Passion, patience and perseverance will support new yoga teachers.
While learning a new technique, it’s important to keep things simple as you develop the skills of your craft.
Finding your rhythm and discovering how to hold space for students is a gradual experience. Don’t lose hope or heart as you encounter obstacles; the process is where we learn to refine and adjust the class sequence, especially as new yoga teachers.
New yoga teachers benefit significantly from teaching beginners, as this process helps with developing the rhetoric to guide students into and out of the postures.
In this blog post, you’ll learn the top twelve tips for new yoga teachers that Clara Roberts-Oss share’s during yoga teacher training.
Clara has been practicing yoga for over twenty years and draws from two decades of teaching experience, having hosted classes, workshops, retreats, and training through the Lila School of Vinyasa Yoga worldwide.
Clara started teaching yoga in New York City in 2003 and currently resides in Vancouver, BC. She founded the Practice with Clara Apps in 2019 to connect with her students abroad.
Imposter Syndrome in New (and Seasoned!) Yoga Teachers
If you’re just starting on your yoga teaching journey, congratulations!
The best way to develop a skill is to teach it to others. As you start teaching, you may feel nervous about bringing your voice into the room and worry about mixing up your cues. We’ve all been there!
To get comfortable with your level of instruction, keep up a consistent practice with the teachers you admire. There is nothing wrong with mimicking the teachers you revere as you develop confidence and your own style. We imitate until we innovate.
Imposter syndrome is common in many individuals across different industries, including yoga. When I first started teaching, I felt like a phoney! I couldn’t believe that people would listen to me, let alone respond to what I asked them to do.
I consistently mixed up my ‘rights’ and ‘lefts’ when cueing my sequence and read into every sigh and gesture from students. The initial classes I taught were for colleagues at a small fitness studio in the same building where I worked. I taught 3-5 people a few times a week during their lunch hour.
Impostor syndrome is defined as doubting your ability to do something.
It is common in high-achievers and individuals who want to do well. Initially, you may feel like a fake while teaching or feel as though you have nothing to offer. You do. These feelings are natural and can motivate you to check in with how you are doing, what you are teaching, and where you need to learn more!
Key points to reflect as new yoga teachers:
You will make mistakes.
Trust that you will get better with time.
Understand that not everyone will want what you have to offer, and know that it’s OK if you’re not everyone’s favourite teacher!
As you come into contact with students, studio owners, and fellow teachers, you’ll be challenged by distinct opinions; this will give you an opportunity to grow if you can meet the person where they are and receive the lesson.
Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Courses
A remedy to impostor syndrome is to keep learning.
Continuing your education is a wonderful way to enhance your knowledge and boost your confidence. When we know better, we do better, and it also provides you with plenty of options to teach your students when you’ve embodied all that you’ve learned.
The For Yoga Teachers Playlist on the Practice with Clara Apps provides a way for yoga teachers to continue learning and get Continuing Education (CE) Credits with Yoga Alliance (YA).
The classes in the For Yoga Teachers Playlist will introduce you to varied class lengths, levels, styles, and themes, so you can expand your knowledge and approach to creating a yoga class for students.
A CE Accredited Course Will Help You:
Sharpen your skills
Inspire your themes
Learn more about yoga philosophy
Advance peak yoga postures
Assist your students
Do you need to top up your continuing education credits with Yoga Alliance?
To uphold your accreditation through Yoga Alliance, you must complete 75 hours of yoga alliance continuing education courses within three years of completing a yoga teacher training program.
Why Wait to Teach Your First Public Class?
New yoga teachers may want to wait a while before teaching publicly, meaning at a yoga studio or gym.
You may want to take time to develop your voice, cue confidently, and learn the language of cueing students in and out of more than the basic postures before you apply to teach at a studio.
Clara’s initial advice when I completed my 200 Hour Program was to wait at least two full years before applying to mainstream yoga studios. She recommended teaching at fitness centers to friends and family, privates, and subbing at small studios before I approached the studios I wanted to teach.
New yoga teachers do not have to wait two years before teaching publicly.
Each experience is so unique.
I needed two years to develop confidence in my skills at the time. I would recommend checking in with your own comfort level or ask someone you trust for feedback on your class sequence, pace, theme, and delivery.
What To Expect At Your Yoga Teacher Interview
A well-stacked resume is not the primary requirement for a yoga teacher interview.
For every studio that I applied to when I was teaching full-time, I was asked to teach a demo class, or the studio manager/owner attended one of my classes so they could observe me teaching.
In some cases, the interviewer took the yoga class as a student. In other situations, the interviewer sat at the back and took notes while I taught. In one instance, I was part of a group interview, and four individuals graded my lesson plan while I taught six other teachers vying for the same position as me! It can be very nerve-wracking to demo-teach a class to someone deciding whether or not they want you to teach in their studio.
It depends on where you are applying and the expectations of the studio. A strong reference will help your case, and understanding why you sequenced your class in such a way is absolute. In every circumstance, the interviewer asked me questions about my sequence. I was also asked to create a music playlist and build the class around a peak pose.
The style of yoga you teach will affect the interview outline as creating a vinyasa class versus a restorative class are very different.
Do your research before applying; look up the studio owners and managers.
Visit the studio for at least a month! Attend the public classes and immerse yourself in the community.
This process will give you insight into how the studio is managed, and you’ll get to build relationships with the staff, teachers, and students, which is a bonus!
Clara’s Top Twelve Tips for New Yoga Teachers
1. Simplify your process.
Keep your sequence, music, and language simple as you start.
The basics of the class are more important than an ornate theme. Remember, you are learning an entirely new process! Treat this experience as if you were learning a new language. You would never start with fancy adjectives and dive into philosophy and myth.
Develop the basic building blocks.
Work on the cues that direct students in and out of the postures first. Learn to speak with conviction as you guide your students through the practice. They will respect you if you speak confidently and will be more likely to respond to what you say, conscious or not.
The biggest mistake you can make early on is to get too fancy too fast in creating a sequence, musical playlist or layering in a theme.
It’s better to have a stripped-down sequence that you can deliver with clarity and confidence than a fancy sequence that you forget or mix up. Your students will appreciate simplicity over style.
Get the nouns and verbs correct. Take the time to absorb the foundational aspects of the language of yoga. You are the guide for the full class duration, so keep it simple and make it easy for your brain to remember your sequence!
2. Speak slowly
If you do one thing when you teach your yoga class, focus on slowing down the cues and how you direct your students.
We tend to speed up our speech when we are nervous or excited about something.
Many teachers speed up the cueing owing to nerves, which will propel your students to move to keep with the pace. This breaks the flow of the class, disrupts the breathing, and will cause your students to move and breathe without integrating the postures and their breath!
Remember, your students come to breathe and feel their bodies, so breathe with them.
An easy way to slow down the pace of your speech is to breathe deeply with your students. Pace yourself with those in the class. Take longer inhales and exhales; this will help you slow down to speak at a normal pace.
I recommend recording yourself teaching on a separate hand-held device. You can assess how fast you are speaking and breathing and also see where you speed up or lose the rhythm.
Your voice and pace contribute to the Bhavana (mood) of the class, so be sure to take note of your effect on the students in how they move and hold themselves. How your students are breathing will tell you if you need to slow down!
3. Have compassion for yourself.
You’re going to make mistakes- we all do. As you progress through your teaching career and practice leading students, this will get easier. Have compassion and patience for yourself and your process. Do not compare yourself to other teachers. Do not take anything that arises too personally.
Appreciate your process and be kind towards yourself as you make mistakes.
It’s all great learning, and we never stop learning- no matter how experienced or awesome we are at our craft! Show yourself the same kindness you would like a friend or fellow teacher who is moving through the same effort as a new teacher. Give yourself the space and time to listen and learn, and if/when you make a mistake, consider what you can learn from it and then let it go and move on.
4. Get off your yoga mat.
The best way to support your students is to watch them while you teach so you can provide them with the cues to enhance their practice. Many teachers I revere, including Clara and Sharon Gannon, are big on not doing the practice with the students.
When teaching, it is not your time to do the yoga practice. It is the time to teach and observe your students.
Get off your yoga mat so you can watch your students and use your words to help them engage their bodies and be in their process.
If your sequence is too elaborate, strip it down! Your students will appreciate a much simpler sequence if you can watch and support them, rather than something elaborate you need to be doing with them.
One of the greatest differences between an on-demand (pre-recorded) yoga class and a class with a teacher is the direct attention the student receives.
Get off your mat and watch what is happening in your student’s bodies while you teach. It will help you learn how to adjust your sequence and give you more opportunities to provide correct feedback to your students.
5. Set boundaries.
Setting boundaries is an ongoing practice, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Be firm with your words and confident in what you are teaching.
Understand that there will always be challenging students, studio owners, and individuals who confront your beliefs. Have a ‘why’ to backup everything you do and say. It’s alright to admit you do not have all the answers and that you, too, make mistakes. If a student confronts you about a particular pose or transition in your sequence, providing your reason will show your knowledge and garner respect.
Stand your ground, know why you are teaching and doing what you share with your students, and be willing to listen to what others say.
Students can be some of our greatest teachers, testing our boundaries and challenging what we believe in!
6. Know the sequence in your body.
Understand WHY you teach what you teach before bringing it to your students. Practice the sequence you are about to teach before taking it to the studio. Do it with and without your music.
Teach the same sequence over and over again until you’ve memorized it. This will help you retain the information, the transitions and poses, AND you will be able to deliver the sequence with more confidence and clarity by the end of the week!
Do not try to teach a new sequence on the spot. This is when new yoga teachers tend to forget the sequence and lose students.
Teach what you know.
Embody it first, then go out into the world and share what you’ve learned.
7. Let your students be your teachers.
Look to your students as guides to tell you where you need to improve. If you observe what is going on in the room, you will quickly see how your sequence, music, and ideas are received.
You can learn much about yourself and how you teach by watching your students.
Usually, when we are tired, hungry, or burnt out from teaching too much, these are the moments we can overreact. Take care of yourself so that you limit this experience. If you observe yourself being triggered, take the time to talk it out with a friend or therapist. When you’ve moved through the trigger, Silently thank the student and situation for the lessons you learned.
8. Develop a consistent home practice.
Keep practicing on your own. Do your sequences at home and embrace what you want to teach to others.
You will better understand how you teach, what you want to teach, and how to deliver it to your community if you keep up a consistent home practice.
It is wonderful to receive and take classes with your teachers in the community, though to develop your own rhythm and voice, you will need to spend time doing your own work!
9. Cultivate teacher relationships.
Get out into your community and befriend the teachers! Support the industry by supporting the teachers in your local and global communities. One way to do this is to show up to train, practice, and explore alongside your peers. Another option is to create a Teacher’s Circle to practice teaching and move together.
Clara established a teacher’s practice in Vancouver at One Yoga For the People, where yoga teachers would coteach round-robin-style. A peak pose was selected, and every teacher in the circle would teach a portion of the sequence. Questions were explored, and feedback was provided on the asanas and execution.
A Teacher’s Circle will help you grow as a teacher, provide feedback, and contribute to the community! It ensures you all continue to learn and grow.
10. Meditate in your spare time.
Taking a few moments each day to meditate will help you develop the mental and emotional resiliency required of a yoga teacher. The benefits of meditation are many and multifaceted.
Daily meditation may help you get grounded and develop compassion and discipline, all things to aid your yoga practice and teachings.
Daily meditation practice is shown to decrease stress, reduce anxiety, and enhance focus and self-esteem!
Meditation is a wonderful tool to connect with yourself and others. It is an accessible mindfulness practice that can be done anywhere, anytime, for 2-5 minutes. Like yoga, once you’ve embodied a meditation practice, you will have more awareness and understanding of the many subtle aspects of the yoga practice, i.e. meditation.
11. Explore different styles of yoga.
Taking classes in different styles of yoga will give you a sense of what is out there. This process will help you build more awareness of the practice and how yoga is expressed. It will also develop your knowledge of the rich history of yoga through the contemporary practices offered.
It is important to remain a student as much as a teacher.
An advantage to sampling the unique styles of yoga is that you can draw from the practices and elements you like! You may learn something new that surprises you or discover a style or instructor to train with.
Clara draws inspiration from a wide range of global instructors who’ve added to the style of vinyasa yoga that she teaches today. Her teachers have included Shiva Rea, Mary Flinn, Lauren Hanna, Louis Etting, Dana Flynn, Ana Forrest and Rod Stryker.
12. Remember that you are a guide when you teach.
You are the guide of an experience whenever you step in to teach a yoga class. You are the facilitator for students to journey into themselves.
The space you create will shape the expression and experience of your students.
Whenever Clara teaches a class, she aims to create a safe space for students to journey into themselves so they can hear their voices. It is an opportunity for individuals to explore their inner landscape to see what else is there. It is a method to get quiet, ask questions, and reflect. Clara aims for her students to leave feeling a deeper connection to themselves.
Remember that the practice is not about you but about your students and shaping the experience for them!
At Practice with Clara, we believe in the power of education and creating aspirational content that allows students and teachers to advance their understanding of the yoga practice and what it takes to maintain a yoga lifestyle.
Check out the five #PracticewithClara Podcast episodes to learn more about how to teach yoga and run a yoga business.
Get the FREE Lila Flow eBook to see how to:
Develop and advance your home practice.
Create dynamic, fun, and thematically cohesive classes for students.
Learn sequencing to create holistic and safe environments for all involved.
Build sequences that balance the muscles strained.
Understand the six families of yoga poses and how they interact.
Experience five classes to explore unique sequencing, themes, and class lengths.
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