I’ve been teaching yoga for about two months now, isn’t that crazy?
Anyway, teaching has been going really well. I work at an awesome community center at 5:45am on Fridays, which is very early, but it’s a wonderful way to start the day. The women I teach leave feeling empowered and I leave feeling energized. Serving as a yoga instructor is all that I thought it would be, and more. I’m so grateful to be able to teach, especially because yoga job opportunities seemed bleak when I graduated.
While I love teaching yoga, I’ve come across a few challenges in the last two months that I want to explore. I’d like to find some solutions so if any of you have suggestions, please comment below!
Some Challenges of Being a New Yoga Instructor
1. Engaging with students
I feel hypocritical to acknowledge this yet also self-aware, but I have somehow fallen into the trap of doing what I’ve criticized yoga teachers for doing, which you can read in this previous post. To summarize, I don’t know my students’ names and lately, I haven’t been offering individualized modifications.
I learned to teach yoga without using my own mat so I would do minimal demonstrations. Now, I bring my mat with me and I tend to find myself hovering on it rather than walking around and looking at my students’ bodies. Last week I left my mat at home to hinder me from demonstrating, but I still had a difficult time engaging with my students.
Perhaps I feel dissuaded from offering individualized modifications since the last few times I did it, one student, in particular, was resistant to it and basically ignored me. This isn’t an excuse not to offer modifications to other students though. This week I aspire to look at bodies more closely so I can make recommendations.
In regards to not knowing my students’ names…I just need to learn them. I excused myself for a while for not knowing their names because the class is so early in the morning and people aren’t particularly talkative or because nobody seemed to be a regular. Now, I finally have a group of regulars and there are only four peoples’ names I don’t know. I will learn them this week.
2. Connecting to the local yoga community
I’m unsure how to resolve this other than getting a membership at a local studio. To be honest, I don’t want to do that because yoga memberships are expensive and I don’t know how much I’d use it since my schedule is so volatile these days. I have a membership at the community center I work at and I barely go as it is!
I’d love to connect with the yoga community where I work but it’s difficult to do so because I teach so early in the AM so no other teachers or students are present. Most of the yoga classes at the community center are later in the morning, which so far has been when I’m working. They also don’t have classes later than 7pm and during my last job, I was still working at that time. Once I have a regular schedule I can probably figure out how to attend yoga classes at the center regularly. Until then, I think I have to rely on an online yoga community and the community I create with my students.
3. Integrating spirituality into classes
Since I’m not working at a yoga studio, there isn’t much spiritual integration in yoga classes I’ve attended at the community center. This is a little frustrating since I’ve become more interested in the spiritual nature of Yoga rather than the physical practice. Currently, I don’t even “Om” in class. I hope to integrate this by the end of the year and then teach classes that incorporate the chakras. More research is necessary to do this but I think it’d be awesome!
4. Maintaining a strong personal practice
As a result of limited community class availability, as well as dealing with my own hectic schedule, it has become difficult to maintain my own daily practice.
Oh, an injury has discouraged me from maintaining a daily practice too. I somehow injured my right hip flexor about two weeks ago, which was extremely painful and debilitating for over a week. The pain woke me up in the middle of the night and I had to pick up my leg to get into the car…it was horrible. The pain is minimal now, but the muscle is still tender and healing, so I have to be extra cognizant of how I feel during my practice.
I would be less upset by the sudden inconsistency of my practice if I at least meditated and/or journaled instead, but I find that if I don’t do the Asana, I rarely take the initiative to do the more spiritual work.
A yoga community would help foster a regular and strong yoga practice, which is super important to have as a teacher. The classes I take from others, whether that be via YouTube, an app, or in the presence of a teacher, inspire the classes that I teach. Due to the weakening of my yoga practice, I have not been as inspired as I’d like to be. I’ve actually become a little jaded with the classes that I do teach because I struggle with switching classes up. Since I’m not working now, I need to carve out time weekly to take yoga classes from others. Whenever I do resume working, I will have to determine how to continue a strong practice.
5. Continuing the study of Yoga
I believe that continuing to study Yoga, and by that I mean the Eight Limbs of Yoga, excluding Asana, is the most important activity a yoga teacher should do. Yes, I can learn more about the other limbs by taking classes, but I think learning is done more effectively when you’re studying traditionally, ie reading lots of books.
I have at least two Yoga books I want to finish reading, one of which is all about the chakras so that would be useful for the chakra series I want to teach. I have other Yogic books I want to read when I finish those two books too…it’s just a matter of carving out the time to read them.
It’d also be helpful if I had a yoga mentor to sit and talk with too. One of the yoga teachers that ran the training is local to me so maybe I’ll reach out to her to talk about the Sutras or something.
So…I suppose that even when you “graduate” from yoga teacher training, or from University, or from anything…there is always more learning to do. Being an expert in anything is a lot of work because the world is always changing thus there is always more to learn about the present in addition to the past.
It’s helpful that I spent some time to write about the challenges I have as a teacher because this helps to hold myself accountable. Again, I’d love any suggestions anyone has to offer too!