Becoming a yoga instructor has changed my life in many ways. One of those ways was the insight that I gained about my teachers. I take classes and understand more about what makes my teachers tick, why they say the things they do, and why they respond to disruptions certain ways. Here are the 10 things I misunderstood before becoming a teacher.
1. Bodily noises barely phase us
I have kids, and I get that bodily noises are funny at home, but when you are in my class preserving your dignity is my top priority. With the twisting, bending, stretching, and relaxing it’s not uncommon for a noise or two to escape. We get it. You will be more concerned about it than we will. Just continue on and know that we won’t be laughing after class, and it will most likely happen at our next class.
2. It’s okay if I’m not your favorite teacher
The first time I taught a group class I decided to ask for feedback. One student said I talked too much, and another said I talked too little. One said my class was too intense, and another told me they didn’t feel the class was challenging. This was my wake up call that everyone is seeking something different when they come to a yoga class. I would love it if every student that walked into my class thought I was just the best thing since sliced bread, but that is highly unrealistic and not the standard by which I should measure myself. Finding a teacher that speaks to you is a very personal process, and it’s okay if I am not that teacher.
3. We have off days
Some classes I leave feeling like the god of yoga teaching. Some classes I don’t know how I made it through. I’m human, with good days and bad. Some days I have more to give my students than other days. As a teacher, I always do my best, but my best today might look different than my best tomorrow. Just know that I always strive to be great for you, but some days it just won’t flow the way I’d like.
4. It’s okay if you cry
Many poses in yoga draw emotions and memories to the front of your mind. Certain sections of the class are also likely to bring up tough emotions, particularly restorative poses; this is even more true after an intense strengthening sequence. We know this. We understand the physiology behind this. It’s okay. For most of us, the physical benefits of yoga is not the only thing that drew us to teaching. The emotional and mental benefits combined with the physical is what we love. It can be a process, and one that is often hard. Tears may or may not be part of that process, but if they are, it’s okay.
5. Our practice isn’t perfect
I have super tight hamstrings. Some days my practice flows smoother than others. There are days that I can balance better on my right side than my left. Some days my headstands flow effortlessly, and some days I tumble. My practice isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have to be. Training gave me the knowledge I need to improve my practice and to teach, but there is no end game in yoga.
6. I can’t be your doctor
Mainly because I am not a doctor. If it hurts, don’t do it. I have to trust you to know the difference between muscle building uncomfortable and shooting electric pain. If you signed up for a private lesson, I can work with your past injuries and help you find ways to modify the pose. But, if we are in a group lesson, I typically offer 1 or 2 modifications that may or may not work with you. For the most part, my advice to you will be to listen to your body and make the right choice for yourself. Beyond being a liability issue, that is simply responsible teaching.
7. We won’t judge if you fall
On the contrary, I love seeing my students challenge themselves and try something new! Sometimes if my students look too balanced in tree I will challenge them to close their eyes. It’s not to be mean, it’s because I love seeing the ‘Aha’ moment when you challenge yourself and succeed. Which brings me to number 8…
8. I love sharing in your successes
When you have a breakthrough in your practice physically or mentally, I love when you tell me! It really makes my day when I can witness a breakthrough or help someone reach a new level. It’s my favorite part of what I do.
9. I’m not here for a paycheck
To be blunt, no one goes into yoga for the money. For every six-figure yoga teacher, there are 500 barely scraping by. I’m here in your class because I love what I do, but know that most of us work other jobs too. Yoga is my passion and I am excited to share it with you, and that is the only reason I’m here.
10. There is more to yoga than what I teach
I teach the asanas, aka the poses, but there is so much more to yoga. In fact, there are 8 limbs to yoga, and the asanas are only 1. Some studios may encourage students to incorporate the other limbs into their teaching, but most will not. If you’re curious, ask me after class or jump on google. Just because I don’t talk about them doesn’t mean I don’t find them important.
So those are the 10 things I wish my students knew. Fellow teachers, anything you would add? Students, anything you wish your yoga teacher knew?