There are so many invaluable tools to support your work as a yoga teacher, but the most indispensable influence on your teaching is your home practice. While dedicated study, continuing education, and mentorship all serve to elevate your craft, it’s your personal practice that deepens it. Simply put: Your home practice is where you cultivate a relationship with the teacher within.
Here are five ways to use your home practice to support and inspire your teaching.
Practice one thing
Practicing one thing is about digging one hole and digging deep. Repetition is an effective learning tool because it gives you a chance to come back again and again to the same thing and learn something new. Focusing on one thing in your home practice might look like navigating the same sequence, exploring one pranayama technique, or committing to one meditation tradition for a definitive amount of time.
Approaching your home practice in this way encourages a beginner’s mindset, inspiring you to see what you know with fresh eyes. Discovering and rediscovering the infinite layers of yoga will also serve as a reminder that you don’t need a lot of bells or whistles to stay engaged—or to keep your students engaged. This curiosity will transform into contagious passion and inspire your students to keep digging.
Start a practice journal
A practice journal gives you an opportunity to unpack your experience. Journaling helps you process and articulate your practice so that you can translate it into clear, authentic teaching. A journal prompts you to reflect on whatever feels meaningful to you.
For example, you could write down your sequence, how it felt in your body, or what you learned from the experience. You could also explore the challenges you faced on the mat and how they might relate to the larger practice of your life. Journaling can connect you to your point of view by giving a voice to the driving force behind your practice. This connection will inspire genuine teaching that comes from a place of real knowing.
Practice a question
In Letters To A Young Poet, Rilke writes, “Live the questions now.” His words instill patience and faith—that we can only truly know the answer when we’re ready to live it. Practicing a question is more about connecting to the process than attaching to the destination. It’s this open-ended curiosity that allows you to see the bigger picture.
Practicing a question might look like trying to understand how to organize the arms and shoulder blades in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) by exploring it from many different perspectives. You might research the pose, study the anatomy behind the mechanics, play with prop variations, explore the actions in related postures, or ask your teacher.
Here’s the thing: You may not find the answer. In a way, finding the answer is not the point. After all, isn’t it true that the more we learn, the less we know? Approaching your home practice in this way will give you more confidence to say, “I don’t know.” Practicing the question will cultivate an okayness with not knowing, and this may be the biggest gift you could give your students.
Let go of your agenda
Practicing without a plan is an invitation to follow your intuition. This fosters resilience in your teaching by cultivating a deeper trust in yourself—that when you follow your instincts, even if they lead you off the beaten path, you can always return to what you know. Moreover, your intuition might lead you to a place you never would have found using your carefully crafted map. Letting go of your agenda in your home practice might looks like allowing your breath, energy, and physical needs to guide your choices.
Learning how to go with the flow, so to speak, will teach you how to think on your feet in class. For example, let’s say you’ve prepared a thoughtful sequence for your class, but then you realize it’s not relevant to the students in your class. You have to be able to shift gears in real time! Learning how to let go of your agenda will also teach you how to get out of the way so that you can teach what your students need, not what you think they should know.
Do it differently!
Doing it differently is about intentionally shaking up what you think you know. For example, if you always peddle out your feet when you arrive in Downward-Facing Dog, or you always do five Sun Salutations, try doing something else! This cultivates perspective by forcing you to challenge what you know to be true. It also gets you out of your comfort zone and asks you to remain open. Shaking things up will keep you awake in your practice.
Liked this article? Join Outside+ and get unlimited access to exclusive articles, sequences, meditations and live experiences—as well as thousands of healthy recipes and meal plans from Clean Eating and Vegetarian Times, plus can’t-miss content from more than 35 other brand like Women’s Running, Backpacker, and Better Nutrition.