Butterflies in the Belly

“I am courageous. I am confident. I respect myself at all times. I live my life with integrity. I am at peace with myself and the world around me. I live a life that is rich with inspiration. I am strong and powerful.”

Throughout my yoga teacher training I was fascinated by all the information being presented to me, but the thought of actually teaching a class and applying what I’d learned shook me down to my core. Now that I’ve been teaching yoga regularly in Portland for a few months I can admire how my confidence has grown since then. However, I still have those wavering moments of insecurity and self-doubt. No matter how many hours I spend per day researching yogic theory and studying proper pose alignment, I still get a little nervous before stepping in front of a class. Stage fright is no stranger to me and I’ve been able to recognize how it can have negative implications on my teaching. This realization has prompted me to bring awareness to my confidence and become more comfortable in sharing my knowledge through both verbal and physical assists. Stage fright alone does not hinder my capabilities and I still feel I can provide a wonderful practice despite my nerves, but what about the guilt that emerges when you feel you haven’t given your students all they deserve? When you question whether your class (full of good intent) actually had a positive impact on your students or not? When outside life challenges become overwhelming and act as a creative barrier between you and your class?

This is where I am.

I recently had an experience where I received unsettling news moments before I was expected to teach two back-to-back yoga classes. I know that the best thing I could do was bring myself out of my head and into the class, but I found that nearly impossible. I couldn’t shake the sad feeling and it left me self-conscious that my students could sense it, as I’m certain they could. A feeling of guilt overcame me after from knowing that I ‘should have’ been able to disconnect myself from my own problems. My yoga classes are not about me and what I’m going through, they’re about my students and it is my goal to assure they take something positive from their practice. I had a quick bout of self-doubt before deciding to take some serious steps towards bettering myself as a yoga teacher. I know that I can’t be the only new yoga teacher in the world who feels overwhelmed by the immensity of knowledge in yogic theory, or the precautions to take when offering physical assists, or how to deal when life throws you lemons and you have to bring the focus away from your own worries and back to your students. It’s not easy, but I am also on a journey of self-discovery and can acknowledge where I could use some improvement. In the pursuit of becoming more confident in my teaching, I have shared below some thoughts which have been most useful to me.

  • Be clear and concise when giving instructions and give students time to soak in what you’ve said. It is easy to feel like elongated silence is awkward based on social norms, but in a yoga class it’s far from. There needs to be space for attention to breath and internal examination among the students, they can’t focus on this if the teacher is constantly giving verbal cues. When I’m feeling nervous I tend to spout out tons of cues and ramble on, which can become confusing to the students who are still stuck on the first instruction you gave. Breath with the class and let the silence linger.
  • Avoid practicing yoga too much with the class – this is not the time for your personal practice. Even for myself, this can be a crutch to avoid standing tall and giving verbal cues. Try standing at the head of the class and offering instructions based on what you’re seeing in the students’ bodies. Stick to physical cues and reference the breath, gaze, and sensations of the body.
  • Be enthusiastic about what you’re teaching and have fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it’s likely your students aren’t either. It is such a beautiful privilege to be able to share the gift of yoga with others. Even if you’re second-guessing how the class is going, keep moving forward with a positive approach. Try making a joke to keep it light and show that you’re calm, collected, and in control.
  • Avoid using passive speech, instead focus on active phrases which will be firm but compassionate. Rather than giving students a choice or being wishy-washy about what you want them to do, tell them and then offer modifications if what you’ve instructed is inaccessible.
  • Own what makes you unique as a teacher and use it to define yourself as a guide to your students without imposing anything on them. Recall why you started yoga in the first place and the journey which has led you to become a teacher. These are aspects of yourself which can greatly impact your teaching style and potentially help others in similar situations. Once you can own your story, you gain control over how you are perceived as a teacher.
  • Always make time for your personal practice away from teaching. This can be difficult, especially if you’re teaching schedule is super hectic, but it is very necessary to anyone striving to be a better yogi.
  • Practice teaching out loud to yourself. It’s not weird. Envision a specific posture and bring to mind any verbal cues that you think should be shared with your students.
  • Live the practice you are teaching.
  • Laugh at your mistakes, learn from them, and then let them go. Open yourself up to vulnerability and know that you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Let your compassion for your students extend to yourself and the hard work you’re putting forth.
  • Share what brings you inspiration. Take notes when you have spontaneous brilliant ideas, during your personal practice, or while teaching.
  • Carefully construct class sequences with attention to meeting the students’ needs. Incorporate music, theory, breathing techniques, and meditation to best suit where your students are at in their practice. Always come to a class with a clear idea of what you want to teach.
  • Don’t let nervousness rush you through the practice. Take your time and if you feel yourself rushing, try holding postures just a little bit longer.
  • When making physical assists start at the base of the pose and work your way up. See that the feet are properly aligned and if making a verbal cue doesn’t work, then try a physical assist. Any seasoned yoga practitioner knows all about creepy, lingering, breath on your neck assists. Don’t be that person. If you’re in any way doubting the assist, it’s probably best to just be left out. Make every move with confidence and a clear intention.
  • Ask the universe for what you desire. Live your life radiating positive energy and emitting all good vibes. You will notice an abundance of opportunities that you may have been blind to before. Go through life with your heart leading the way and it will not lead you astray.

Learn & Love.

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One thought on “Butterflies in the Belly

  1. Very helpful article! thanks for being honest and sharing your trials and tribulations as I totally relate to a feeling of lack of confidence since there is such a vast knowledge behind yogic philosophy and practice and applying to your class. This deffly was helpful thanks for sharing what has been useful in your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

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