How to get class confident: Being ready to teach when you eventually qualify
You’ve just awoken on the day of your first yoga class in a teaching capacity.
Thoughts flood the mind.
How many people will come? Will I make enough money to cover the rent? Will they know I’ve only just qualified? Are there enough asana in my class plan? What if I mess it up completely and nobody ever returns?
Those couple of precious hours you (hopefully) give yourself in the morning for self-practice are now consumed with doubt. The usually calm and centered start to the day, lovingly opening the body with movement and nourishing the spirit with mindful breath is usurped by a gripping uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
Although achieving a yoga teaching certification may foster a belief that you are completely ready to teach – seeing your name in lights approved by the relevant governing body is powerful – there are several factors that will certainly help to take into consideration before welcoming your students through the door. True, it is somewhat unrealistic to be able to plan for every eventuality, but there are some steps you can take to boost your confidence when that time comes:
Before organising a class open to the general public, it’s a good idea to gain experience through teaching friends, relatives and anyone else happy to support you free of charge in your first tender steps to becoming a teacher.
One tried and tested successful approach begins by offering a series of free classes open to anybody, so when it is time to start charging, you have already had a grounding in teaching experience. People will always want something for free – just look at the Groupon’s success in marketing cut-price yoga tuition.
While more supposedly immediate considerations like lesson planning may seem to play a more important role in your confidence as a teacher, the essence of your work is saturated with the quality of your intention – or lack of it.
Your intention will filter through various aspects of the teaching and learning process and indirectly yet significantly affect the experience of your students.
Some useful enquiries to consider:
- Why am I teaching?
- What do I hope to gain – insight, income, experience..?
- What do I want to impart to my students? (see Lesson Planning)
- How does my ambition affect students? (see Safety)
Lack of intention usually manifests as the blind passing-on of dogmatic technique without any philosophical thought or personal enquiry.
Neglect this process and your classes will seem superficial, devoid of passion and inspiration. A credible teacher training will include a strong emphasis on enquiry, helping you to refine your intention for the benefit of you and your students.
A thorough lesson plan is the backbone of most teachers’ ticket to confidence; experienced and newly qualified alike. Planning method is a personal choice, but here are some pointers to help you on your way:
- Drawing stick-figures – a quick and easy alternative to writing the names and descriptions of postures. Guaranteed to save you time and effort if your preference is to draw rather than write.
- Knowing your audience – Beginners, Intermediate, All-Levels etc. Having just qualified, chances are you will be running a beginner or all-levels class and will need to tailor your content accordingly.
- Class flow – knowing the energy flow of your class (dynamic / still etc.). A useful technique here is to draw a quick graph with ‘time’ on the horizontal axis (i.e from the beginning to the end of the class) and ‘energy’ on the vertical axis. The curve of the line reflects how you want your class to flow. A ‘U-shaped’ curve will mean you start the class in a dynamic way, slow it down during the middle and end again on a dynamic note.
Reflect on what motivates people to come to your yoga class. Perhaps it is for relaxation, giving time, space time and space to feel and come home to the body. Allow the structure to be guided by and informed by this. Be willing to pause, allowing space between your instructions, since the tendency when we are nervous or excited is to talk too much.
Worth trying is the exploration of a core theme (e.g. feeling gravity / levity or awakening the spine) which acts as a skeleton to which you can build upon through asana, mobilisation, breath awareness and whatever additional components inspire your teaching.
A measure of your growing confidence will be a natural release of the lesson planning process replaced by a receptivity for spontaneity; influenced by who’s in the room, the quality of time / mood of the moment, phase of the moon and the current season to name a few.
A crucial foundation in gaining confidence is through a thorough understanding of effective adjustments and contra-indication, i.e. – knowing when and when not to give certain postures, breath and movements to specific injuries or conditions, such as pregnancy, menstruation, high blood pressure, spinal issues etc.
Knowing how to support students with injuries in a safe and caring manner will boost both your confidence and ignite theirs. If you can allow people to feel and express themselves more through their bodies, your reputation will also grow as word gets out about your trustworthy approach.
Recognising the difference between confidence and arrogance is vital to you and your student’s safety and longevity of practice. Many an aspiring yogi has been injured by an overly ambitious practice where goal-oriented thinking (how far can I stretch, how open can I get, how long can I hold a posture etc.) supersedes a basic ability to feel when the body is being excessively strained.
It is your job as teacher to create a safe environment where people can practice, free from unnecessary injury. This applies not only to tempering the potentially self-damaging attitude of a gung-ho student, but also a keen awareness of your own ambition and how that affects your students.
How far are you identified with the performance of your students? Does that contribute to a safe and effective environment for practice?
If lesson-planning is the backbone to gaining confidence in your teaching, then self-practice is the ground. Authentic teaching comes from within.
You can learn a myriad teaching skills and techniques from as many different sources, but without frequent genuine enquiry through your own practice, you may as well give them a book to read.
Insights gained through practice make for an embodied confidence rather than wearing a cloak of confidence woven from borrowed knowledge.
Easy to put on and just as easy to trip over – regurgitating impressive quotes from others is no substitute for the time and effort invested in your own exploration and offered as a gift to your students.
BAPTISM OF FIRE
When it comes to putting yourself out there as a teacher, there is a baptism of fire involved, where the only way out of fear is through it. When you make a shift from your comfort zone to the stretch zone, you access resources and find capacities previously unavailable. Growth happens in the stretch zone and showing up there will enable you to access and build confidence in yourself because what you teach consolidates your own learning process.
The Yoga Health Mandala (Rupert Johnson, Helen Noakes & Steve Bracken) offer workshops, retreats and teacher training internationally. Their emphasis is one of enquiry and combines various disciplines which inform their evolving, fresh and innovative approach to yoga.