When my friends learned that I was searching for a yoga teacher training program, they assumed I wanted to become a yoga teacher. I did not. I wanted to deepen my own yoga practice. I wanted to learn about the Sutras and the Gita, ancient yogic texts. What I didn’t realize, though, was that I would have to teach in my training. As students, we were supposed to teach, if I recall correctly, at least six community classes. For some reason, my teacher thought I was going to be an “amazing” (her words) yoga teacher. She told me I would get a following. She had me sub for her during my training, something most trainees don’t do.
I never enjoyed teaching. I was very nervous and insecure. I know some my fellow classmates felt the same. I reached out to experienced teachers for advice. I learned they too recalled feeling similarly as they began teaching. One or two even admitted they would take something to calm their nerves before teaching.
I felt I didn’t know enough to stand in front of a class and tell them what to do. I was scared someone was going to get injured in my class. I prayed, I sought the help of energy workers and spiritual coaching to help calm my nerves. I even had a session with a hypnotherapist. I often had to sub classes and I swear I could hear people’s voices saying “Oh shit, a sub! Ugh, I want to leave!” I did approach a few students after class to find out if they were thinking that. Why yes, they were. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Reiki practitioner and am quite sensitive to feelings but I hated it. OK, I didn’t always hate it. I did teach a few series where I had the same four or six students every week. I knew them and they knew me. I got to know their bodies. I integrated yoga with Reiki. I did enjoy those classes. I felt I was serving these students to the best of my ability.
Even though I was nervous, I kept on teaching. I would say yes to most opportunities to teach. I approached yoga studios about getting on their schedule. It was a struggle since there are many yoga teachers in my hood. I even looked into renting my own space to teach a class after teaching six students in my living room for weeks.
It wasn’t until I returned home from my trip to India last Fall that I realized, hello, I did not have to teach adults! Apparently some of my friends had given me that advice but I never heard them. Once I decided to devote my teaching to children, it was as if I had lost weight. I felt much lighter and freer.
I don’t always feel light and free when I teach kids. It’s challenging work. I don’t walk around a room teaching and demonstrating a few poses. I’m on the floor with them doing frog jumps and donkey kicks. I try to maintain their attention and focus. I’m constantly scouring blog posts and websites, taking trainings, buying books and props to use in my classes. However, I generally don’t get anxious and nervous as I used to when I was teaching adults. I do feel some anxiety before teaching at a new school or center, but it’s really not the same.
Yesterday, I read an article titled Memo to New Teachers: Be Patient. I thought the article was good until I came to the end when the author wrote “The world is full of great artists who never came to be because of a fear of being bad before they were good.” That sentenced took my breath away. Was he talking to me? Had I let fear win? Or, was I simply following my dharma?
In my case, I believe my skills and gifts are best served teaching children. Who knows. Maybe if I had continued teaching adults, I would have overcome my nerves and anxiety. I also believe life is too short and there are many great yoga teachers. Once I made the decision not to teach adults, I wondered if I would change my mind. It’s been over one year, though, and my mind hasn’t changed. Will it ever?
Fellow yoga teachers, how did you feel as you began teaching? Have those feelings changed the more you teach? Yoga practitioners, do you know or sense when a teacher is a new teacher or if she/he is nervous or anxious about teaching?