Yoga Teaching: An Amateur’s Perspective

Yoga Teaching: An Amateur's Perspective

The other day I interviewed for a yoga instructor position at a fancy schmancy resort.

The first question I was asked was, “How long have you been teaching yoga for?” My answer, “two years.” Right away, the interviewer sat up a little straighter and said, “Oh, just two years?” She had automatically written me off. The interview was over. She had decided that the measure of a good yoga instructor was time and time alone. It was a very business-y interview, not very yoga-minded.

I hardly had space to rebuttal and suggest that I wasn’t sure that was the ideal measure of a yoga instructor’s merit. For one, I’ve probably taught a whole lot more yoga that many instructors who have taught for decades even. I’ve taught at 6+ locations all over the island not including privates and events. At one studio alone, I’ve taught around 7,000 students. I don’t have exact numbers from the other studios, but the number is quite high. While the number of connections and classes you have had with students is in some cases related to time, it is clear to me that more years does not necessarily equate to more connections.

Additionally, using the number of student connections as a measure is also somewhat insignificant; in my opinion, a yoga teacher is a healer of sorts. People come to yoga for all sorts of reasons, but ultimately what they find is themselves; they begin to feel more love within and around themselves, more peace, and they find more direction in life. Thus, yoga instructors, play a very important role, they must be personable, vulnerable, open, have something to share, something to give, and of course know how to teach asana. No short task. More than anything, good teachers are just comfortable with being themselves. They are comfortable with sharing the good and the bad, acknowledging their flub ups, because we are all in this beautiful life together being our perfectly imperfect selves, AKA human.

The best way to interview a yoga instructor is to simply have them teach you a class.

Newbie Status

There are several benefits to being a “newbie,” even though I didn’t realize two years qualified one as falling under newbie status (can you tell me ego was hurt?). I can only hope to maintain this inspired, "newbie," or amateur yoga teacher mind throughout all the rest of my years teaching.

I remember when I met Katie, one of my absolute favorite yoga teachers, ever. She was fresh out of her teacher training. First of all, not only was I shocked to have heard she was newly certified after having experienced her beautiful and inspiring class, but the knowledge didn’t matter to me. What this very special lady had to share was beyond anything simply years or teaching experience could have provided her, because she was teaching more than just asanas, she was sharing and spreading love (and continues to, everyday). She is pure love in a person.

It’s not really about what you say to students, they probably won’t remember your words, it’s about how you make them feel. The latter is what they will remember, what will truly leave an imprint on their heart.

Why is it that sometimes newbies shine so bright?

When you start new work, of any kind, you are creative, incredibly involved, and you put everything into it; in Katie’s case, her heart and soul. Overtime, amateurs progress and grow, and often that once novel experience, in our case teaching, becomes a practiced skill. Anything practiced becomes repetitive and then it becomes a skill.

“All great discoveries are made by amateurs.” –Osho

For the amateur, everything is a surprise; everything is an extension of this passion. As a yoga teacher, with each passing day/month/year, I hope to never settle, I hope to always switch it up, change, invent, delete, and be free from repetition.

I hope to remain in my amateur state of mind, so that I am always growing, learning, and forcing myself to step outside of my comfort zone with both teaching and life.

Because that is the space in which we all grow: the space of not knowing, the space where the excitement lies, the nerves, the passion, the ‘fewf I made it through alive and now I feel stronger than ever’ feeling.

This doesn't mean you need to hike all three peaks of Olomana to feel excitement, nerves, the 'fewf I made it through alive' feeling. We have nerves and fears sometimes for good reason, they are called survival instincts. But it is about constantly stepping outside of the comfort zone, even in small ways.

For me, I am facing my ocean fears and swimming in water where I know there are sharks, but as Derek says, "They're juveniles," and apparently harmless (baby hammerheads). I swam today, I am by no means an adrenaline junkie, but I knew there was no real danger. However, It was outside of my comfort zone (in a big way) and when I finished, I felt energized and alive for the rest of the day.

Lesson: Hold on to the amateurs' perspective, always. Keep stepping out into the unknown. Everyday surf in the space where your comfort zone ends and novelty begins.

Let me know how your adventures go!

With Love,

laura mary