Find someone who resonates with you and who can grow with you because they also have a teacher and a regular practice. I choose teachers who inspire me off the mat more so than on the mat. For example, I choose teachers who live Yogic lives full of principal and love, people I can use as examples in my personal and professional life. If your desire is to teach full-time, find a teacher who actually teaches full-time. It’s hard to learn the skills required of a full-time teacher or be advised by someone who has yet to take that leap. A recent graduate from my teacher training program was advised in her previous YTT program that it was not possible to support herself as a Yoga teacher. I found this interesting, seeing as I am less than a mile away and have supported myself and my family (including my husband for a few years) for the past decade and everyone who has stuck with my program teaches as much as they want to teach.
2. Practice…Really Practice.
As it says in the Yoga Sutras, consistent, continuous practice over many years is the path of Yoga. The learning never ends so that means you have to keep practicing to continue learning. Yoga is the practice of replacing what you know with new, more valid knowledge gained through experience. If you don’t practice you don’t grow and if you don’t grow your students won’t grow and they will move on. How can anyone who is not inspired to practice inspire others to practice? Always remember taking a class is not the same as an actual home practice. You need to be a scientist, exploring your own body and studying it through experimentation to understand how Yoga truly works in order to be able to share what you know and not just regurgitate your favourite teachers’ experiences.
3. Take and Make Every Opportunity.
With thousands of Yoga schools pumping out “Yoga Teachers” by the hundreds of thousands it can be a challenge to land classes. So you have to put yourself out there with every given opportunity! For years I taught by donation classes to get the experience needed to build a community of students. If you follow my first two tips, you need not worry because you will have the skills needed to turn one class into many because your students will get hooked. I built a Yoga business having never taught a single drop-in class in a Yoga Studio, so think outside the box. Never, ever turn your nose up at an opportunity to share Yoga with your community. When I started out, I taught nine gym classes and six chair classes every week for years, learning what I needed to and meeting the students I was meant to meet, to end up where I am today. We all have a different Dharma, or life path, so learn to embrace yours and learn your lessons without envying another person’s path or expecting yours to be similar.
4. Fall Down Seven Times Get Up Eight.
Not everyone is going to like you and not every class is going to be a home-run. Just because you have chosen a ‘spiritual’ path does not mean your days will be all rainbows, puppy dogs and cupcakes! The expectation that life should be without suffering and struggle is the cause of much unnecessary unhappiness. The road of a Yoga teacher is full of bumps and mountain size challenges, as it should be. How can you set an example for students who are struggling if you have not had to get through your own share of personal challenges? Learn to see each new situation as a learning opportunity providing you with the experience required to better assist your students on their Yoga journey. Never give up on your dreams, while leaving space for acceptance should your intentions change. Change is part of any path so don’t be attached to what you thought you wanted if it is not truly what you need.
5. Himalayan Salt and More Water.
Consuming Himalayan salt is an absolute must if you wish to maintain the ability to demo and talk for hours a day. Without Himalayan salt in my diet I find my thirst unquenchable! Even with the mineral rich salt, my water intake is between six to eight litres per day. It definitely takes some time to integrate this type of liquid consumption into your schedule but it really is a must. I find drinking a litre during class and a litre after but avoiding water consumption right before class the best option for avoiding bathroom breaks or discomfort during class. Remember all things it takes time…10 years into teaching, I teach numerous four hour classes without the need for a potty break and with patience you too can consume the needed amounts of water in a way that will work with your system and schedule, so be patient.
6. Eat More Bananas.
I am no nutritionist but I can speak from experience that the Yoga body loves and benefits from bananas. The solution Mr. Venkatesha (my teacher in India) recommends for most ailments is to eat more ripe bananas! When I am studying in India, I eat 20 per day and I pretty much demand students on my intensives eat a minimum of 10 per day. I have yet to encounter anyone who did not agree that the bananas help big time with energy, muscle fatigue and general body functioning. During my regular work week I eat a minimum of one banana per day but usually have three. They are portable, quick to digest and more powerful than any protein bar or energy drink on the planet.
7. Chant to Build Confidence.
I doubt there is a person on this planet who was not scared and anxious for his or her first class. I know amazing full-time lifestyle teachers who still get nervous before every single class. It is very difficult to get in front of a room full of people and tell them what to do. Chanting regularly has worked for me and every single person I have ever taught to teach. You can chant silently to yourself or at the top of your lungs, in perfect sanskrit or with the worst pronunciation in the world and it is going to work. I find Ganesha and Shiva chants to be extremely useful for this particular purpose. Confidence is an attractive trait in teachers and I believe chanting connects us to Atma (divine, universal knowledge and understanding) which allows us to teach an incredible class without thinking or stressing! For more information on the benefits of chanting and to get started, check out my blog on chanting.
8. Believe in Yourself and Yoga.
Have faith in your ability. Have faith in the practice. Watch your words and your thoughts for they have a direct impact on what you attract. If you don’t believe in yourself and Yoga how on earth can you teach others to do so? As the Upanishads (an old yogic text) say: “be mindful of your thoughts for they become your words, be mindful of your words for they become your actions, be mindful of your actions for they form your habits, be mindful of your habits because they create your character, be mindful of your character because it chooses your destiny.” So do your best to think kindly of yourself, your surroundings and those who are attracted to your teaching.
9. Accept the Work.
It is hard work being a Yoga teacher!!! It will challenge you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually on a fairly regular basis. Accepting that you know nothing is tough, and it is harder yet to authentically share your limited understanding of one of the most complex systems of mind control: Yoga. There is so much depth to Yoga, it can be overwhelming and inconceivable. It is a humbling path full of highs and lows and in order to make it your career you will need to embrace the task. Truly accept that healing is hard work and encourage others to do the same through your example.
10. Accept Where You Are At.
Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have a regular practice, don’t teach. If you don’t really know something, admit it. If you don’t know how to confidently and safely teach something, don’t teach it. If you have no experience or expertise on a subject, remain silent. Do not expect to have a Yoga career handed to you, as it takes years of discipline and learning to have knowledge worth sharing. A little bit of understanding can easily be a dangerous thing, so be conscious that what you share is true and real. Be your authentic self and if you don’t know who that is yet, keep practicing and you will find yourself.