If you have just finished teacher training and have never taught Yoga before, it can sometimes be quite daunting to get started. If you turn to social media for advice, there will be so many contradicting suggestions that you will probably end up more confused than ever!
This is how I felt when I was starting off. Unfortunately, I never connected deeply with any of my teachers and so had no one to really turn to for advice either (my search for a Yoga guru continues). It was a lot of trial and error, reading, understanding context, and figuring out bit by bit how I wanted my teaching to be.
These are some rules I follow in my teaching that I thought of based on my experiences in classes as a teacher as well as a student. As a student, being in different classes made me understand what I want to be as a teacher but more importantly, what I do not want to be like when I start teaching. For example, if a teacher made me feel insulted, small, uncomfortable, or out of place in their class, I wanted to ensure I do my best that my students do not feel the same way in my classes.
Hopefully, this list helps you as much as it has helped me. This is not an exhaustive list by far and I keep adding or deleting as I learn, but I find this to be a good foundation to build an authentic and genuine teaching journey in the long run.
- Compassion, empathy, kindness, honesty are qualities without which we can never teach Yoga and do a good job of it; we are responsible for cultivating these qualities within us.
- Teaching is a journey and we should constantly work to better ourselves as teachers by being better students and learning from those we teach.
- Remind ourselves before every class that we are not teaching aerobics or Pilates or other fitness modalities but Yoga (which is NOT a fitness modality).
- If you teach different modalities and wish to blend them together, do so with care and in a way that does not dilute either practice.
- Remember that we are NOT doctors or psychiatrists but Yoga teachers so we do not prescribe or do away with medication or dispense advice on the subject.
- If you are a medical professional as well as a Yoga teacher, and if you wish to merge the two modalities, maintain the same attention to detail as a teacher as you would in your medical practice before giving medical advice.
- Alternatively, you can choose to teach your own patients so you have clarity on their medical history to dispense correct medical advice.
- NEVER touch or assist a student with physical touch unless specifically asked or given clear consent for such assists.
- Ensure we are not asking for such consent in a way that forces the student to agree out of fear or embarrassment.
- Be respectful of students and their ability to tell us when something feels like too much instead of pushing too hard and causing injury.
- Inclusivity is not optional in a Yoga class; Yoga IS inclusive in its essence and everyone should be welcome to classes.
- We are not here as teachers to judge; we are here to share the knowledge we have gained from teachers and scripture.
- If we feel unable to teach a student because of a health condition we do not understand well or are not equipped to handle, let them know politely.
- If we have resources that may help the student, share them with the student or guide the student to someone who can help.
- Remind ourselves that we do NOT need gimmicks that that disrespectful towards Yoga or make light of it to get students; the richness of Yoga is enough.
- As new teachers, especially, we need to stay away from this temptation and have faith in Yoga and our ability to teach it as best as we can.
- Be humble and accept when we are asked questions and we do not know answers; take it as a learning moment to research and learn and keep our ego in check by accepting we do not know it all.
- Taking courses and continuing the learning journey can also help remind ourselves that there is always more to learn and understand.
As teachers, if we remember to stay in a student mentality even as we teach, we will find that every minute of teaching is also a learning moment. It will help us become better teachers, understand all that Yoga speaks of at a deeper level, and ultimately become better Yoga sādhakas or practitioners.