How to Survive Teaching the Worst Class You’ve Ever Taught

We’ve all had the same gut-wrenching, heart-breaking thought at some point while teaching a class: “This is not only the worst class that I’ve taught, this is the absolute worst class that has ever, ever been taught in the history of yoga.” In fact, by writing “at some point,” I’m being generous. We’ve all (yes, ALL) had this feeling more than a few times. Since you’re a consummate professional, highly trained in objectivity and managing your emotions, you probably finished class without burying your head in the bolsters or breaking into self-absorbed tears. But, honestly, what do you do with this voice—this feeling—of not quite being fully engaged or clear when you’re teaching? Well, let’s start with looking at the facts:

  • Class probably wasn’t as bad as you think

Seriously, it probably wasn’t as bad as you think it was. Teaching yoga is a raw, vulnerable experience and sometimes you beat yourself up about it. People often talk about the importance of being authentic. What gets left out of this discussion is that being authentic means showing who you really are and expressing what you truly care about. Wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always easy or pleasant—especially if you feel that you aren’t communicating or engaging well. When this happens, your inner narrator may be telling you that class is much, much worse than it really is.

  • Even if class was as bad as you thought, well….

You just taught the worst class in the history of yoga? Ok. It’s time to let it go and move on. This is what you’d tell someone else, right? If class was truly lousy, chalk it up to being human. You’re not a robot and even the most accomplished professionals have off days. If you don’t watch sports, it’s time to start in order to get some perspective. Not every top-notch pitcher throws and excellent game each outing. In fact, none of them do. And, thankfully, yoga students are infinitely more kind in the midst of an off night than football fanatics (especially if you live in Philadelphia).

  • Remember that students are having a different experience than the teacher

Are you ready for some ego-busting news? Students are not hanging on your every word or emoted vibe. Yep, students are engaged with you but they’re also having their own experience. They are doing yoga, not just listening to you pontificate and DJ. Trust that even if you did not deliver what you feel was a million-dollar, soul-stirring class, your students got to breathe, move their bodies and have their own experience—and, they probably feel better after class than they did before.

Here a few more things to remember when you bomb

  • You’re human and you’re teaching a live class. This means you’re going to trip over your words, feel energetically flat, forget the second side of a sequence, and mismanage your time on occasion.
  • You have the opportunity to learn and grow from your mistakes. Be as objective as possible about what didn’t work in your class and learn from it. As teachers we’re committed to growing and learning—which means that we’re not already perfect.
  • Breathe in the difficulty and emotion, then breathe it out and let go.
  • Be comforted by the fact that all teachers go through this including the most popular and most respected teachers. In fact, my advice is to get used to moments like this because they never stop—you just get better at contextualizing them and letting them go.

Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.

Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.

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