5 Ways To Be A Better Yoga Teacher

Yoga training concept

I’m a sucker for  Advice-driven posts like this. I cannot resist, “3 Ways to Achieve Enlightenment in Your Lifetime,” or “10 ways to Stop Cravings.”. I bite every time. So here’s my own “list post”  giving myself the Yoga Teaching advice I need.

Number 1. Don’t close your eyes when you teach.

This is really hard for me. I see so much clearer when I my eyes are closed.  But when I am a student and I am looking at the teacher and the teacher has her eyes closed I feel disconnected from her. I think (and rightly so) that she is in her own world, and what she’s saying has nothing to do with me. Selfishly, I want the teacher to be there for me. I want the teacher to be present.

When I am teaching and tell the students to close their eyes, that doesn’t give me permission to close MY eyes. I need to remember that. Teachers close their eyes because students are really distracting. Their behavior  can really throw you off.

But I must train myself to keep my eyes open at all times. And look at them. As individuals. Not as a “class.”

This is really hard.. I am still, after all these years, terrible at it. I need to force myself to do it, especially when I am centering them. I think the reason I close my eyes is that I am trying to center myself at the same time I am centering them. And that’s a mistake.  I need to remember to keep my eyes opened. All the time. Never close your eyes if you are a yoga teacher.

Number 2. Don’t be afraid to touch your students.

I am really bad at this, too. Every yoga teacher is taught how to assist. Some are way better at it than others. The ones who are good usually have had teachers who have assisted them really well.

I am afraid to touch my students because I am afraid that the touch will be wrong. The way to get over this is to just touch lightly at first. Just give a fingertip touch. The very lightest of encouragement or tweak.

This is hard to get over if you don’t know how. And sometimes students will take the touch as a correction rather than a cue. So you think maybe not to touch is just better. That is a mistake.  People are starved for touch. Even the lightest touch is a moment of being seen. That’s why everyone in a class should be touched at least once.

Number 3. Don’t talk too much.

Oh boy. This is what I really need to learn. It is okay to have a lot of silence in a yoga class. You don’t have to fill up all the space with chatter. I have to remember this because I am a very chatty teacher.

A few  well-chosen cues, widely spaced, can go a long way. I need to think of words as spices. You don’t want to over salt the dish, you want to go easy on the cayenne, the cumin, the curry.

Let there be space for emptiness and breathing and contemplation. Don’t talk too much. Err on the side of silence.

Number 4. Don’t forget to smile.

You don’t have to crack jokes or smile the whole time like a ninny, but learn to put a smile in your voice. If your students are deep in their practice, breathing and listening for the next direction, if your voice has a smile in it, it is really wonderful.

In oder to put a smile in your voice you have to have a smile on your face. You need to practice this. You know how nice it is when you’re on the phone with someone in customer service, and they seem to have a smiley voice? When you can hear something friendly in their voice, it makes the whole interaction go much better.

That’s what you should aim for in the yoga room. Not jokes, not inauthenticity, just warm friendliness. This takes some mirror practice. Work on it.

Number 5. Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know.

If you don’t live the yamas and niyamas, if you don’t struggle to live them in your own life, don’t bring them up. If, however, you do try to adhere to them in your non-yoga-class life, then by all means bring them up.  It’s like talking about weight-loss when you’ve never had a weight problem. Just don’t.

If you don’t practice handstands, don’t teach handstands. If you don’t have a daily practice, don’t preach daily practice.  Don’t preach about virtues you don’t aspire to, or struggle with, or have. If you’ve never had a chakra awakening, don’t talk about chakra awakenings. Stay honest. Stay in your lane.

A Found List

I found this list in the back of one of my old journals the other day.  I didn’t compile it, but I loved it, so I copied it, –from the net probably.  So I would love to give credit to the author, so if anyone recognizes this and knows where it came from, please let me know!

Here it is:

In the following, I list 71 things that you can do to be more successful. You choose to do them or not. If you choose not to do these things, then you have no right to complain about your problems; your problems are your fault!

  1. Stop watching television.
  2. Stop eating fast food.
  3. Stop eating pizza and fried foods.
  4. Stop driving places that you could easily walk to.
  5. Read at least 1 book a month.
  6. Take classes in what interests you or your vocation.
  7. Work enough to support yourself, and if needed get a new job or second job to make enough to support yourself. Never stick with a job that doesn’t pay enough to support yourself no matter how much you work.
  8. Pay off your debts and don’t go in debt. You can pay off your debts if you avoid needless expenses, such as cable, overpriced clothes, impractical decorations, unhealthy snacks, jewelry, etcetera.
  9. Don’t buy a car on finance, and don’t buy an expensive car if a cheaper one that works is available.
  10. Wake up early, and get all your work done as quickly as possible. That includes household chores, as well as your employment.
  11. Drink alcohol less or quit.
  12. Do drugs less or quit.
  13. Don’t smoke cigarettes.
  14. Don’t eat foods with high fructose corn syrup.
  15. Don’t drink soda.
  16. Don’t eat sugary foods at all.
  17. Don’t drink more than 1 glass of juice per day.
  18. Stand up straight and have good posture.
  19. Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
  20. Smile.
  21. Be polite.
  22. Keep your promises.
  23. Wear a watch, if you can afford it.
  24. Eat breakfast.
  25. If you eat cereal at any time, choose your cereal based on healthiness not tastiness.
  26. Exercise at least 3 days per week.
  27. Walk often.
  28. Always write with correct spelling and grammar.
  29. Never speak worse about a person behind their back than you do to their face. (Feel free to say nicer things about a person behind their back than to their face.)
  30. Don’t gossip and don’t have a big mouth.
  31. Never judge other people harsher than you judge yourself.
  32. Make New Years resolutions, but make one every day instead of every year.
  33. Volunteer.
  34. Forgive, but never forget.
  35. Don’t have skeletons in your closet.
  36. Keep as few secrets as reasonably possible.
  37. Despite the rule before this one, keep your friends’ secrets.
  38. Politely tell people that you will not betray your friends’ trust, when you are asked about their secrets and such.
  39. Volunteering (i.e. activism) is more important than voting. If you can do both, good for you. If you only have time for one, volunteer instead of voting. It makes more of a difference.
  40. Privately question your own values.
  41. Avoid questioning other people’s values, especially in public.
  42. Listen more than you talk.
  43. Use a journal to count how many calories you consume per day.
  44. Use a journal to count how many calories you burn per day.
  45. If you want to lose weight, burn slightly more than you consume. If you want to gain weight, consume slightly more than you burn. If you are happy with your weight, try to burn the same amount as you consume.
  46. Weigh yourself daily at the same time(s).
  47. Write your daily weight down in a journal.
  48. Never allow the police to search you, your car, or your belongings if you do not have something to hide.
  49. Never tell other people that you think they or something they are doing is immoral or sinful.
  50. Keep your moral values and religion to yourself. Use them to direct your own actions.
  51. Ask people how they are often and listen to their answer.
  52. Laugh at other people’s jokes, but not your own.
  53. Shower at least once per day.
  54. Wash your hands, even if you aren’t an employee.
  55. Take care of the elderly, which includes spending time with them and talking to them.
  56. Avoid going places where you need to be waited on.
  57. Wait on yourself wherever possible.
  58. Make your friends look good.
  59. Avoid lying.
  60. Don’t pretend to be better than you are. Don’t pretend to be more successful, popular, etcetera.
  61. Treat other people as if they are better than they are. Treat them as if they are more successful, popular, etcetera.
  62. Don’t brag about your talents. Instead, surprise people with them when they just happen to be called upon.
  63. Sit up straight.
  64. Keep your house clean.
  65. If you have either of them, keep your car and office clean.
  66. Stretch daily. (I do Yoga most mornings.)
  67. Dance.
  68. Take dancing lessons if you could use improvement.
  69. Ask other people (e.g. your friends, your co-workers, your boss, etc.) what their favorite book is, and read it.
  70. Ask their favorite song or band, and listen to it.
  71. Ask their favorite movie, and watch it.

Extras:

  1. Don’t be camera shy.
  2. When your alarm goes off in the morning (if you use one), don’t press snooze.
  3. Make a budget and follow it.

Suggestions from visitors:

  1. Say “I love you” often to the people you feel this way about.
  2. Always turning off lights when leaving a room, unless of course there are others are in the room. For that matter, conserving any unnecessary electricity usage is key to the future of humanity.