Recently I completed an additional 100hrs of Teacher Training with Maty Ezraty – an esteemed yogi who was taught by Pattahbi Jois and BKS Iyengar. She is not only an incredible human but a fierce and compassionate teacher with a very sharp eye for tiny details. I would like to share some of the interesting key teaching principles and considerations I have learnt with you all.
What type of teacher do you want to be?
Why do you teach?
Do you want to lead people through their practice?
Do you want to really teach the students something?
I personally find these questions extremely helpful reflections to come back to on a regular basis. To keep on gaining more clarity about what type of teacher you want to be, how you are showing up, why you are teaching, how you are teaching, where you are coming from and being the most authentic version of yourself when teaching.
It is of the utmost importance that as a teacher you are firmly rooted and committed to your own practice. A home self-practice, not a studio practice where you do someone else’s class. The question you need to ask is: how can you teach something if you are not practicing it yourself?
Your personal practice is where we do our own work and where our understanding is developed and refined – beginning with asana and then leading further into the study of the mind and heart. This is deeply important as it is where we get to understand “how to” practice, “how to” progress or modify as needed, “how to” listen to what is going on within our bodies and minds and “how to” support yourself with your practice as you shift and change in your personal life.
Your self-practice gives you the tools for speaking to not only the tadasana cues, how to do the poses and teach the sequences you know work as they are self-tested and embodied but the ability to be more in-tune with what the students are experiencing and what you are observing when teaching them because you start with yourself.
Importantly, we all MUST always be a student! Always learning with an open mind and heart. This will continually facilitate further growth in your teaching and endless inspiration to draw from. Dedicate and commit yourself to a minimum of 2 x 90min self-practices a week.
Your Way Of Being In The Studio
Always embody and project clarity, confidence and compassion in the studio. Consider how you are holding the space for your students to enter into their practice so they can experience yoga within. Your energy and way of being is like being the conductor of an orchestra. This will set the tone and space for the students. Ask yourself:
How you are showing up in the room energetically?
How your way of being is affecting your students practice?
Clarity comes from preparation and understanding what you are teaching. Confidence in a quiet and assured way is born out of trusting your own understanding and knowing you have done the work. Compassion is essential towards all students as we really don’t know what they are going through in their lives. Your compassion towards the student is going to encourage the development of their own compassion and understanding towards themselves. Our Power Living style is demanding and confrontational so compassion is the essential quality needed to balance this deeper aspect of self-work.
How can you create a safe and non-competitive environment? Become aware of the atmosphere and environment in the studio – what does the atmosphere in the studio tell you about the students? What can you observe when you enter the room? Is the atmosphere one of quiet introverted, reflective in focus and awareness or is there competition and comparison going on?
It is our job as the teacher to address the issue of comparison or competitiveness if it arises in the studio. Some key tools to deal with this straight away are speaking to drishti or closing the eyes where appropriate if people are distracted and looking around. Using philosophy and inquiry questions is another way to get the students to understand why comparison is showing up and find possible ways to move through it. Remember that part of the overarching goal of yoga is to overcome suffering and find liberation within. Are comparison and being competitive really going to lead us to liberation?!
Are the students chatty and having fun within the studio? Creating community and culture are vital and integral in the yoga studio. Encourage connection – friendships can be deeply forged in this environment, which is a beautiful thing.
Be mindful to encourage inside the studio as a sacred space of practice. Outside the studio space, create a space where you can get students to chat and laugh together over a cup of tea. Inside the studio itself is where you practice and it’s important to keep this differentiation so that when your students enter the room you are already training them to start to focus and prepare for class.
Remember always – teaching yoga is not about you! You are a server of yoga – a vessel of the yoga practice! Always remain humble, honest and authentic and serve your students to your best ability.