Yoga changed my life before I became a yoga teacher. Then I became a yoga teacher. And I discovered how my life is transformed on a daily basis.
If there are elements of the yoga practice that seem hard for you to grasp, they will be uncovered for you as you teach. If there are poses that are difficult for you to master, they will find a place of balance as you teach. If there are any fears you are trying to hide, they will come out as you teach. Because, in order to be a great teacher, you truly have to be willing to dive in with your whole self…and watch, feel, and learn from what unfolds. Here are three of the greatest lessons I’ve learned since becoming a yoga teacher:
1) Never assume. They say to practice compassion because “everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The problem is you can’t always outwardly SEE the battle. I still recall the yoga class (as described on Yogaaudacious) where I broke down and suddenly started sobbing during savasana. I had looked perfect. I was 22. Perfectly skinny. Smiled a lot. Able to master poses that now I can’t even begin to find my way into. But inside I was suffering. Not everyone is struggling to recover from an eating disorder or sexual assault. But everyone has something going on. The marine who can kick up so easily into hand-stand may be battling with PTSD. The (seemingly) overweight yogi may be the strongest and most flexible of the bunch. The skinny runner may have shin splints and ended up in yoga class out of frustration. The mother may have had her daughter throw up in her hair that morning. The elderly woman may have a sister fighting terminal cancer. In fact, the young woman could even be recovering from cancer herself. YOU JUST DON’T know. And you can never know. Unless a student tells you something, do not assume anything about their body, their mind, their hearts. Always ask questions. And ask again and again. Because every day, every moment, is different for us all. Never assume you already know your students…because you will never know what each class may be like and what may have motivated him/her to come to the yoga mat that day.
2) Your students are your best teachers. Learn. Always learn. Learn from your students. To teach you must know. You must practice and seek out answers to your students’ questions. You must have a dedicated home practice. You must take advanced trainings and workshops. But, most importantly, you must watch your students. You must listen. You must treat every class as an opportunity to grow. How can you be better at teaching? What can you learn in each moment? Observe. Listen. Discover. Your students will tell you more than you could ever have thought possible. They may ask a question for which you have no answer. Or they may show up and actually BE a teacher you have studied with before. But your students believe you have something valuable to offer. So you must deliver. Time and time again. And if you ever stumble in class your students are there for you. They will help you get back on track. Because they are there for you, just as you are there for them. It is our duty to grow with our classes. We learn best when we learn together. Your students are there to teach you, just as much as you are there to teach them.
3) Always be authentically you. David Mamet said “Always tell the truth — it’s the easiest thing to remember. “ Similarly, always BE YOU. Fully you. Your students will come to your class for you. Some students will not come to your class because of you. But the only way to truly succeed in yoga is to be your most authentic self possible. To love yourself enough to show up fully, unapologetically, in each and every moment of every class. There will be students who will not like you. Someone may say you are “too high energy” or that they don’t like your music, your sequencing, your smile, or eagerness. But the very thing that will set you apart in the yoga world, that will make you the best teacher possible, is to love yourself so much that you can be 100% yourself in each and every class. Because being you is the easiest thing to do. And it will inspire all your students to go out and be their true selves–on and off the mat.
LORA HOGAN, a yoga teacher, motivational speaker, and author provides yoga for runners, athletes and everyBODY. Founder of #PassLove, Lora also lectures on improving your wellness business, finding and living your passion, and self-love. Lora wants to challenge your body, connect you to the present, and promote self-esteem and compassion. Whether an Ironman, yoga teacher, or just starting the journey, Lora helps take the practice to the next level–on and off the mat. Lora’s yoga classes and workshops nationwide include Lora Love Flows, Yoga to Unstuck Yourself, Yoga for Creativity and Yoga for Athletes.