Think about something that terrifies you. Okay, maybe not “terrifies” but think of something that makes your stomach tie up in nervous knots. Maybe giving a presentation or going to the doctor but teaching a yoga class? Well, it’s true. Many teachers manage nervous knots when teaching.
I had a talk the other day with a teacher who is well trained and has a full time job, so teaching regularly is a bit challenging. She shared with me that she wants to teach more but she just can’t get over the fear. This is a woman who works in a highly competitive, stressful job and one would think it’d be no big deal for her to stand up in front of a room and lead people through a bunch of poses. But the fear was blocking her from starting.
If this sounds like you, I have a few suggestions. I don’t want to call it “advice” because that’s not how I roll. But as someone who has battled nervous knots over the 14 year that I’ve been teaching, I can speak from my own experience and give you some thoughts on the subject.
The first thing to acknowledge is the fear itself. You have it, it’s real and it doesn’t matter if people say, “Forget about it!” In my mind, that’s somewhat dismissive. I’m here to say that it’s real to you and therefore it’s real.
The second thing I’ll say is really the only thing I need to say, which is this: DO IT ANYWAY. Honestly, if there was ONE piece of advice I could give you, that would be it and this blog post would end here. I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s the honest-to-truth. It’s the same advice that a coach gives an athlete, a parent gives a child and on and on. You have to just do it, as Nike says.
Having said that, let me share a few more things that are a bit more “rubber meets the road” concrete:
- Remember that being nervous is YOUR experience. Don’t assume it’s your students’ experience. They’re there to practice and have no idea how you’re feeling.
- Stick to a standard sequence. When you’re dealing with nervous knots, it’s helpful to keep the details to a minimum so you can feel your feet, stay grounded and breathe with class.
- Smile. Even if you feel like crying, smile. It will bring a lightness to your voice and help you move past your nervousness.
- Focus on what you’re saying and how it’s landing in the bodies of the people in class. If you aren’t seeing the actions you want, modify your cues to help them. This will give you something concrete to do and will work to keep you out of your head and present.
- If you make a mistake, chuckle or even laugh. I have many fond memories of being in class with some of my favorite teachers and if they made a mistake, they laughed and guess what? Everyone else laughed too. It’s an immediate ice-breaker and it also lightens the tone significantly. It bonds the group and will help you move past your feelings of nervousness.
- Stay involved. This relates to the earlier comment about focusing on what you’re doing. If you give your mind something to do, it’ll take your mind off of your fear. Be especially curious. Assist students. Choose your cues in such a way that they reflect the fact that you’re looking at students, rather than staying attached to your fear.
- Stay around after class to get feedback from students. Don’t ask for it, per se, but just hang around. Inevitably, people will walk out and say things like, “Thanks!,” “Great class!” Maybe someone will ask a question. What this will help you do is realize that what you are feeling is YOUR experience. It’s not THEIR experience. This can help you move past the fear because it shows that the fear is more in YOUR head and no one else is bothered by it except you. Use this feedback to fight your fear and help you see that the fear only exists in your head.
Managing fear is just one aspect of teaching. I write a great deal about the anatomy of yoga and my online courses and anatomy manual focus on that. But teaching yoga is so much more than that; it covers cueing, assisting, managing challenges in the classroom, using themes in class, building connection with students, and most of all, being authentic through it all. Because without authenticity, there is no teaching but only pretending. Authenticity is the glue that pulls it all together and make it real and unique to you.
If you’d like to learn more about the teaching topics above, check out my book, “Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques.” You can get it here on Amazon and I’d like to offer it for free to the first person that emails me to firstname.lastname@example.org that they’d like it. If you’d like to see what other teachers are saying, check out the reviews. Here’s the latest one:
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.