Don't miss The Art of Teaching Yoga, a mentoring program for registered yoga teachers at Yoga Journal LIVE New York, April 21-24. Register now!
At The Art of Teaching Yoga, some of our favorite master yogis will guide an intimate group of students through Yoga Journal LIVE 2017 events (the program counts toward 22 Yoga Alliance continuing education contact hours). We asked two of these seasoned yogis—Alexandria Crow, a YogaWorks national teacher trainer, and Coral Brown, a teacher trainer, holistic psychotherapist, and longtime student of Shiva Rea—how they "self-assess" themselves as yoga teachers, and how you can effectively do this, too.
5 Tips to Make YOU a Better Teacher
1. Do an integrity check.
"I ask myself all the time: Is this choice or way of teaching truly a reflection of myself, my understanding of yoga practice, and where I stand with the practice? Integrity for me means that everything is congruent and solid," says Crow. "That means what I teach, what I do, and how I live are all aligned for me personally. If something feels phony or borrowed, out it goes." Brown agrees that authenticity is key. "Don’t use language that you have heard from other teachers that doesn’t suit you," she suggests. "Be yourself."
2. Make sure you're present.
Ever find your mind drifting when you're teaching a class? Shake things up. "If I find myself in a place where things seem mundane or repetitious in a way that makes my ability to maintain focus incredibly difficult, then I know it's time to reassess and get rid of the things that aren't working anymore," says Crow. And don't be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone! "If I want to change something about how I teach but the thought of doing it makes me really uncomfortable or scared, chances are, I should do it or at least try it," she adds. "Every time I've moved in that direction, I've become a person and teacher whose integrity is stronger."
3. Keep an eye on your asanas.
"Your embodiment of the asanas is what your students will emulate," says Brown. "I check in with my physical practice regularly to make sure that I am in alignment, anatomically and energetically. Sometimes we lean toward the poses we like or that we are working on in our own practice. It's important to remember that you are teaching for your students, not for yourself. It might be easier and more comfortable to teach the currently trending poses, but that isn’t giving your students (or you) a well-rounded practice, especially if you don’t have a deep understanding of the particular asana. Does your student base appear to have a pervading common misalignment in any of the key poses? Ask yourself if you might have same tendency toward this misalignment."
4. Get rid of the crutches.
"If I hear myself use the same expression more than once in a class, then I make a point of slowing down, digging deeper, and being more present," says Brown. "Students translate everything the teacher says though their life experience to glean the meaning. Remember that everyone has different life experiences, and while some analogies and references will click with some right away, others will have no idea what you are talking about. Come up with at least 2–3 alternative ways to describe your most used cues and analogies."
5. Stay informed and inspired.
"I have had the dreaded experience that every other teacher has had of being in a rut," says Brown. "I have learned that the way out for me is to look deeper for inspiration, by reading sacred texts or by keeping up with new research about the benefits of yoga. I also check in with myself regarding my personal practice: Am I doing it, living it, and loving it? I immerse myself in community by getting to a training, conference, event, or some gathering where the collective vibration is tuned toward higher consciousness, learning, and celebrating the many aspects of yoga."
Doing all of this on your own is difficult, which is why we have created The Art of Teaching workshop! "Working with a mentor and having someone see you, reflect back your strengths, and point out your areas of growth is ideal," says Brown.