The landscape of teaching yoga has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. First, the practice of teaching individuals transformed into the practice of teaching larger and larger groups. Now, with the advent of more accessible technology and ubiquitous social media, teachers are engaging with their students over an even greater distance. Personally, I love the opportunity that all of these mediums provide. With this ever-changing environment, though, it can be challenging to stay grounded, present, and down-to-earth. It can be challenging to remember that we’re educators, not entertainers and our role is to share the vast, sublime teachings of yoga in a way that anyone can understand and find meaningful in their daily life. Here are some reminders that will help you keep your teaching real, accessible, and relevant.
- Witness Your Students
I love having a job where I’m able to express myself. I’m mindful, though, that I can get so wrapped up expressing a teaching that—ironically—I stop paying attention to my students and become absorbed with articulating a concept or theme. Whether it’s getting lost momentarily in your playlist, sequence, technique, or philosophical agenda, all teachers face the challenge of focusing on the students that in the room. Being aware of this challenge is the first step in transcending it. The next step is honing your attention on your students’ body and breath. Watch your students’ eyes, arms, legs, and feet. Watch your students breathe. Trust that you don’t have to impress your students. You just have to witness them clearly.
- Embrace Repetition
Most teachers are fearful of sounding like a broken record. Of course, they are—who wouldn’t be? But, when you teach yoga you are teaching a subject. In order to teach a subject, you need to repeat, repeat, repeat. And, repeat. Imagine you are teaching someone a new language—or, how to do math or play an instrument. Would you be concerned about repetition then? By embracing repetition, you are embracing education.
- Don’t Confuse Being Authentic With Being Complicated or Difficult
You don’t have to be complicated or difficult to be authentic. Most of the teachings we yearn to share with our students are simple: we want to teach people how to breathe, how to listen to their body, how to be less judgmental, how to release unnecessary tension, and so on. These are our “authentic” teachings and expressing them in simple, clear ways honors our dharma.
- Keep Things Accessible
Pressing into handstand, doing complicated arm-balances, and experimenting with deep backbends make for good social media clips. They are striking, inspiring poses that speak to our aspirations. They are also good, interesting things to include in your advanced classes—I work on these poses, I teach them and I post them on social media platforms. That said, we have to remember that these poses are not terribly realistic for the vast majority of students. It’s incredibly valuable to experiment with your edge and encourage your students to do so from time-to-time. But, let’s not get carried away—or become convinced that harder poses provide more benefits than simple poses. Feel free to challenge your students, but make sure that your classes are chock full of postures that your students can do with precision and care.
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.