Words and Phrases Yoga Teachers Shouldn't Be Afraid to Say
Teachers, here are a few words and phrases that will really help your teaching and your practice. We're often so worried about what we're saying, what we're doing, or how we think our students and peers view us. Here are some ideas to alleviate that anxiety, make us much more effective teachers, and help us to keep our practice of teaching enjoyable, powerful, and authentic.
As a yoga teacher don't be afraid to say. . .
There's a common and overused phrase in yoga classes: This is your practice.
This very well may be your practice, but this is my class.
As a teacher, the safety of every body in the room is your primary responsibility. You have the right, and the responsibility, to take the reins of that class and call out what students may be doing that is unsafe to themselves or to others. While we all enjoy seeing someone modify, rest, or substitute poses when needed, as teachers we cannot feel afraid to tell someone "no" when what they are doing is disruptive or unsafe. "No" is not a dirty word in yoga, "no" is sometimes a necessary boundary to keep your students safe.
What I like to do is say "no" and offer an alternative. It might just be something as simple as taking someone to the wall to do their handstand instead of wobbling in the middle of the room. Sometimes it's substituting Supported Inversion for Shoulder Stand. You can always offer a moment at the end of a class to help one of your students come into a pose safely or teach them how to prepare their body to do the pose safely.
"What I Do Has Value"
There are a lot of constraining beliefs in the yoga world around money and value. I think that because what we do is based on a spiritual tradition we can often have some very deep seeded shame about accepting money or the amount of money we are worth for our services and our time.
You offer a service and that service deserves appropriate compensation. You have invested money, time, and effort in your training and in your profession. Your teaching is valuable. You are offering a tremendous service and are doing wonderful work in the world. Accept what you deserve for your services based on your experience and training and gratefully accept that people see value in what you do.
"That's Their Opinion"
If you haven't discovered it yet, the yoga world is full of opinions. Often, those opinions directly contradict each other. I remember taking workshops a few years ago that were one week apart with two different and very well known teachers. They basically completely contradicted everything the other had said and yet, both of their methods worked very well. Teachers offer you information based on their own experience. Your job is to take all of this information, decide what resonates with you, and synthesize it with your own discoveries to create your own unique flavor of teaching.
Your teachers are simply human beings with opinions. What they say isn't gospel and no teacher has the final word on what yoga is, how to do poses perfectly, or what type of practice is the "right" practice. Trust yourself and what resonates with you, be discerning, and never accept any teaching without first running it through the washing machine of your own intellect. Being a good student of yoga and yoga-teaching means being a good critical thinker. Without critical thinking or your own opinions, you simply become a copy of your teachers and that does you a great disservice. It also makes your teaching watery and ineffectual.
The best teachers I know, be they mentors or peers, have strong and rooted opinions that sway in the breeze of humility. They know they have found something that works and teach with conviction, but are always humble enough to admit when they learn a better way and can incorporate that better way into their style of teaching. This creates teaching that is ever evolving and growing yet still rooted an authentic personal style. It is the most powerful form of teaching there is.
"I'm Ok as I Am"
If there is one lesson I would love to give to every teacher it is that you are ok just as you are. For so long in my own life, not to mention my teaching, I never felt like I was good enough. It always felt like everyone knew more than I did. I always felt that I was about to screw up in some major way. Sometimes I still go in to teach and wonder when the yoga police are going to come in and tell me I don't know what I'm doing.
I've found to manage this fear, we need to first be aware that it is a fear. It is not the truth. It is not a fact. It is a fear. In fact, this fear of "not enough" is a universal human fear. Fear, when seen for what it really is, slowly begins to release its talons from your brain because in order to control you fear must convince you that it is the truth. Tell yourself you are ok as you are. And tell yourself you know enough and you'll always be learning. The fact that you are always learning doesn't mean you don't know what you are doing. It simply means you always have more to learn. And thank god for that! What would be the fun in knowing it all? Grow, learn, be humble, and know that you are ok and you have the tools to teach effectively and with confidence.