If you are a yoga teacher, I’m sure at some point during your career you have fallen victim to a few of these bad habits that need to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. It will make you a more authentic and natural teacher so that you can spread the yoga love seamlessly and effortlessly.
When we first start teaching, it can be nerve racking. There is a lot going on – music, bodies moving, demonstration, adjusting, keeping track of sequences, timing, pace and disruptions. Sometimes, those nerves get the best of us and we start overexplaining just to fill the silence. Giving proper cues is important but endless talking is just annoying. People come to yoga for various reasons but they should always leave with a newfound sense of calm and peace. Overtalking crowds mental space and it doesn’t allow students to go inward and listen to their breath. Sometimes it’s just nice to say what you have to say concisely and let the yoga do the rest.
Not Adjusting Both Sides
One of my pet peeves. Getting a nice adjustment is blissful but when it only happens on one side, you’re left unbalanced. It’s quite hard to get as deep on the other side without assistance. If you adjust students, try to remember who they are so you can get them on the other side, and I guarantee they’ll thank you for it.
The Singing Voice
Have you ever been to a class where the instructor sounds like he’s singing? It’s really strange. Then you talk to him afterwards and he sounds like a completely different person. Use your normal voice when you teach. There’s no need to sound like anyone else and unless you’re Bryan Kest, rhyming is really hard to pull off. Learn to use intonations, pitch and volume levels to create the right energy in the room instead of dragging out your voice too much.
When you demonstrate, demonstrate for a good reason – the pose is hard, your class is full of beginners, you want to make a specific alignment point, etc. Demonstrating for the sake of the attention is lame. If you are practicing with your students, that is not what we’re referring to. I’ve been to classes where the instructor is showing a pose but not really shedding any light on how to master it. Demonstrating poses that are out of reach to your students’ level is also a turn off and it breeds frustration. There’s a fine line between keeping your students challenged but not overwhelmed. So choose wisely. Minimizing the stage time will also prevent injuries from demonstrating without a proper warm-up.
Bringing Your Personal Life to Class
When students come to yoga, they don’t want to hear about a breakup with your boyfriend, so don’t bring it up while you are teaching. I know, it sounds crazy, but I’ve seen it. At times, when I’m doing a private with someone who has become a friend over the years, I get the urge to bring up an invitation to a party or to ask about her nail polish. If I were to do this, it would take my student right out of her body and breath, so I avoid it altogether. The mind drifts and when you’re teaching, you have to bring yourself back to the breath just like you do for your students. Remind yourself that you are here to teach presence of mind and keep the other stuff outside class.
We all have our go-to sequences but unless you are teaching Bikram or Ashtanga, get a new script. Step outside of your comfort zone and begin experimenting with new flows and transitions. The easiest way to do this is to start a home practice. Roll out your mat, throw on your soundtrack and bang out an intuition-inspired flow. This is essential to keeping classes fresh and fun. Lastly, try taking more classes – we can all learn something from everyone we come across.
Using Filler Words or Phrases
The good ol’ “and now,” “from here” and “won’t you please.” Filler words buy us time but they are also just comfort words we got used to saying along the way and sometimes, we don’t even know we say them 30 times in one class. You don’t need them. Instead of saying “from here, move your right foot forward,” try “move your right foot forward.” This is shorter and to the point, fewer words and more silence. It’s good practice to record yourself teaching, too. You’ll be surprised at what you hear and it will inspire you to use different wording.
We’ve all done it – walking out of savasana to chat with the girls at the front desk or to send a quick text. When you do that you are breaking your connection with the entire class you just taught. There is something really special about the general flow of a class – the build up, the sweat, the cooldown and the rest. Sit comfortably and meditate while everyone is on their backs or join them in that final relaxation. When you’re ready to bring them out, your voice won’t be too loud and you’ll pick up right where you left off. Those last few minutes of stillness may also bring you words of wisdom to share.
Telling People How to Live
It’s tempting to tell people “the way” but the best way to lead is by example. When we try to impose our beliefs onto others or judge the way others live their lives, we’ve missed the point. Everyone is on his own path and unless our advice is requested, it is better to enjoy your students just the way they are.
Letting your ego run the show is no bueno. If we go to class clinging to our agenda we will surely miss what the students truly need. A big ego is not easy to hide and your yogis will feel a sense of superiority right away. When we teach, we are merely guides and we are definitely NOT special, so try to remain humble, regardless of how long you’ve been teaching or what you can do physically. If the ego is involved, intuition does not flow freely. Therefore, take a moment at the beginning of class to disconnect from your day and the ego stuff. By centering ourselves, we become a vessel for higher energy.