Starting out as a freshly minted teacher can be really daunting, just like any new thing. Teaching yoga is a big responsibility, and that can feel overwhelming. I know it did for me when I first started.
Here are 13 things I wish I'd known back then, when I was quavering in front of a room full of people, seconds from running away. Some are a little scary, maybe, but mostly, they'd have been super helpful to know upfront rather than learn on the job. (FYI we cover these in our training.)
- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Learn about them, and be really careful that you don't overstep with your students - or allow them to overstep with you. Timekeeping is an obvious one - start and end on time. But also, you have a position of authority, and a duty of care. Make sure you respect that and then horrible things like we were talking about in this conversation won't happen on your watch (feel free to add your opinion to the discussion if you want):
- Know your upper limit: most yoga teachers can’t teach more than about fifteen classes a week without getting sick or injured.
- Travel time is work time. You need to allow for travel time between classes and count it as part of your working day: don’t let people con you into thinking those 15 classes are your total work time!
- It can be difficult to stay of top of your admin when you are teaching so much: get good at systems (here are some ideas).
- Rest when you need to: If you start your first class early and/or end your last class late, you need to give yourself time to rest during the day.
- Eat well. Most yoga teachers work when everyone else has mealtimes. Cooking up healthy food in bulk once a week has always worked really well for me! I do it on a Sunday.
- Keep learning: as a new teacher, you are likely to have weak points. Back when I first started, mine were that I spoke too softly, couldn’t mirror when demonstrating, and didn’t have strong anatomical knowledge. I’ve fixed them now.
- Ask questions. I find that, in the beginning, teachers are afraid to ask their students questions because it might look like they don’t know what they are doing. It’s quite the opposite though: asking your students how they feel in a pose before you adjust them gives you valuable information on where they are at, and also helps them tune in to their bodies. It’s gold!
- You are doing JUST FINE! You DO know more than your students: they (mostly) haven’t been through teacher training, and you have!
- Make sure to balance work and the rest of your life. Yoga is a passion job and it can be all-consuming. Make sure to keep up your other hobbies - crafting, gardening, whatever they may be, and to spend time with your non-yoga friends at least occasionally!
- Welcome constructive criticism: listen to it and learn from it. It’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t like something about your teaching. In fact, it’s great: it gives you an opportunity to develop your skills and also to work out whether you are teaching in a way that is authentic to you. It tends to take new teachers a while to figure out their groove. You may start out thinking you are going to be a vinyasa teacher and end up teaching therapeutics.
- Make sure you have enough time off: at least one full day a week, so that you can recharge and keep hold of your sanity.
- Your income doesn’t have to come exclusively from teaching. Get creative: you can write or work part-time in retail, hospitality, or your old job. You can sell yoga gear. You can organise events. You can manage a yoga studio. So many options!