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Advice For New Yoga Teachers: What I Wish My 18 Year Old Self Knew

As a Yoga Therapist and Personal Trainer with over 6 years industry experience, Lauren shares her advice for new yoga teachers. Lauren has worked with clients from around the world; from teaching yoga on super yachts in French Polynesia to facilitating wellness retreats in New Zealand.

Whether you’re just starting out in the industry or have plenty of experience under your belt, you will gain valuable insights from her journey so far as a professional in wellness.

Relax – you do not have to know everything.

I smile when I look back at my very first yoga teacher training in 2016. I remember sitting there panicking because how will I ever be able to properly pronounce (let alone remember) the Sanskrit names for all the yoga postures? We’re talking about learning a completely new language here!

I must admit – there is A LOT to take in during your very first 200hr Yoga Teacher Training. When it feels like your brain is about to explode from this overload of information; it’s actually amazing how much knowledge you end up retaining. Don’t stress about trying to feel like you need to know everything in the books.

Being a great yoga teacher is not measured by your ability to memorize every yoga asana or your ability to recite the 196 Yoga Sutras by heart. The level of care and respect you have for your students, the way you present and hold yourself and the overall delivery of the class will be the key contributing factors to your success as a yoga teacher.

Say ‘Yes’ to as many teaching opportunities but be mindful of overloading your schedule.

At the very beginning fresh out of training, it’s so easy to get excited and say yes to every teaching opportunity that comes your way. By all means, get out there and teach those classes! Just be mindful to not overload your schedule by cramming in as many back to back classes as you can.

To avoid burnout (I’ve been there before and it’s not fun to learn the hard way) I’ve found that taking no more than three yoga classes a day, 3-4 days a week is the perfect amount of group classes to stay motivated and passionate whilst teaching yoga full time. I understand everyone is different so do what feels right for you.

If you’re not quite ready to leave your full time stable job to jump right into teaching, it’s a great idea to test the waters by taking on one or two classes a week outside of your 9-5. Gaining your yoga teaching qualification creates another income stream which is flexible, enjoyable and extremely rewarding!

Prioritize your own yoga practice.

This will look different for everyone! My practice has evolved over the years, from starting a very vigorous asana (physical) practice in school to now where my practice involves very little asana and a lot more breath-work and meditation.

As the saying goes  – ‘you can’t give from an empty cup’ this is particularly true when teaching and practicing yoga. As professionals in wellness, it is our mission to help our clients enhance their health and happiness through the practice of yoga. In order to do this, it’s essential we look after ourselves and keep returning to our mats as well.

Keeping up with your practice allows you to explore new yoga postures, breath-work and meditation – we should never teach anything we have not practiced ourselves.

Be okay with straying away from the class plan.

At the very start of your teaching journey you are bound to spend hours on creating the perfect class sequence. Well, I hate to break it to you but 99% of the time your planned sequence that you worked so hard to perfect will not go to plan. If you’re teaching public classes you can never predict exactly who is going to walk in through that door at the start of class.

Yoga respects the different ages, capabilities, religions, philosophies, mental and physical health of people. Teaching yoga is much like a conversation. Begin by giving one essential instruction and then move onto the next – always be open to updating your planned sequence to suit the class.

Be yourself.

Don’t get caught up in trying to replicate the style of your favorite teacher – remember your students come to your class because they resonate with you and your personality. Of course your teaching style is influenced by your own yoga teachers and practice, that is why it’s so important to keep up a regular practice of your own.

At the very beginning you’re not going to know exactly what your teaching ‘style’ is, but remember good things take time. Over the years you will develop a style that is unique to you that no other teacher can replicate – being unique is your super power in teaching.

Pull upon your own strengths and harness the power of your uniqueness to showcase your teaching skills – your students will feel your authentic energy and passion.

Find your niche.

At the very beginning, it’s important to take as many different teaching opportunities as you can – this will help you gain experience with a variety of physical capabilities, ages and other. Eventually you will find a style or particular niche that you resonate with the most and want to continue down that track – learning as much as you can.

Becoming the expert in everything, you become the expert in nothing. Trying to please everyone is exhausting. With my background in personal training, I found that I enjoyed delivering one on one sessions and providing a practice that specifically addresses the individual needs of the client. I studied for a Graduate Certificate in Yoga Therapy with Enlightened Events, led by Australasia’s leading yoga therapy educators; Sal Flynn and Liz Williams.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve taught yoga around the world to wealthy owners on super yachts, facilitated sold out yoga retreats in Tauranga and currently specialise in providing corporate yoga and wellness services to workplaces in New Zealand through my business, Yoga & You. The options are endless! It’s up to you to explore these opportunities to figure out what you enjoy the most. 

Final thoughts…

Teaching yoga as a career can be extremely rewarding and fun! Refer back to this advice whenever you need to gain some fresh perspective or motivation. I know my 18 year old self would have been so grateful for this advice – however in saying that, I would not be the yoga teacher I am today without the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I wish you all the best as you begin your teaching journey, let me leave you with the famous words from Dr Suess…

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

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