‘Find your own voice and be an authentic yoga teacher’. This is one of the most frequent pieces of advice you will be given as you start your yoga teaching career.
Being an authentic yoga teacher means being true to yourself and your own qualities. It is great to source inspiration and direction from our favorite teachers but the key to being an authentic teacher is teaching as ‘you’.
Emulating or copying another teacher’s style can make your own teaching style more rigid and dry. Evolve your own unique style of teaching and you will automatically and naturally maintain your teaching authenticity.
Your personal qualities are the ones that are special to you. It is your unique approach to teaching that makes you the yoga teacher that youare. Not anyone else. Just you.
As your career progresses, it is well worth reviewing and updating your personal mission statement. Remind yourself of your personal qualities and expectations and observe how your practice and teaching is changing.
Here are a few things to consider that will help to keep you and your yoga teaching authentic and grounded.
Humility not Ego
As a yoga teacher you are also a yoga student. An eternal yoga student.
Approach your teaching with humility and an open mind. Learn from your classes and students as this will only enrich your understanding and teaching ability.
When we approach our classes and students with an air of ‘we already know it all’ we are losing the valuable opportunity each class gives us to connect, learn and evolve.
Class example: Your overly worded verbal cue doesn’t take the students into to form of the pose you were hoping for. Don’t be scared to smile, rewind and start again with different verbal explanation and demonstration.
Sense of Humor not Judgement
A sense of humor in class will take you far. If you can smile and laugh with your students you will create an inclusive and connected learning environment.
Avoid the blank look of judgement when a student can’t physically create the pose or understand your teaching points perfectly.
Class example: The new student at the back just can’t figure out how to stack her blocks the right way. Keep the moment lighthearted and go help with a smile so that she feels supported and not self conscious and judged.
It is your own unique qualities make you an authentic yoga teacher
Flaws not Perfection
Yoga practice is called practice for a very good reason – we are always practicing. We’re always reaching for perfection and for this reason we will always have flaws. It’s what makes us human.
It’s always great to teach a class that runs smoothly from beginning to end. The smartly created flow class that glides seamlessly with smooth verbal instruction and a closes with an inspiring and uplifting savasana and blessing is great. But also rare.
It doesn’t matter that you get tongue tied or forget whether you’ve done the right side as well as the left. This just demonstrates that you are human. It is always useful to have a class plan but allow it to evolve and change direction, if necessary, to accommodate your students’ needs and energy levels.
Class example: A robotically taught class free of any human connection is yoga gymnastics and will miss its yogic point. This can be a major turn off for students in the room wanting to practice a well rounded yoga class. As a teacher it is healthy to show flaws. Yoga is a human practice, so be human!
Honesty not Pretense
Be honest with your yogic knowledge. The physical, philosophical and spiritual.
By being honest in your answers and teaching you are reinforcing your credibility. Students will respect you for your honesty. Teaching under pretense is not only a disservice to your students but it is also a disservice to yourself and your teaching.
Class example: If you don’t know the limitations that a very specific medical condition will have on your student’s practice, don’t guess! Admit you do not know for sure and offer to do some research so that you can teach safely. Your students will appreciate your honesty and commitment to finding out more.
Curiosity not Complacency
Yoga study is never complete. There is such a vast amount to learn. Even in our own personal practice we will learn more as our bodies age, our life experiences change and our outlook on life evolves.
Remaining curious in your yoga practice and teaching ensures that you are always learning and evolving. There is always more to experience, see and learn.
Class example: You use the same teaching script for every pose and rely on well used sequences. This is not a bad thing at all as you know what works but by remaining curious and constantly learning you keep your teaching fresh. This can only enrich your teaching skills to ensure that you remain authentic.
In summary, be who you are. After all, everyone else is taken 🙂