Just because you are a good yogi or a yoga student doesn’t necessarily chalk you up to being a good yoga teacher. WHAT?! Yes, that’s right.
So you are into your yoga practice. You practice nearly everyday and attend many yoga classes and can put your leg behind your head. You’ve taken a yoga teacher training (or soon will be in one) and you are ready to teach!
Well, let’s make SURE you are also a good yoga teacher because all the other reasons above don’t necessarily make you a good teacher, but it is inside of you. It’s inside of all of us. Here are some tips to manifest your greatest teacher within you:
A few tools that will help you be the best teacher you can be:
- What is your style of yoga, I mean, what do you love to practice and therefore, what are you going to be good at teaching? Not… what has been offered to you to teach. If you get that teaching gig that you’ve been wanting at that yoga studio you’ve desired to teach at – if you aren’t teaching what you’re good at, then it’s not going to work out.
Your students will sense it and they will not return.
- Teach from your heart. Be your authentic self not what you think sounds good. Be yourself! This works on and off the mat when you’re trying to gain the trust of anyone. You are perfect the way you are and your students will like you best as you— not the “you” that you think you should sound, act, or teach like.
- If your class name is “Easy Flow” don’t teach warrior III please! Teach what the class name is regardless of level of the yoga student is in your class. If that person came to your class, the name of the class is what that person wants.
- Give good verbal cues. If you don’t know many, buy my book, (Yoga’s Touch: Hands-on Adjustments, Alignment & Verbal Cues) it will help! One thing to keep in mind and something I teach in my trainings to trainees is to give verbal cues proximally to the area you are describing instead of distal (close to vs. far away). Ie: “Tilt your pubic bone toward your navel,” instead of: “Tilt your pubic bone up” (or) “Tilt your pubic bone toward your face.”
- Get off your yoga mat and see that your cues are being executed. Lots of times you think what you’re saying makes sense when in fact half the class is doing the wrong side or doing a total different shape.
- Talk about the breath throughout the whole class. We as a culture are not use to using our breath. We tend to hold our breath or have shallow breath when in action or paying attention to details. Remind your students to breath in and breath out. Count their breath audibly for them ie: “breathe in 6-5-4-3-2-1. Pause. Breathe out, 6-5-4-3-2-1. Pause.”
- If you’re teaching a challenging pose or one that is difficult to explain have your students watch you demonstrate for a moment. Go to the side y0u want them to do the pose on, talk them through it as you do it. This will give your students and you a full experience of the delicious posture you want them to enjoy and not struggle in. I know this may seem like it causes a “disruption” to their mindful, peace of doing poses, but it will actually allow them to enjoy the pose more once in it correctly.
- Have your students start with poses that open their body up and work with the areas you plan to challenge or strengthen later. Don’t have them move into a deep twist if you haven’t warmed up their spine beforehand. Have them come into a low lunge before a high lunge, warrior or standing balance pose. It’s important to warm the body up and to open a muscle before strengthening it.
- Yoga is about creating balance – whether you are teaching a gentle or vinyasa style of yoga class. Yoga is always about creating balance. Hatha Yoga (the style most of us are teaching): “Ha”=Sun and “Tha”=Moon this is meant to honor the sun and moon energies, the masculine and feminine, the front and back of the body. This said, what you strengthen, stretch. What you stretch, strengthen. What you do on the back of the body, balance on the front, etc.
Orchestrate your class in a way that honors all aspects of ones body, mind and spirit and honors the synergistic and antagonistic muscle groups. Know what you’re lengthening on one side, you’re strengthening on the other side.
- If music confuses you to teach because the word of the music have you flustered to remember which side you did last, or what cue to use, go without it or pick music that doesn’t interfere with your teaching like music without lyrics. Your students will enjoy class much more if you’re able to remain mindful; they don’t care about the music. Music is there for us to extend a harmonizing and relaxing experience but if your students are confused or disjointed by your disruptive teachings then music certainly isn’t doing its intended job.
- Spend 10-15 minutes to wind-down your class. Have your students do some yin poses sitting or lying on their backs. (Please turn the lights off when they’re on their backs!)
- Take others yoga classes. It helps you to know what you like and dislike. This will empower you to offer your students something new and fresh; what you dislike, you’ll make sure you never repeat. Taking yoga classes is a great way to be a good student and teacher of yoga.
- Don’t practice what you aren’t practicing. You can’t know how to modify or describe it if you don’t also practice it.
- Always, Always, Always give a nice savasana of at least 5 minutes.
Some tips on savasana:
- place a blanket under the shoulder blades to open the chest.
- talk your students through their body parts while letting go of each muscle, joint, bones and skin.
- Lead them into parasympathetic deepening by saying, “take a deep breath, hold it (for approx. 5 counts) let it go.”
- Spend a few minutes in mediation at the end of the class post-savasana. This will help your students remain mindful as they draw their senses back to the external world. This also creates a more meditative and memorable end to their overall yoga practice.
You are a good teacher. Sometimes it’s way deep down inside of you. You have to remove your small self from the mat so your big Self can show up on the studio or gym floor for your students.
In Love & Yoga,