3Whether you’ve just begun to teach yoga or are an experienced teacher who leads multiple classes a day, each time you step into a studio, there is untold potential for surprises that can threaten your calm. Trust us.
Although yoga teaches us how to handle whatever comes with as much ease and grace as we can summon, it’s human to be caught off guard. The following checklist helps ensure those things that are actually within your control go smoothly, so that when something unplanned happens, you have a little bandwidth to handle it before you reach your threshold for anxiety. This helps ensure that you keep your composure while your students get the uninterrupted fullness of your attention—and the practice they need.
1. Arrive early
One of the worst feelings as a teacher is rushing into class a couple of minutes before it’s scheduled to start, panicked about being late and ending up flustered as you try to teach.
Whether you were stuck in traffic, forgot something and had to turn around, or simply lost track of time, it doesn’t matter if you were practicing ujjayi breath the entire way to the studio. Running late distracts you from your primary focus—your students— and might make the studio manager question your reliability.
In short, leave home early. Earlier than you think you should. Allow yourself time to arrive at least 15–20 minutes before class starts. Get chummy with a traffic app so you know in advance if there are delays and whether you need to leave earlier than usual or take an alternate route.
If you’re an established teacher with multiple commitments a day, do not schedule yourself so tightly that you have to race from one studio to another. Inevitably something will happen to crash your Jenga tower of classes.
2. Sound check
Decide your playlist for class well ahead of time so that you don’t take your attention away from students to fumble with your phone as you’re second-guessing song choices.
Always have at least one playlist ready for each class you teach. If you sub, make certain you have playlists that match the length of each class you could conceivably be asked to teach. And always check that your phone adapter is compatible with the sound system.
3. Learn the logistics
Before you teach at a new-to-you studio, ask the manager to show you how to control the temperature, fans, and audio equipment before your first class so there’s no fumbling halfway through cueing Sun A or, worse, during a new-to-you sequence you’re already a little nervous about teaching. If you’re the forgetful type, take notes or photos.
4. Practice, practice, practice your sequence
Until you feel comfortable adapting or making up sequences on demand based on what the students need that day, write out and review your sequence before showing up for class. Run through it and actually say the cues out loud. If you can’t memorize it or you have a fear of speaking in front of people, jot down a list of poses or notes and take them with you. Your students won’t care (or even notice) if you glance at a notebook every once in a while.
If you’re an experienced teacher, let your curiosity as a student inform your teaching in two ways. First, Continue to learn anatomy so you can better understand what transitions work—and which don’t. Also, learn modifications for all of the poses you intend to teach and practice cueing them.
See also: 3 Tips for Smart Yoga Sequencing
5. Silence your phone
Chances are you’ll be using your phone for your playlist, so you can’t power off your phone. Instead, silence all sounds and notifications on your phone, either as you walk into the studio or before you leave home. Turn this into your pre-class ritual so it becomes automatic.
If you teach early morning classes, be aware that alarms—including the snooze function—tend to be exempt from airplane and do-not-disturb modes. (Ask us how we know.)
Getting to class early ensures that you can take a few moments to yourself. Use the time to do whatever brings you back to yourself, whether chatting with students or sitting quietly off to the side by yourself.
7. Start on time and end on time
Respect your students’ time by starting promptly and ending at the scheduled time. If the studio doesn’t have a clock, wear a watch or keep your phone on the floor near where you tend to stand. Always leave adequate time for Savasana and build in a couple minutes at the very end for students to come out of the final resting pose, even if that means you have to ditch a couple of poses you intended to teach.
If there is another class after yours but students want to stick around and chat, simply take the conversation to the hallway or somewhere else in the studio.
8. Remember that it’s OK to make mistakes
You might mix up a left and a right. Chances are at some point you will utter a cue that sounds really awkward or stumble over your words. It happens. The trick is to just keep going. You don’t have to apologize or draw attention to it. Just make any needed adjustments and continue on with class.
9. Embrace your style
Every yoga teacher has a different philosophy, cadence, playlist, preferred poses and transitions and ways to cue poses, etc. You’re not going to be for everyone. That’s OK. Your regulars will keep coming back to you because your style resonates with them.
Remember, don’t make class all about you—you are there for your students and their practice. If you see a student doing their own thing rather than following along, don’t take it personally. Sometimes yogis go rogue. Sometimes they just follow what their own body is telling them to do. And that’s sorta the whole point, isn’t it?
10. Try, try again
Whatever happens, you’ll get through it. Yoga teaches you—yes, the teacher—to handle whatever comes with ease and grace. Then reflect after class about what you learned and how you can improve for next time. Stay true to you and, when in doubt, remind yourself why you wanted to teach yoga.