By Bhavan Kumar, CYT 500
How can we develop our yoga teaching skills? In order to be an effective yoga teacher, strive to provide a comfortable, challenging environment for students. You must have knowledge of the philosophy of yoga, the poses, and breathing exercises, but knowledge alone is not enough. You must also be able to communicate with your students in a positive manner, keeping them coming back class after class. It is important to think about the logistics of how you will format the class, how you will address the different levels of expertise within the class, how you will explain the poses and philosophy so the average person can understand, and how you will correct incorrect postures in gentle, nonjudgmental ways. The development of yoga teaching skills is not finished in one course.
Practicing and developing yoga teaching skills often requires having a class of your own. Perhaps you can ask to sit in on a colleague’s class as an apprentice, or guest teacher. Ask if you can lead part of the class. Start slowly, maybe by leading the meditation or breathing at the beginning and/or end of the class. Gradually add more as you become comfortable. Attend your favorite yoga class, and pay close attention to how the teacher explains the poses and interacts with students. Learn what you can by watching other teachers and imitating their mannerisms or dialogues. Good teachers develop their yoga teaching skills by learning what they can from the great teachers around them. There is nothing wrong with “taking” ideas from other teachers. In fact, they will most likely be more than willing to help a new teacher and flattered that you would consider them as a mentor.
Leave your ego at the door. Remember that students attend yoga class for their own benefits, not to watch an expert in action. Your job as the yoga teacher is to impart the knowledge and instruct, but nobody is expecting perfection. Even if you are a little nervous and miss a pose in a series, or describe a stretch incorrectly, feel free to laugh about it. People will be accepting of you and will probably even encourage you. Developing your yoga teaching skills will give you positive thoughts and energy. To keep one’s ego in check, watch your mentor and any experience teachers. Their actions speak louder than words. Think of your role as the teacher as one to guide the rest of the class more than anything else and know that we are all works in progress.
Before teaching your own class, develop a clear definition of the philosophy of the type of yoga you will teach. Give clear, short explanations to students. Include a little history of yoga, as well as your specific background and history with the practice of yoga. Be prepared to answer students’ questions and continue to cultivate your yoga teaching skills for life.
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