Being a yoga teacher

Realization of the year:
Being a yoga teacher is a seriously underrated role! And I’d really like to distinguish here between “teaching yoga” and “being a yoga teacher“.

To me, “teaching yoga” can happen rather quickly – you can learn the cues, demonstrate (or not), adjust (or not), structure a class (or not), show presence (or not). It’s like when you show your dad how to use a smartphone: you can teach, but you’re not really invested in the process nor the outcome. Some of the content may be lost on him, and well, it happens… He’ll figure it all out eventually.

In comparison, “being a yoga teacher” is a state which you really need to attain. It requires preparation, care (for yourself and others), responsibility and availability. And especially the last part goes beyond the discipline of being reliable, guiding clearly, keeping students safe in their poses. Availability is what enables that connection between student and teacher. I’m writing about this because I experienced it first hand in my TTC journey at Sanapurna.

My initial teaching experiences were very focused on getting the sequence right, not mixing left and right, and keeping time. They were mainly about my own discipline, than about the needs of my students. I was “in my head” as my teacher rightly put it in my feedback a month ago – always thinking about what’s next disconnected me from the group. A bit of a tough one to swallow, as I put so much thought and effort into creating a perfect class, and while I did that, I forgot who it was supposed to serve: my students!

This weekend I had my final teaching exam and I really wanted to do this differently. I sought the connection with the group. I reflected on what I do in a class, and tried to assess what I do best. They say there is no such thing as multitasking, and I don’t really agree… especially when I watch Netflix while writing emails 🙂 But in a challenging or new environment, I guess it is pretty smart to channel your energy right.

So between demonstrating, cueing, observing, adjusting, I decided I’m best at cueing, i.e. verbally guiding the students through the poses. Then I focused on observing and adjusting – although I must say there wasn’t much I could improve (these yogis are smashing it!). I felt so much more connected to the group, that a blunder on the left/right twists was not a tragic mix-up in the sequence.

I already identified many things I need to improve on, and I got a lot of new ideas and impulses for my next classes! It’s pretty powerful and amazing to see how connection can truly transform the teaching experience. Now I understand why with some teachers I feel safe, valued, supported and encouraged – it’s all about the mutual availability to create a connection.

Surely not all students will be available, but to me “being a yoga teacher” means being available for them all.

Namaste to my wonderful students – thank you for your connection! ♥

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