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Tools for Teachers

What to Do When You’re New to Teaching and Nervous AF

So you've completed your yoga teacher training—now what?

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In our advice column, called Wolf Wisdom, Wolf Terry, a Bhakti Yoga teacher and writer in Denver, Colorado, answers your pressing questions about practicing asana, meditation, mantra, and more. In this post, she covers how to feel comfortable when teaching yoga, especially when you’re new to leading classes.

Jeff Nelson

Dear Wolf,

I went to a teacher training in a 30-day residential retreat setting, but the experience killed my confidence. Physically practicing yoga is one thing, but verbally leading others is something else completely, and my teacher training didn’t touch on that at all. Where should I go from here to build my teaching abilities and get more experience?

Sincerely :: Non-Teaching Teacher

Dear Non-Teaching Teacher,

I have co-led, guest-taught, and participated in multiple teacher trainings in the past few years, and I have found that the dynamic of even the best-planned course schedule can be fraught if there’s a lack of real-life, hands-on experience. Training is not a retreat that can be culminated within a few weeks. In my opinion, a good training program lasts anywhere from 8 to 15 weeks (but is truly a life-long pursuit); allows plenty of time to absorb and integrate information; and teaches how to build, sequence, and lead a class with expert verbal cues. This is no easy feat.

Nerves and jitters are normal during the first few auditions and teaching experiences after receiving your certification. If you feel ill-prepared to even audition for a teaching position, I urge you to dive deeply into cultivating self-confidence. Please remember that the path toward being a great teacher takes a lot of time, experience, and missteps. Give yourself space to not be the best and use those moments of imperfection as lessons. If you don’t get the gig after an audition, ask for some constructive criticism. Write down critiques, then go back to your own mat and work on them. When I first started teaching yoga, I continued to read through my YTT manual, Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, and the Yoga Sutra. I quizzed myself on Sanskrit, and I wrote down cues that I found interesting and informative from my favorite teachers’ classes. I didn’t stop being a student once my formal training ended.

Bottom line: If you’re passionate enough about teaching yoga—and you have your own deep practice as a foundation—then you will teach it. Taking another 200-hour training may be your best option. If you go that route, choose one that lasts for at least two months and is with teachers you are familiar with and can learn from. Do your research on their backgrounds, and take a few of their classes beforehand. Outside of your formal instruction, sign up for a mentorship program or workshop that offers continuing education credits for certified teachers to keep the training going.

Your concern for your education gives me so much hope that when you do step into the seat of the teacher, you will create a safe, inspiring environment for your students. I have no doubt that no matter where you choose to take this advice, you’ll find great success.

Best Wishes :: Wolf