10 things I've learned after one year teaching
I started teaching yoga almost immediately after I concluded my 200-Hours Yoga Teacher Training. This experience was life-changing. Becoming a certified teacher to lead something I am passionate about, without a doubt, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. After one year and over 120 classes teaching in studios, private classes and open/volunteer classes, I’d like to sum up my experiences working as a yoga teacher part-time.
1. There are different kinds of students the same way there are different kinds of teachers.
Some students want to be pushed to their limit and come out sweaty and breathless like they just had a workout. These are the students that challenge me more to come up with new exciting variations and poses for my class. It's fast-paced and never boring. Then there are students who are more preoccupied with looking good after emerging from a sun salutation, checking the mirror each time and making sure a hair did not go out of place. There are students who will roll their eyes each time they fail to perform the pose, despite all the instructions and encouragement to help them execute. There are students who would stay after class, ask questions and practice some more - to them I am deeply grateful.
2. Yoga teacher stereotypes aside, one cannot look too young to assume the position of a teacher.
On my first class ever, I was waiting at the reception for the classroom to clear out. There was also a mixed group of students who sat there, some close to my age. And when I finally entered the studio and took my place in front of the room, their reactions were more of bewilderment than disbelief. I realized I was wearing a braid and a fringe and immediately felt self-conscious. I think they must be expecting the teacher to exemplify some likeliness to Gandhi.
3. A class is a space for creativity.
A class is something you design – from the sequence, the script, even the playlist. It's an opportunity to present your real unique self and create something really special, if not personal. And if you're lucky, you get to influence your students and they will remember you and your class.
4. Take care of your body.
If you have a class at 8am on a weekend morning and you have to be up by 6:30, partying til 5am is not the wisest idea. No one wants to see a hung over yoga teacher #badyogi. The best way to cope is to stay away from inversions, cut demonstrations, pace around the room while verbalizing instructions, make adjustments, all while stealing gulps from that bottle of vitamin water. Not the best episode for me so a repeat is highly unlikely.
5. You can’t be late for your own class.
In the beginning I used to always arrive at the studio around three minutes before the start of my class. Enough time to change into teaching clothes, select my playlist and unroll my mat (OK, sometimes that takes more than three minutes). By the time I take my place in front of the class, everyone else are all ready to begin. And how do I usually open the class? Breathe exercises. I try my best not to make it obvious that I just ran from the changing room. With some meditative practice I manage to convince them.
(My roommate posted this on my FB wall: Optimistic People All Have One Thing In Common: They're Always Late)
Best way, come early so you can just relax.
6. You will receive compliments.
Not just regarding your strength or flexibility. I get compliments on my playlist, sequencing and instruction. And one I will never forget, “You’re so beautiful. I wish my body is like yours.” God bless her, she’s beautiful. I am grateful for compliments and feedback to help me know I am on the right track.
7. Prepare to touch people’s lives.
It is the focus on the mental and spiritual side of the practice rather than just the mechanical that yields long-term advocates. Sure, it can help you stretch, be strong and limber but the benefits extend beyond just the physical. Yoga is a vehicle for people to become self-aware and self-accepting, to be positive and compassionate. If they realize this under your guidance, you will be remembered and the practice valued.
8. Happiness is seeing a student beam after hitting a ‘yoga pose milestone’.
They will emerge from their very first arm balance – usually a bakasana – looking like they just hit the jackpot. They will come down from their first headstand with a smile spread across from ear to ear like they just received a promotion. I enjoy celebrating these victories with them because it makes me remember how awesome it felt when I first felt like I was flying.
9. Mobile phones are your worst enemy.
Some studios have lockers in the changing room. Some studios don’t. Some studios need to put up the sign “Please switch off all mobile phones during class.” Imagine being in the middle of the class, glued on the mat, body all heated up and all energies focused on a Warrior pose… and suddenly a phone goes off. To me it feels like being splashed with a bucket of ice water. And when it happens during savasana, it’s even worse.
10. Your students will grow on you.
Some students will keep on coming back and you are a witness to their progress. Some will leave, and you will never realize how much you feel attached once they chose to tell you it’s their last class with you, thank you and hope they will find another good yoga teacher where they’re going. At this point all you can do is to wish them luck on their yoga journey. But sometimes, deep inside, all I want is to give them a hug.
This article was first published on July 9, 2015