Basic Problems for Today's TeachersRead Maty Ezraty's response:
Your question touches on some fundamental problems in the yoga world today. I have received many similar questions. They deal with yoga teacher trainings, having to teach mixed-level classes, the problem of gaining enough teaching experience, and the difficulties of teaching simply to make a living. You cannot teach yoga and demonstrate all the poses or practice with your class. This is called leading, not teaching. It is exhausting, unhealthy for your body, and unsustainable. It is also not the best learning environment for your students. They become dependent on your demonstrations. You should be able to teach all your classes verbally, possibly needing to demonstrate one or two poses and at times using a student to demonstrate.
This is what I believe you should have learned in your teacher training. If you were not taught this, then I strongly recommend you seek other training. I find that a lot of new teachers today are not studying enough. It is important to take workshops with senior teachers to build confidence and to learn how to teach from their example.
It is also necessary to have a mentor when you are a new teacher. I applaud you for seeking advice. But in all fairness to you, and to the other readers, I have to say that this all stems from insufficient training and the lack of a teacher or mentor who can guide you as you develop as a teacher.
The question also deals with mixed-level classes. It is very difficult to teach experienced students while tending to brand-new ones. You may consider limiting beginning students to certain classes. I realize that this is difficult, as yoga schools and yoga teachers make more money when there are more students. But in the long run, it will produce a better environment and therefore be more prosperous.
Finally, you cannot let your students tell you how to teach. It is nice that they feel comfortable making requests, but in the long run you need to do what is best for them, which in turn will be good for you.
Let me give you a personal example. After teaching Mysore-style Ashtanga for many years and adjusting students physically a fair amount, my body could no longer sustain the physical work. I had to decide either to quit or to change. I opted for change, since I love teaching this yoga. So I started making them learn the poses themselves instead of relying on me to put them into the poses. It was difficult, but it worked. People understood that it was physically too much for me to do otherwise. Since I had plenty of experience in the poses, I was able to challenge them verbally.
In summary, I simply do not agree with the method of demonstrating every pose. Many teachers do this and consider it their own practice time as well. This is neither good for the students nor for you, the teacher. Ponder this and make healthy changes so that you can sustain your teaching schedule.
Maty Ezraty has been teaching and practicing yoga since 1985, and she founded the Yoga Works schools in Santa Monica, California. Since the sale of the school in 2003, she has lived in Hawaii with her husband, Chuck Miller. Both senior Ashtanga teachers, they lead workshops, teacher trainings, and retreats worldwide.