Finding My Voice as a Yoga Teacher

I feel incredibly vulnerable when I’m teaching yoga, as I’m offering my interpretation of an extremely sacred (not to mention ancient) practice.
It’s intimidating as hell. 
And, as someone who’s had an ongoing struggle with simply being vulnerable at all- teaching did NOT come easily to me.

A limiting belief I’ve carried with me throughout most aspects of my life of “I’m not good enough,” coupled with the fear of putting myself out there- held me back from offering regular classes for nearly a YEAR after my first YTT. 

I would actually black out with fear when I’d get up in front of a class.
I’d go as far as to say I might have even HATED it when I first started.

However, given all the knowledge the practice itself offers us- I decided to strip down my fear, sit with it & understand it a little more.
I realized the root of it was simple: 
I’m afraid people won’t like my class.
Once I faced that truth, I realized something pretty dang obvious.
That WILL happen!
There will be plenty of people who will walk into my class once, and then never again.
Not because there’s anything wrong with ME as a person or as a teacher, but simply because it didn’t resonate with them.
It’s the same way that we don’t connect with EVERY person we come in contact throughout life, right?

I had to learn that although I can’t control people’s reactions to what I’m sharing- what I CAN control is the extent to which I show up as an instructor.
For me this means putting genuine energy & thought into creating SAFE & loving sequences.
It means creating, and then holding, a space where people can learn without judgment or fear.
It means leaving my own shit outside, and letting the time be just for the students. 
The reality is that even when I show up in these ways, there will be still be people who don’t like it, or don’t return.
And that’s okay. 
Because I know i did my best in that moment.
That’s not to say their feedback isn’t valuable, because it certainly is and I always welcome it.
But the reality is that you just can’t please everyone.

All of these feelings have been unearthed again when I accepted the offer to teach on Alo Moves.
This was an opportunity that I actually spent time manifesting into reality for about six months prior to receiving the email from them- so, I’m not saying I wasn’t thrilled.
Because I was.
I was beyond excited.
But I was also beyond afraid.
Being on a platform with so many INCREDIBLE teachers started to excavate that same “I’m not good enough,” mentality, which- in turn- let my fear of not being liked get really loud once again.
When I thought about how my classes were going to be just be out there, on the internet for anyone and everyone to experience, watch…to judge.
This fucking terrified me.

However, given that I’d already gone through this same process as a new teacher, I was able to handle it with the tools I accumulated all those years before.
Rather than letting my fear hold me back from saying YES and showing the hell up- I let it challenge me to step outside of my comfort zone with as much confidence as I could channel.
That’s not to say I wasn’t still scared the first day I stepped onto set.
Because I was.
I was shaking and sweating.
A jumble of nerves.
So, I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I’m capable.
I reminded myself that I poured MONTHS of planning, energy, preparation and LOVE into each class.
I reminded myself that although I’ll undoubtedly make mistakes, I am showing up as my best self in this moment now.
And that’s the most I can do.
I reminded myself that being afraid is okay.
In fact, these nerves are a GOOD thing- whether you’re a brand new teacher, or whether you’re a season vet in the industry.
Because it means you CARE.

Since releasing the classes, I’ve had to remind myself of all this all over again.
Most importantly, I’ve had to remind myself of the notion that I can’t please everyone.
For example, there’s been feedback from one person saying it was the best class they’ve ever taken, and they loved the cues and pace.
Then there’s someone who said they thought it was too slow, and confusing
Another who said it was too fast, as they prefer to hold each pose longer.
One person who wrote that they prefer a teacher not to talk so much, while another said they wish I said more.
You get the point.

Again, all of this feedback is absolutely VALUABLE.
I appreciate honesty- always.
The key is taking what works, and leaving the rest.
Imagine if I tried to take it ALL on?
Not only would I be stretched in a million different directions- but I’d have also lost my own authentic voice in the meantime.
And then what?
Well, my classes would likely resonate with even LESS people.
But, more importantly, they wouldn’t even resonate with me- likely leaving me feel unfulfilled, unconfident, and confused.

I remember when I first started teaching- I was still going to studio classes regularly.
This was in California, where there are a TON of killer teachers.
Plus, I have an advanced practice- so I would attend advanced classes with seasoned instructors.
I remember how it seemed to effortless for them- sequencing, cuing, adjusting, demonstrating, including a consistent theme, the music- ALL of it just felt seamless.
And, although the class felt amazing, I’d usually walk away thinking:
How the hell do they do that?!
I’m over here just trying to make sure I remember the whole sequence correctly.
I found it really overwhelming.
Clearly returning to that limiting belief:
“I’m not good enough to do this.”

As I mentioned before, I had to untangle a lot of bull shit mentally in order to step into my personal power and find my voice as a teacher.
I needed to work on flipping my perspective.
Understanding that, sure, that class might’ve seemed perfect- but, guess what?
That teacher also started from the beginning, too!
The difference between them and me wasn’t that they were “better.”
It was the fact that they had TIME and EXPERIENCE under their belts.
And the fact that they believed in themselves.

I’m writing this piece, because I get a lot of new teachers asking me how to begin.
How to conquer their fears.
How to find their voice.
Based on my experience, the advice I want to give to you is this:

Develop a dedicated self-practice (if you haven’t already).
I believe this is crucial, because it helps reveal what YOU want to teach.
Rather than regurgitating other people’s cues and sequences, you’ll experience what YOU’RE excited to share.

FEEL into even the most familiar postures.
This has helped me with my cuing, immensely.
Because, once again, instead of just memorizing and repeating what you’re “supposed” to say- you’re explaining it from YOUR experience.

Get curious about even the most familiar postures.
This goes with the idea of feeling into them.
Shift your weight slightly differently than you might in the most traditional variation, close your eyes, wiggle a little, etc.
Notice what comes up.
Notice what resonates.
Share that.

Practice on friends, family, and other teachers FIRST.
Practicing your classes on people you trust, and people who trust you creates a safe space for you to learn how to refine your craft BEFORE offering paid classes.
This is purely my opinion, but I just don’t believe most 200 YTT are ready to teach as soon as they graduate.
Especially because most programs are SO condensed now.
I forced my friends and family to take my classes a million and one times (I still do!), so that I could ask them how it felt in their bodies, ask for their feedback, and most importantly- make sure what I create feels safe and accessible.
As someone who’s naturally quite flexible- it’s important for me to get that feedback from people who have different body types.
Sure, it’s okay to have a challenging class- but I also want it to feel ACCESSIBLE with appropriate modifications and adjustments.

Say YES, even when it scares the shit out of you.
Same as most things, the only way you get better is by PRACTICING.
So, even if you don’t feel “ready,” say yes.
It will be SUPER uncomfortable at first (maybe even for weeks or months), but the more you say YES, the easier it will become.

Way easier said than done, right?
Yeah, well this will get easier the more you say YES, and the more confident you get in YOUR practice.
Sometimes it means exuding confidence on the outside, but freaking the fuck out on the inside.
And that’s okay.
At this stage, you will have prepared and practiced your sequence.
And you will be showing up with the intention of offering something heartfelt.
Believe in that.
Believe in your ability.

Share how YOU want to share.
Again, feedback is important- but it’s important to remain true to yourself as you take what works, and leave the rest.
For instance, if someone tells you after class that they didn’t feel warm enough to enter Warrior III that early on in the sequence- that’s something worth considering, right?
Especially because it touches on the SAFETY aspect of the class.
However, if someone tells you they wish you’d talk about more spirituality topics, because your classes feel too physical- then you need to ask yourself if that feels true to what you want to share.
Perhaps you don’t have anything spiritual to offer at the moment.
That doesn’t make you a “bad” teacher.
It just means, maybe your style isn’t compatible for this particular person.
Rather than forcing yourself to speed up your spirituality process in order to be something you’re just NOT yet- let it come organically.
And, remember, maybe this won’t ever be something you’re comfortable sharing when you teach.
That’s okay.

Continual study: Stay in the student seat.
The same way our yoga practice is limitless, so is our teaching practice.
We’re never done learning.
And, if you think you have it all figured out- then that’s probably when you need a refresher course the most.
I personally save a chunk of cash every year for a training, immersion, or some sort of continual education.
This doesn’t mean you need to do a destination course or retreat, or something super fancy every year.
Maybe it means you invest in an online module.
Or invest in a 3-day immersion in your hometown.
Yes, self-study is crucial.
But I also think fully sitting in the student seat regularly is very important in order to keep growing.

Remember that we’re always evolving. 
That being said, your teaching likely will, too. 
What you want to offer when you first start out might be COMPLETELY different to what you want to offer in five years. 
If you’re anything like me, you might have trouble surrendering to this natural ebb and flow- and that’s okay. 
Just try to become aware of it. 
If your practice shifts, embrace it. 
Know that it’s shifting in that direction for a reason. 
In turn, the students who are attracted to you/your style might also change. 
Again, that’s okay. 
As long as you’re teaching from that aligned, authentic place- you’ll draw in those who resonate. 

Whoa- that’s a lot!
But guess what, if I can do it- you sure as hell can.
And that’s the point to all of this:
There’s no difference between you or I. 
One of us is not “better” than the other. 
Realize that our different experiences and offerings just mean that, as a whole, we have the chance to reach even MORE people simply by being, and showing up exactly as we are.
There’s a reason you’re on this path of teaching.
So take the time to figure out that reason, figure out what fires you up- and SHARE that with the world.
You’ve got this. 

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