by Jason Zagaro
As you grow as a yoga teacher, you realize there is a lot more happening during a “typical” class than you may have first realized.
When I first began teaching, my main concerns were: (1) avoiding injuries and (2) timing – how in the world was I going to fill 75 minutes?
Time is usually something that consumes the mind of a novice teacher – we think too much and too fast, speak too fast, move too fast…
Patience is a virtue as a teacher and it gets developed over time. You cannot please everyone in class. Stay true to yourself; be creative but don’t stray too far from your wheelhouse. Eventually your composure, personality, structure and experience will take over as a teacher.
The following are ten teaching tips that I have discovered over the years of being a yoga instructor:
1. Keep it simple. Don’t try and be the best yoga teacher on the planet and remember everything they taught you in your training. If Sanskrit words come naturally and you feel comfortable using them, then do so. Otherwise, work on filling your time and watching the room so people don’t get injured.
2. Decide what level of preparation is your preferred method. Some teachers have no idea what pose is coming next. Some teachers have the class scripted to the T. Some even sequence the entire class set to the music they play. Many teachers just teach on a whim, spontaneously reacting to who is in the room. A good teacher teaches to the level of the room.
3. Bad music is more of a factor than good music. If the music is “bad” or inappropriate for a yoga class, it can really dampen or ruin the class. Everybody remembers a teacher who plays awful music and it can even deter the students from going back to that class. My first teacher in college had one CD and for three years he played the same CD in every class. The CD was Krishna Das’ Pilgrim Heart, which was my first introduction to kirtan. I remember my first year training with him and I thought, “This music is awful!” After constantly hearing the same songs over and over, my frame of mind finally adjusted and I began to like the CD. If I hear Pilgrim Heart being played in a yoga studio now, I get flashbacks to that time in my life. Some lineages of yoga don’t have music at all; they want you to work on calming the mind, which means no distractions from your asana class.
4. Be grateful to your students for coming to class.I am always grateful to everyone who comes to take my class, even if some don’t follow the code of asana class perfectly. The fact that people would pay their hard earned money, drive to the studio, part from their families or home life for a period of time to listen to what I have to say and be guided by me as a teacher really makes me feel grateful.
5. Set the guidelines for conduct in your classes.As teachers, we are trained, and most of us practice, patience and understanding. We understand no one is perfect– including ourselves as yoga teachers! Nonetheless, it is our responsibility to set the code of conduct for the class. Some teachers will tell me about students not acting appropriately and I always ask them if they discussed the problem with the student. Sometimes students are not being disrespectful, it is that they just don’t know the parameters of the class. It is our job as teachers to educate them.
6. Encourage Your Students to Practice Away from Class.
As teachers, we have instincts that grow over time. We can usually tell who has a solid home practice.
7. Help you students overcome their fears. If your students have a lot of fears, practicing asana is a great way to work on those fears. As teachers we love to help those who are fearful about poses to overcome that fear. It is a process where we build the courage to take the first step, and then proceed from there.
8. Celebrate when a student achieves a pose.If someone has been working on a pose and he or she finally gets it in the class, the teacher is just as excited as the student. To work so hard at something and then finally achieve that goal is such a rewarding concept.
9. Pay some, but not too much, attention to your numbers. As yoga teachers we care about bringing people to our classes and pleasing the owner of the studio where we are teaching. Numbers are not important in the concept of yoga, but revenue is part of the reality of teaching yoga today.
10. Don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate it all.In the end, you’ve created a peaceful environment for the students and introduced the beauty of yoga and watched it transform lives. When the class is moving as one, as one heartbeat, and the students are moving in sync, take a moment to stand back and experience the gratitude of being a part of the peaceful unity that is occurring during the class. ________________________________________________
Jason Zagaro graduated from the 500-Hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in March 2013. He’s been studying Yoga tradition and philosophy for over eighteen years. Yoga has been the most wonderful experience that he has ever come across in his life. He started his training in 1995 with Ashtanga Yoga at the college that he attended, and later began to study and practice various forms of Hatha Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Integral Yoga and decided to become a certified Sivananda Yoga Teacher.