It’s been just about a year since I began this journey of becoming a full time yoga teacher. And I say becoming because it’s a process, not something that happens overnight, but rather a journey that takes time, education, patience, introspection and whole lot of courage.
While it may look glamorous to teach yoga all day long it can be challenging. A teacher recently asked me, “has anyone told you about teacher burnout”. I thought she might be crazy. I was used to working 12 hour days at the office and practicing yoga in the evening, certainly teaching 3 classes in one day would be “no big deal”. But soon thereafter, an opportunity came to sub out a teacher’s full schedule for two weeks. After teaching 16 classes the first week, I knew what she was talking about.
In the beginning, my social life faltered because my lifestyle was no longer conducive to my corporate friends. My classes are scheduled for weekday evenings or weekend days. So while friends were out for happy hour, hikes, weekend vacations, or birthday parties, I was oftentimes teaching. I am so grateful for my teaching schedule, but it was tough to see my personal relationships take a nosedive in the beginning. Since then, I have found friends with a schedule that matches my own and made more time for personal relationships.
I put on weight the first few months because so much of my time went into my classes that I failed to find time for myself to practice. When you spend over 3 hours a day in the asana room, it’s tough to pull yourself into another 90-minute practice. But it’s so important to keep your teaching rooted in your own practice. So I made time for a personal practice every morning to keep my mind and body healthy.
I learned how to cook at home and began eating a vegan based diet for a few reasons. One, it’s cheaper to cook your meals at home. Two, I had the time. Three, I noticed the difference in my energy when I ate healthier, organic, whole foods. A recipe book of my favorite healthy home cooked meals coming soon!
I began working regularly with an energy healer and seeing a network chiropractor to work out the physical ailments of my body. I needed to learn to clear my own energy and stress from the day before walking into the asana room. Oftentimes you hear teachers say, “get out of your own way”. It’s the same thing for teachers, we must get out of our own way in order to see our students grow and feel empowered in the themselves. So, I spend time a lot of time clearing so I can really show up for my students.
The thing about teaching big public classes is that it is exhausting at first. You’re not only nervous to be speaking into front of however-many students, but they are all listening to every word you say, every instruction you give. They are letting go of their own energetic baggage, which if you’re not careful, can be absorbed into your energy field and leave you feeling drained. The same thing happens for teachers. I’m not saying, as a student, you shouldn’t release your stress (we welcome your relief!) but try to become the light in the room with a protective layer around your aura. Support your students in the process of letting go, but don’t take it on as your own. It takes time to learn how to do this compassionately. But it’s an important skill for teachers to preserve your energy so you can continue to give throughout the day. Now I am more energized and revitalized from teaching. It fills me up, rather than drags me down.
The greatest transformation I see is over the course of a yoga class. When students are able to step onto the mat and completely unravel all of the worries, fears, and anxieties from the day. The moment they sit up from Savasana you see the color change in their face, the lift of their energy, and the calm in their eyes. If all I do is help people discover that Yoga bliss, I will forever be a happy, fulfilled person.
So, words for the aspiring yoga teacher
Teacher Burn Out: At first, don’t take on 15+ classes a week. It’s too much and it’s a disservice to your students if you are feeling depleted. Start with 5 and work your way up. You’ll find the number that works for you. Less is more.
Set a Sequence: Create a sequence that can be easily modified for the students in the room that may or not be able to manage your peak pose. Practice your sequence and talk through the ques. It is better to be prepared and feel confident, then to struggle through a class panicking because you don’t know what to do next. A well thought out sequence is appreciated and it is important. Even use one for the whole week, I know teachers to teach the same sequence for months! Let the yoga do the work.
Speak your truth: At first you’ll mimic your teachers. It’s natural and it’s a good idea. They have years of experience and their truth worked for you, so share the light! But after a few classes, begin to explore what it is that is true for you and share it. People want to hear from you.
Keep learning and Practice: There is so much information out there on Yoga. The depth of the philosophy, the tradition, the history, and the practice is so vast. You can spend the rest of your life practicing and still never touch the nectar of all the knowledge and wisdom that has been pasted down for generations. Keep learning and stay inspired in your teaching through your own exploration and practice.
Be sure when you say YES to someone, you’re not saying NO to yourself: I do believe that you should take every opportunity to teach in the beginning (no skipping out to go to the beach…) Sometimes we are fearful to teach and we tell ourselves we are not ready or prepared. Start teaching! Practice with your friends or family members. You won’t know everything in the beginning, but you can take the time to find the answer. Say YES to the opportunities that light you up and give you energy. Simultaneously, know your worth. Be willing to say No to the opportunities that do not match your worth. The universe will always provide you with abundance if you make space for it and honor your truth.
Social Media: Engage in social networking. Don’t be afraid of the business side of yoga – it is your passion and people want to learn from you. You are an inspiration for others to get in line with their own light. Be true to you and share your voice. (side note, please be aware of when your ego is driving the conversation…it is not about how many likes you receive but by the quality of the information you choose to share).
Be patient: It takes years to become financially stable in this position. Everyone has their own definition of success. This may not be the most lucrative path, but it is rewarding . If money doesn’t roll in right away, be patient and keep searching for the right path for you. There are plenty of people out there who could use a little more Yoga in their life ~ come up with creative ways to engage with your community.
If you discover along your journey, this is not the path for you, no worries. You took a chance and that takes courage. We all shift gears at some point in our lives, oftentimes many. Change is as an opportunity to grow. Every day is a stepping-stone for something greater. Be of service, not of ignorance or ego. Do it because you love it, not because you think it will get you somewhere and help you gain anything. Care for your students, learn their names, create community, and engage. Enjoy the present moment.
The first year is challenging, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone’s journey is unique. Honor your truth through the process and practice a lot of self love. I would recommend this path to anyone. It has been the most worthwhile year of my life and I am so grateful for every step. Please feel free to leave your comments or questions in the box below. I would love to be of service to you along your journey.