Diary of a New Yoga Teacher
The journey, challenges, and victories of becoming a yoga teacher
By Carmen Diaz, Yoga Instructor at SON Mind & Body
Hello my fellow yogis! Chances are that if you find yourself reading this article, you are probably starting your career as a yoga instructor or thinking about becoming one. If you are passionate about yoga, don’t think twice, just do it!
Before I tell you a little more about my journey, let me introduce myself… My name is Carmen and I am from Guatemala. I’ve lived in Dallas for the past 11 years… WOW… time flies! I guess I think of myself as some sort of Guatemalan-Cowgirl.
I graduated last summer from the wonderful 200 hour teacher training Dallas Yoga Center holds every year. The training was fabulous, the amount of knowledge I gained was vast, I met amazing people and was inspired by the tremendous amount of knowledge my mentor teachers had.
I started practicing yoga just about 2 years before I started the teacher training, so I really wasn’t an experienced yogi when I decided to become a teacher. I just fell in love with yoga and knew right there and then that immersing myself into the world of yoga will give me happiness. I saw my yoga teachers and I wanted to be like them…so knowledgeable, healthy, peaceful, and sharing this amazing practice with the world.
After I graduated from the teacher training, I began to have deep insecurities…. Would I be able to stand in front of a class full of people and lead a yoga class? Would I have the oral proficiency to explain how to get into an asana and explain transitions? What if my students are more advanced than me? Yet alone, would I ever get hired by a studio? After talking to some of my fellow classmates many of them shared the same fears, how could we be able to overcome them?
Let’s tackle the first fear first…stage fright! I heard so many times that most people fear public speaking more than the fear of death itself. That’s crazy! But I truly think this could be somewhat accurate, I know it scares the heck out of me! So how can you control this? Volunteer to teach community classes. Many yoga studios offer community classes where people drop by and pay a small donation for the class. You can volunteer your time to teach one of these community classes and get the practice that you need. I taught as many community classes as I could before I actually started teaching. Each one of them gave me so much knowledge. I became aware of mistakes I made and aspects where I needed some polishing. If you can’t find a studio that offers community classes, create your own community classes! You can teach friends and family, neighbors or why not your coworkers during lunch break or sometime after work? I am sure they’ll need some yoga after a hectic work schedule ;). You can volunteer your time for this without payment. For me, volunteering rather than receiving a payment that took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Although you will not be receiving monetary compensation at this time, the knowledge you will be gaining and the rewards for sharing yoga with your students are invaluable.
Now let’s talk about our second fear, the oral ability for leading a class. This fear has been quite hard for me. Remember, I am Guatemalan and English is not my first language. I was so afraid of this one! I was very aware of my foreign accent and I surely didn’t want to sound like Sofia Vergara’s character in Modern Family.
At first I thought this was a fear particular to me because English is my second language, but to my surprise it wasn’t. Many of my American classmates got tangled with words, became repetitive, and were not very clear at giving proper instructions. After pondering, I knew most of it was a consequence of the fear and nervousness of leading a class without prior experience. A good way to solve this is to record yourself. After preparing the asanas you choose for your class, practice the class orally. Record yourself giving the instructions to get into the pose, the proper alignment, and transitions. You will begin to notice words you keep using that have no intention in your instruction, as well as, areas in which you can use fewer words and be more clear. Teaching and preparing for community classes can also help you become savvy with your oral skills.
Let’s get into fear number 3, what if my students are more advanced than me? The answer is some will be and there’s nothing you can do about it. This really isn’t a problem at all. If you think about it, in any career path that you decide to take you will encounter people with more or less knowledge than you. Yoga is a journey and every one of us is living different parts of it. There is no yogi that knows it all! Even our own yoga teachers have given classes to more experienced yogis than themselves. There are several things you can do to feel more secure about your practice. Be honest to your true self. Be who you are in that point in time, your students will respect that. The good thing is that If you are teaching a class and you have an advanced yogi taking it, they already know what to do! You just need to be present for them and assist them in case they need it.
Another helpful tip is to devote time to yoga daily. This way you will grow your own practice. Work on your physical practice but also read books about yoga philosophy, anatomy and anything that will enrich your knowledge of yoga.
Last, but not least, what if I don’t get hired? You will! Maybe not immediately, but you will. As in any career you will have to knock on doors, some of them will open and others won’t. The key to tackle this hurdle is to be persistent and not give up! Before I got hired, I went to many studios. I introduced myself, handed my resume, performed auditions, and didn’t get hired. In many cases, it wasn’t because of my lack of experience but because there wasn’t any openings. The same may happen to you, so don’t feel bad about it! One sure thing is that I wasn’t willing to give up. I finally went to interview with the amazing couple that own the studio I work for, SON Mind & Body. They are a new studio in Deep Ellum and they shared their philosophy with me during and my interview and it really inspired me. They wanted a space in which the teachers and studio could grow together. A space inviting to everyone, whether or not a person has experience in yoga, meditation, or fitness. Chris and Kasie embraced me immediately and I am eternally thankful for that. We are creating together an amazing space, with a great group of teachers and a place in which you can feel the positive energy thriving. After many failed attempts to work at other studios, my persistence paid off and I landed my first gig in a really cool place!
So, there you have it… my fellow future yoga teachers, this is how I got to where I am now. Through my monthly articles in Dallas Yoga Magazine I will continue to write about my daily challenges and victories in this journey that I chose. I will do this with the hopes that many of them will help you overcome your own particular challenges and inspire you to continue. If you want to share your stories with me or have any questions you can always reach me at [email protected] and I will be happy to read them. After all, we are in this together! Thank you for reading!