How to Stay Inspired in Your Yoga Teaching
In the early days of teaching yoga, it’s easy to stay motivated. You’re fresh from training, and bursting with new knowledge and ideas that you want to share. Every class is a gift - an opportunity to offer others the goodness that you’ve found in your own yoga practice, and to hone your teaching skills. But if you’re teaching lots of classes every week, then at some point a few months or years down the line, you might find that even though you love it, teaching yoga is still a job. It can get boring. You’ll find yourself saying the same things in classes every day, and get a little tired of the sound of your own voice.
Although I’ve yet to meet a yoga teacher who hasn’t hit the wall at some point in their career, I also haven’t met a yoga teacher who hasn’t been able to work through those low motivation periods and come out with a new abundance of passion for their job. So, here are my tips for finding inspiration in your teaching - so that you can keep the joy, and continue delivering amazing classes to your students!
Find Your Sangha
One of the biggest challenges that yoga teachers face is that, most of the time, we’re working alone. There’s no office full of colleagues to carry us through the tough moments or to talk with when we’ve encountered challenging classes or students. From Sanskrit, sangha roughly translates as ‘company’, or ‘community’ - and building a community around your work is really important if you want to feel fulfilled by your work as a yoga teacher.
Depending on where you live, there may be enough fellow teachers around to start a regular meet up. There’s nothing quite like a group of yoga teachers coming together to talk about their work and you will always come away feeling better about what you do. You can schedule regular meetings, and hole up somewhere cosy to talk about the ups and downs of your recent teaching and to support each other as you continue to learn your craft. If this isn’t possible in your area, then take it to the Internet! One of the wonderful things about social media is the opportunity for peer support. Join a mentoring group, or create one yourself - there are lots of groups on Facebook, or if you’re not into social media you could contact yoga teachers from your teacher training and create an email group.
Keep On Learning
Continuing your professional development is vital if you want to be an inspiring and skilful teacher - and it’s also the best way to refresh yourself if you’re going through a period of feeling less than excited about teaching. Teaching yoga is very different from practising yoga, which can be a bit of a shock for new yoga teachers if they expected it to feel the same. And when you’re teaching every morning and lunchtime and evening, it’s hard to fit in a yoga class for yourself.
Workshops, rather than regular classes, will become your best friend. If possible, go to a workshop every month or two - choose teachers you’re eager to learn from, or topics that you want to delve into to add new elements to your own teaching. Hearing the perspective of a teacher different from yourself is a huge boost, reminding you that the way you do things can evolve and change, and that your teaching life need not be monotonous. This is great for your students, too, because their practice will be enriched by the ongoing development of your knowledge and skills.
You’re teaching yoga every day. You’re tired from all the travelling and admin and emotional work as well as the physical teaching. So the chances of your own home practice slipping away from you are very high. But try to guard your practice - it’s so important. For you as a person and for you as a yoga teacher. Make it a priority, and you’ll feel stronger and calmer for it.
Sometimes it won’t be possible to fit a long practice into your day, but try to find at least 15 minutes each day that you can devote to your own internal work. It doesn’t have to be asana every day; meditation might need to become your priority if you’re spending your days hurrying from class to class. It’s really hard to teach well if you don’t believe, with every cell of your body, in what you’re teaching - and it’s easy to believe in what you’re doing if you experience of the benefits of it yourself, every day. Equally, finding time for your physical asana practice will allow you to explore postures and transitions and free, creative movement that you can add to your classes.
Eat and Sleep and Socialise
This one might sound obvious, but so often yoga teachers throw themselves so fully into their work that they forget to look after themselves. While this might be manageable for a few months, it will take its toll. Yoga classes tend to be at unsociable hours - early mornings and late evenings, fitting around the work schedules of students. When your friends are relaxing, you’ll be working - and this is especially true in the beginning, when you need to take every class that comes your way and can’t pick and choose based on your own needs.
So, do look after yourself. Eat well - try to eat balanced meals, even if you’re teaching during mealtimes. A few days of a ‘snack diet’, grabbing little bites between classes, will have an impact on your energy levels. This may take a bit of planning; it can help to cook extra portions of meals so that one cooking session can carry you over a few days. Pay attention to how tired you are, and try to plan your days so that you have enough hours for good quality sleep. And socialise! I always suggest having at least two evenings a week when you never teach, so that you can see friends and family, or get an early night if you need one.
Teaching yoga is a wonderful job, and can be incredibly rewarding and exciting. Take care of yourself, and be aware of when you need to take a little time to cultivate your passion and restore your energy.