I have been teaching casually for two years and still feel quite anxious about my ability to teach yoga. Sometimes I think my students know more about yoga than I do! I know this is probably not the case, since I was a student of yoga for many years before I decided to do teacher training. However, I do doubt myself and wonder if this feeling will ever go away. Perhaps I am not suited to teaching yoga? Yet I do get a great high from teaching and watching the smiles on the faces of my students at the end of a class. What advice can you offer to overcome this anxiety? Cheryl Black, Sydney, NSW
Congratulations on being part of one of the most rewarding and important professions in the world. As a yoga teacher you contribute to the evolution of humans on this planet.
Given the long tradition of yoga and how many great teachers there are, past and present, it may seem daunting at times to have joined this community. The fact that you are evaluating your abilities may mean that you are conscientious about doing a good job. Questioning your skills and working on them will help you improve as a teacher.
In the first years of teaching, you are probably still trying to fill the shoes of your teachers and mentors. This is as it should be: anyone who is accomplished has followed their teachers closely and even imitated them. At some point though, and for some this takes longer than others, you will find your own style and voice for teaching.
It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. This is the equivalent of doing an activity seven hours every day of the week for four years. Most of us need to earn a living while teaching yoga part-time, so you could easily triple the above amount of time it takes to develop teaching expertise.
Stay On The Path
Here are a few practical suggestions for improving your teaching ability:
- Seek feedback from your students. Find out what works and what doesn’t in your classes. It’s hard to take a wrong step if you are meeting your students’ needs.
- Keep practising yoga. Your teaching originates from your practice—you teach from your bones.
- When you feel anxious, you are in the grip of citta vrtti (disturbing fluctuations of the mind). The good news is that yoga offers all the tools you need to tame your mind. Ask teachers whose opinion you value for help with this if you need support. Better still, have a mentor.
- Redirect your mind. You do know more than your students. And, you’ve said they are happier for having attended classes with you. Just keep your attention off yourself and focused on them.
- Keep learning the art and science of yoga. Even the great yoga acharya, 92-year-old B.K.S. Iyengar, claims he is still a beginner.
Teaching is not an easy profession, as it reveals the parts of you that need to evolve through reflection from your students. Nevertheless, it is ultimately richly satisfying. Do persevere.
Eve Grzybowski has been teaching yoga since 1980. An author of books and articles on yoga, she now lives on Mitchells Island, NSW, and blogs about yoga and her seachange at www.eveyoga.com.