Transitioning From Yoga Student to Yoga Teacher

This weekend I finished a teacher training intensive at my yoga studio. This intensive was 12 hours of yoga over the weekend (Friday night and 2 practices a day on Saturday and Sunday), with 25 other teachers and soon-to-be teachers from the Seattle area (though 1 person came in from Montana!).

My studio, Shakti Vinyasa, is a Baptiste Affiliate Studio, and this style of Power Vinyasa Yoga is quite popular nowadays. The training pushed us all to discover our own inner voice, our reasons for teaching and some of the key building blocks to leading an outstanding class.

Perhaps the most unnerving part of class was leading other students through small 3-5 minutes routines! In fact, at one point during yesterday evening’s class, while all of us were hanging out in downward dog waiting for the teacher to lead us to the next pose, we were asked to raise our leg if we wanted to teach the class.

Of course I did.

And of course I was then called on, and led the class through a little Sun Salutation B (with Crow thrown and a few Lion’s for good measure!). This was my first attempt at teaching a class this size at an actual yoga studio (in front of a bunch of other teacher’s no less!). It was a lot of fun.

Throughout the rest of the intensive, we had several practice rounds of teaching amongst smaller groups, with feedback (intense feedback I might add!) on what we did well and what we could improve on.
Feedback was a critical aspect of the training, and we were pushed to give feedback that focused both on “gems” (things we do well) and “opportunities” (things we could improve on). We were also repeatedly coached to not react to the feedback, and to just accept it.

I must say, that if you have never had to sit and listen to someone praise or critique you and SAY NOTHING…..you would not realize just how tough it is. No nodding the head or laughing or telling your story about why did such a thing…just sitting and accepting it quietly.

Through this experience, I have had a few realizations about making the transition from Yoga Student to Yoga Teacher:

It is far harder to teach a class (effectively) than I thought.

It is one thing to take class on a regular basis, and another thing altogether to remember the sequencing and cues for proper alignment that are needed when teaching. Remembering the proper breathing pace and cues also takes practice. From my own experience, it was as if there was a barrier between my brain and my mouth….and when I tried to teach, I smacked right into it! Already after just a few days of practice I can see that I’ve improved a lot. It’s also clear that I need to “study” more of the asana sequences and Sanskrit names more rigorously.

It is far more rewarding to teach a class than I thought.

It is a feeling that words cannot describe. On a practical note, teaching is an excellent way to really dial in your own practice. You also get to see many more people doing poses as an observer, which gives you insight into alignment issues you may be having in your own practice. It is also just so much fun. It’s like a runner’s high. I can also see how much you can contribute to society through effective teaching. You can help people remove stress from their lives and bring their bodies back into harmony. I’m so glad I’ve started out on this journey to become a yoga teacher.

For those of you who have read this far, are you a yoga teacher or student? If so, what is your motivation for practicing and/or teaching? Leave a note in the comments please!