Yoga teacher training covers a LOT of ground. During my 200-hour intensive, we covered everything from ancient mythology to asana, assisting, philosophy, anatomy, business principles, pranayama, the environment, and everything in between. I felt prepared and excited to get out there and share all my new skills and knowledge with my future students. There were a few things, though, that still surprised me once I actually started teaching. These three big ones stick out in my mind.
1. Be prepared for the silence.
This was mentioned in passing at my training, mainly in a brief discussion on how to balance silence and noise in class and during meditations. I’m sure most aspiring yoga teachers (having taken numerous yoga classes themselves) would be aware of the fact that silence is often a big part of practice. But I still think it warrants a mention. A big mention, in fact—because there is such a big, big silence in some of the moments between instruction.
I became slightly overwhelmed.
I have always loved quiet, and I often seek it out, so I thought this would be a non-issue for me. But I found that the first few times I taught a class and the inevitable silent moments arose (whether planned or unplanned), I felt my presence being drawn away. I became slightly overwhelmed.
I learned that when you’re at the front of the class, you are the one holding the silence, so you had better be comfortable with it. It’s quite different from the silence you seek out, or the silence you sometimes find yourself in with your loved ones. It’s something you will grow used to over time as you teach more classes. I did, and I now enjoy those moments, but I also wish I had been better mentally prepared.
2. Preparing for classes is So. Much. Fun.
When I started my yoga teacher training, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to teach at all. I had been practicing yoga for about ten years and had never really had a burning desire to teach. I really just took the course to further my own practice and for personal development, which is a common motive for many trainees.
Looking back, I think it was inevitable that I was going to fall in love with teaching yoga. A big contributor to that inevitability was the fact that I found I really love preparing my classes. I heard the same from many of my equally surprised and delighted peers as we developed our very first yoga classes at the training, and it continues to be a major source of fun and growth for me. I love to plan my playlist, to work on balancing all of the elements of a class, to learn new asanas and assists in my own practice, and then to think about ways to bring those into the flow. Discovering and developing this outlet for creative energy brings pleasure, and satisfaction is, for many of us, an unexpected benefit of teaching.
3. Be flexible in your teachings and be open to unconventional invitations.
As you start out in your teaching career, you may find some unconventional offers to teach coming your way. On the day we covered the business aspect of teaching in my training, we talked about the importance of creating our own opportunities by offering classes however and wherever we could—whether that meant leading outdoor classes at a local park, becoming a traveling yogi, or transforming our living rooms into tiny private studios. But what about when you are invited to teach in a style you’re not 100% familiar with? Or to teach a private meditation class to a student who has a specific, favorite type of meditation? I’d say go for it.
I had the opportunity to teach yoga to patients with limited physical and mental abilities in a hospital setting. They were to remain seated the whole time. I’d certainly heard of chair yoga, but had never even taken a class, let alone taught it in my three short months as a teacher. What did I do? I jumped at the chance. I watched all the online chair yoga videos I could, got a book from the library, practiced chair yoga at work, and did a mini-practice session with a friend. In short, I learned as much as possible and then created my own class, which was very well-received.
Don’t shy away from what you don’t know. If you have the time and motivation to learn it, you’ll most likely do well.
As you begin to teach, be as adaptable as you can. If you enjoy planning for classes as much as I do you’ll find these types of challenges to be great and expansive opportunities. You’ll also be more marketable as a yoga teacher because you’ll have a wider variety of teachable styles and will be able to cater to more students’ needs. Don’t shy away from what you don’t know. If you have the time and motivation to learn it, you’ll most likely do well.
Yoga teacher trainings are indispensable in the ways they prepare us to teach. But remember to keep looking out for new lessons after you’ve graduated. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from being a new yoga teacher, and I love that my practice and the sharing of it continue to bring so much growth and positivity into my life.