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Three Thoughts: From One New Yoga Teacher to Another

5.21.15 | By: Callie Smith

Happy Thursday Big Rock Yoga CommUNITY! I hope you have had a great week, and have made time for yourself both physically and emotionally either on or off your yoga mat. This week has been a particularly special week for me because I taught my first yoga class. YAY! I  think it is important to celebrate this moment, not just for myself, but for all of the other teacher-trainees that I have shared this journey with. In the coming weeks, we will each be teaching our first classes. We are excited. We are nervous. We are even a little scared. But most of all, I believe that we are ready.

Gabriel, (an amazing teacher trainee who will be teaching her first class tonight) asked me how I prepared to teach my first class. I wasn’t able to fully answer her question in conversation, so I thought I would share my thoughts in today’s blog. The following three ideas are my intention not just for my first yoga class, but for every class I hope to teach in the future. Although this post is directed at the other teacher trainees, I believe that these ideas could benefit everyone.  

#1 Have an Attitude of Love:
It was not a coincidence that the journal entry from Melody Beatie’s book Journey to the Heart for May 19 (the day I taught my first class) was “Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes.” I just so happened to read this before I taught class, and the following words really landed with me: “Jump in, begin, and do the task as best as you can. Stop worrying about mistakes, and let yourself do it as well as you can right now. If you do it wrong or poorly, you can do it over again And when you do it in an attitude of love, you won’t fail. You’ll learn something new about yourself, life, and the task.” I want to emphasize the idea that if “you do it in an attitude of love, you won’t fail.” Attitude is SO important. Within the first few minutes—maybe even seconds—of a yoga class, the students can sense the teacher’s attitude. This attitude will influence the entire class. I know each of us in teacher training are naturally loving people—but it is extra important that the students feel that they are in a loving and inviting space. The worst mistake we could make as teachers is to have a bad attitude—all other mistakes that we might make are just places for growth.

#2 Be Authentic:
Each of our “attitudes of love” will be different and will reflect our own unique personalities. The best way to foster an attitude of love is to be authentic. It’s important that we have our own identity rather than trying to be like someone else. Yes, we all have yoga teachers we love and admire, but if we look, we’ll realize that there are lovable and admirable qualities within ourselves. These lovable and admirable qualities may not be a result of our strengths. It could be that we are lovable because we are flawed. We must teach from both our strengths and our weaknesses. This will keep us authentic and genuine—but most importantly, it will help us love ourselves. It is hard to have an attitude of love for others, if we don’t have an attitude of love for ourselves.

#3 Keep it Simple:
We have stacks of books and handouts that we have read and studied during teacher training. We are full, if not bloated with all of the knowledge and insight that we have absorbed over the past few months. Yes, we should incorporate this knowledge in our teaching, but we shouldn’t let it become overwhelming. Yes, we should share our knowledge with our students to benefit their practice, but most importantly, we should share our kindness with them. We should notice our students when they walk in the front door. Smile at them. Get to know their name. Make sure they have everything they need to be comfortable. It could be as simple as telling them where the bathroom is located. (If it was my first time in a yoga studio, I would be shy to ask where the bathroom is located.) If they are a person who is a regular student, take the time to ask how their day at work was, or how their family is doing. We don’t have to be experts on people’s lives, but it is helpful to remember the details about life that a person has shared with us. During class, we should remember the tenet from the methodology, “Speak into each and every.” We shouldn’t wait until we put the cold towel on someone’s head in savasana to acknowledge him/her. Each student must be acknowledged—even in the most simple way. It’s amazing how far a small act of kindness and warmth can go.

These are just three ideas that I would like to offer my fellow teacher trainees and anyone reading. I hope that as this week ends and next weeks begins, we can embrace an attitude of love, be authentic, and recognize the value of simplicity.

All good things,