"Being a New Yoga Teacher", by Natalie Edwards
Teaching yoga is a continuous journey of self-discovery. When I began to teach, it was all about making sure I didn't mess anything up and ensuring that my students were safe. I was a nervous beginner teacher, as public speaking and being the centre of attention had never been something I was naturally comfortable with.
But as you begin to become more experienced and therefore more confident, you allow yourself to explore the other parts of your personality that perhaps you hadn't tapped into during your early classes and even your training. What I'm talking about here is finding your authentic voice as a teacher.
1. Show up and teach as YOU unapologetically
If there is one thing I have learnt from teaching, it's that the most important thing you need to do as a teacher is to be authentic. Show up to teach as YOU. Unapologetically you. 100% yourself. No editing for anyone. You need to be YOU so you attract the right tribe of students that you can connect with in the deepest possible way. Because, as we know and begin to learn, teaching is just one aspect of what you're doing on the mat. You're also creating a safe space for your students to open up, feel and be seen in a way that other teachers or even people close to them might not be allowing them to do. And to be open, they need to be able to be themselves, and the only way they can do that is if they feel an authentic connection to who you are.
One of the reasons I chose to train with Ana Forrest was because she presented herself as a straight talking, no bullshit teacher. One of her huge themes throughout the training was 'finding our voice as a teacher' and learning how to speak truthfully, clearly, purposefully and with projection. Each day we would do exercises that would make me cringe, like shouting teaching pieces at the top of our lungs in the style of an opera singer or worse yet, a sexy dominatrix!
2. Dive Straight In! Play the Edge of Your Comfort Zone
She demanded we played with the edge of our comfort zone every single day, and for me, this method worked as there was no room to think too much about things, I just had to dive straight in. But whilst she's tough, she also has a very kind and nurturing side, and it was this mix of strength and softness that attracted me to Forrest yoga, and that's what I try and bring through in my teaching. It's allowing my students to breathe and grow whilst also helping them push through their self-limiting stuff and calling them on their moaning and any tendency they may have to quit. Ana also teaches with humour and you'll often hear her swearing like a trooper. I'm not suggesting you start slinging swear words at your students, but who made the rules that yoga has to be so serious and Sanskrit all the way through? It should be fun, so have a joke with your class, make it about playing and remind them to be kind to themselves. Remember that no matter what you have been taught, you need to bring your own unique personality and shining light to your teaching, there's no point copying another teacher word for word or following the rule book down to every last move.
3. Don't Doubt The Power of Your Voice. Trust Your Words and Your Truth
In my early days of teaching, I was always surprised by feedback I would receive. The days I doubted my words and teaching performance the most, were the days I would always have a student wander over to me at the end of a class and say how much my teaching spoke to them, and how much the class had helped them that day. So never doubt the power of your own voice, your words and your truth. Speaking from the heart takes courage but it's also the most powerful experience you can give to your students. They aren't just coming to your classes to sweat and chill out, they are coming to listen to what you have to say, and your ability to tune into their energy will grow each time you teach so that you can be receptive to your students' needs. Sometimes you'll feel the need to speak more to cue beginners or keep the energy up in the room for instance, other times, silence will be your friend, and don't be afraid of those silent moments, as they are allowing your students the space to process what you have just told them.
Teaching with authenticity means to teach whole-heartedly every single time. It means teaching on purpose and with passion at every single class. It means not having to compromise who you are and what you have to offer your students for anyone.
If you've been struggling to find your voice lately, as a teacher or in any other area of your life, ask yourself now, what would that look like for you to be able to teach and speak in that way? What would that FEEL like? Does it scare you? If so, ask yourself why you're afraid to be who you really are. It's scary to put yourself out there, but if fear is the only thing holding you back from teaching in the way you actually want to, you're never going to progress. Because really, the only thing you're scared of is yourself.
Many of us are scared of the sound of our own voice and especially when we are new to something, we are scared of truly being seen, for fear of making mistakes or perhaps saying something we feel some people might class as taboo. But sharing your stories and speaking in a way that makes it easy for your students to relate to you, is more powerful than anything. Showing vulnerability as a teacher, and throughout anything that you do, makes you a more authentic and honest person, rather than a 'perfect', can-do-no-wrong yoga teacher that people feel intimidated by. So start by becoming heart-centred, lean into your fear, and get really curious about how powerful your natural intuition and message really is. As soon as you begin to speak from the heart, that's when you tap into your most true, most powerful and most authentic voice.