Once you start teaching yoga, there are many different shifts that happen. There’s the shift from student to teacher and the shift from learning to applying the information from your 200 hour training. The longer you teach, there are other shifts that occur and new habits begin to form. If you’re working for yourself as a teacher, meaning, you don’t have a regular corporate type job or own a studio, there are even bigger shifts that happen as you figure out ways to support yourself, build your brand, your teaching and grow your business.
Personally, I’ve experienced a number of huge shifts over the 12 years I’ve been teaching. I called my new book on yoga teaching, “Stretched,” because I wanted one word that reflects this idea of moving outside our current boundaries and the way we think of ourselves. I wanted a word that implies “growth.” Teaching yoga is an action and a practice that not only stretches our bodies but stretches our minds. This happens both as teachers and as students. My focus here for this post is on the teaching aspect of yoga.
Just as my book is divided into teaching and business sections, so are the ways in which you will be stretched when you are a yoga teacher. Here are 6 ways you’ll stretch; 3 in the business area and 3 in the teaching area.
You’ll stretch yourself outside the boundaries of what you think you can do. I didn’t think I could write a book 2 years ago but once I put my mind to it, I was able to start with small steps and move forward. Taking those first few steps helped me gain the necessary momentum so I could keep going. As the saying goes, “often the thinking gets in the way.” This is very true as you work for yourself. There are things that are a risk and things you don’t think are possible but you need to get out of your own way and try.
You’ll learn how to make sacrifices for your business. When I worked in a corporate job, I really didn’t have to sacrifice anything. Sure, there were those work days that went on a little longer and there was the occasional Sunday night I might have to travel but for the most part, it was a full time job with stress, sure, but not a lot of sacrifice. Working for myself is a totally different experience. There are lots of choices I make around time off, no time off, forgoing vacation, putting money towards taxes, missing out on evening events with friends and family- all in the name of teaching. Please keep in mind, it doesn’t feel like a painful sacrifice because I love what I do. But when you work for yourself as a yoga teacher, you make these kinds of choices all the time.
You’ll make new choices about money. Unless you’re a teacher that is fully booked 24/7, you’re teaching at a level where you’re busy but always hustling. This is the experience of many yoga teachers as there are so many teachers in the industry and the competition is fierce. As a result, you may be making less than you need or just about at the level you need to get by to pay your bills. This means that most of the time, you’re making choices about money that involve casual spending, going on vacation (or not) and upgrading things with your home or car (if you have one). You might also be struggling to save money or save for retirement. These again are choices you make and ways in which you’ll feel stretched. Sometimes it will get under your skin and other times, you’ll feel confident that even though it’s a stretch and you might be going without, you’re moving forward so it’s all worth it.
You’ll move beyond feeling self-conscious into ways of expression that really feel like “you.” One of the hardest parts of teaching yoga, at the start but also along the way, is balancing that feeling of being self-conscious and being natural. The temptation is always there to take on someone else’s intonation or wording (often, the person who trained you) because that’s what you’re used to hearing or maybe you think that following their style will help you grow your own following (it worked for them, so why not you?) But here we’re on a slippery slope away from what makes us unique and authentic. The further we go from that essence of our being, the harder it is to maintain AND the more phony and fake it sounds. The “stretching” here is to be yourself, no matter what.
You’ll recognize that the learning never stops. Once you’ve gone through that initial training, it’s important to get out there and start teaching. This helps you begin that process of integrating what you’ve learned and applying it to action of teaching. Even if you don’t take on the challenge of a 500 hour training in the near or long term, there is still a huge learning curve and ongoing learning you’ll do. That might be through workshops, mentorships, reading relevant books or taking an outside course. It might also be learning you do in preparation for teaching a workshop. One way you’ll really stretch is to offer a workshop on a subject where you’ll feel a bit stretched; maybe you’re a little unsure but feel like it’s just fear getting in the way, not skill. These are opportunities to jump off and take a risk but use the prep time to really prepare. The learning that happens both before and in the act of teaching will be huge.
You’ll recognize that the teaching is about them, not about you. What does this mean? It means that teaching is about being of service, even in times where someone in class might be giving you some feedback that might push your buttons. I think about flight attendants and people that work for the airlines… if they’re good at their job, they do it and stay steady, even in the face of anger and frustration thrown their way. Yoga can push your buttons in various ways and sometimes it’s the students that can unknowingly take it out on someone else- you! Or, it might be the various annoyances that come up these days in class, things like phones in class, texting in class, leaving early, talking to the student next to them, using the check in process to try to work out something about their account.. all these things can take us out of our role of being of service and tempt us to react. The challenge is to keep that service mindset and the overall goal of getting people on their mat.
I wish you a tremendous amount of stretching and growth, both on and off the mat! My book is available on Createspace, see: