BG 18.47: It is better to do one’s own dharma, even though imperfectly, than to do another’s dharma, even though perfectly.
I’ve never met someone who became a yoga teacher because they wanted to become rich.
Most of us teach because we love the practice, we want to share its benefits with others, and we hope we can at least make a living teaching.
But Google “how to be yourself as a yoga teacher” and you’ll see pages of suggestions about how to market and promote yourself.
It’s as if being your authentic self is only about making money. And the only way to do this is to conform to the yoga industry’s idea of the perfect teacher.
This involves more than just what you wear. Increasingly, we’re being told that there is one way to teach, one way to be a yoga teacher if you want to make that dinero.
We all know there’s not just one way to teach yoga, to be a yoga teacher. Thank the universe.
The challenge is figuring out who you are as a teacher. Especially when the industry is trying to scare us into believing that we have to be the stereotype or we’ll fail.
Here are some tools that I hope will help you find your way as a teacher, whether you’re just starting out or feel like you’ve lost your way after many hours of teaching.
I’m talking about self-enquiry (vichara) and self-study (svadhaya). These tools are part of yoga practice and intended to help you find new insights into yourself and fresh inspiration.
Who are you as a teacher and how can you serve?
Take a moment and write down what yoga means to you. What do you like? What do you respond to most in a class? Now teach that.
Ask yourself why you teach. Write your story and remind yourself of your goal as a teacher.
Answer these questions:
What are you good at?
What excites you most about yoga?
What do people where you teach need the most?
This will bring you closer to understanding who you really are and how you can truly serve by teaching from your heart.
It may not happen overnight but when you’re true to yourself, the right people find you.
Think about other things in life that mean a lot to you. For example, if you love surfing this might inspire you to teach rhythm and balance in your classes and you’ll find surfers love your classes.
Have you truly found your voice or do you feel you’re holding back from realizing your full potential?
Write a love letter to yourself. What do you like about yourself and the way you teach? Write the first things that come into your head without judging.
Find the golden thread in your writing – the observation about yourself that comes up consistently. Remember this in your classes.
Become a student again and ask a partner, friend, colleague or coach to help you find you as a teacher. Ask them to be completely honest.
Set yourself a time frame, perhaps 40 days, to discover a more authentic teaching self with the person who is helping you. Meet or connect regularly – at least once a week.
Take these lessons into your classes but remember you don’t need to get naked in front of your students for them to listen to you and respect you. Check you don’t overshare.
Your teaching and the classes you offer are about your students not you.
Recite a prayer or sankalpa before every class that goes something like “I am me: authentic”.
Work on your mental/spiritual and physical core. Remind yourself of your core values by writing a list of them. Make sure everything you do as a teacher is connected to your core.
Check out the suggestions for how to work on a strong core on the free tools for yoga teachers area of my website.
Having a strong core (mentally, physically, energetically) will give you presence and authority as a teacher.
If you’re the kind of teacher that likes to offer students inspiration by reading to them in class, find the sutras that correspond to your core values and share them when it feels appropriate.
Pay close attention to the beginners you teach. You can always learn from them and be reminded of what your teachers did that made you want to keep coming back to their classes.
Remember that you have the potential to transform your students’ lives in the way yours has been transformed by yoga and use it wisely.
Appreciate your power as a member of the yoga community. Question everything you’re told and accept it only when it makes sense to you. Speak up.
You have the potential to shape the future of yoga. Actually, you have a responsibility to shape the future of yoga- and so the Industry.
Surprise your students regularly. Surprise yourself.
Please share this post with your colleagues. Feel free to get in touch with me whenever you like.
Let me know how you surprised your students.
I bow down to you.