hands-on experience of working in a studio, greeting students, assisting, and trying to remember hundreds of names – all skills that will help you develop your own business if you’re so inclined.
One of the elements of the yoga industry that can feel frustrating to new teachers is how difficult it can sometimes be to build a student following. Regardless of whether you’re teaching at a yoga studio, a gym, or even in the local park or community hall, it takes time and patience to build your client base. One of the reasons I found this to be a challenge was my schedule outside of yoga teaching – I’ve continued to work in my full time role as an event manager, and this means that my schedule can vary drastically from week to week, making it difficult to commit to teaching regular classes.
When you’re a new teacher, you’ll be tempted to rush out and apply to teach as many weekly classes as possible – and so you should! However, when you put your hand up to teach a regular weekly class, make sure you’re able to commit to teaching on that day, at that time each week for the foreseeable future. You need to show up for your students each and every week in order for them to do the same for you!
I can tell you with absolutely certainty that after 12 months of teaching, my confidence in front of a class has grown, and each time I teach I feel like I’m able to tap into my authentic voice a little bit more. However, this process takes time and patience. Sometimes I feel like a complete fraud in front a class, lost for words, mixing up alignment cues, and overall totally preoccupied with what a mess I’m making of the whole thing! At first, these moments of doubt can be terrifying, and may make you question whether you should be teaching in the first place. Nowadays I welcome these feelings of nervousness, because they mean that I care. I care about doing my best, about holding space for my students, and about growing and learning as a teacher.
It’s been a joy to share my love for yoga with my students over the past year. I remind them all the time that I’m far from perfect, and that we’re all learning together. As a graduate teacher, I try to balance humility with self-encouragement. And when I forget, I just try to take my own advice: breathe, smile, and have some fun with it!