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9 Truths About Being A Yoga Teacher That No One Talks About

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Are you considering quitting your 9 – 5 to become a yoga teacher? Have you been a yoga teacher for a while and you’re losing your drive or finding it difficult to move forward and grow? Perhaps you still haven’t found your “yoga voice”, that specific thing that you think will make you a unique yoga teacher and make all of your students fall in love with your classes.


Whatever your reason is for reading this blog today, I’m here to share some of my personal truths as a yoga teacher. I’ll say that one more time for those of you in the back, these are my personal truths, some might resonate or not, and some might be things that you never considered. Here they are:


1. Teaching yoga and practicing yoga are 2 different things

2. Imposter syndrome is more common than you think

3. We seek outside validation too

4. The constant push and pull between personal values and business

5. It get’s lonely

6. Not all yoga teachers practice what they preach

7. We repeat ourselves a lot!

8. Your practice changes when you become a teacher

9. It can be tough to strike a balance between being true to you and teaching to be popular so that you can pay rent


The first point to note that is that yoga teachers are human beings like everyone else, this may seem like an obvious statement but there seems to be this weird dynamic of teachers being viewed as superior or better than their students, which in itself goes against everything that I was taught.


If you’ve ever had a yoga teacher that you looked up to and thought that they are an enlightened human who seems like that have all their “shit together” then I hate to break it to you but they are just as human as the next person.


During my yoga teacher training many truths were revealed to me that I was perhaps in denial about before. I realize now that this was purely because I had a whole month of being with my thoughts and spent a lot of this time in self-reflection.


Becoming a teacher did bring me closer to myself and raised a lot of unexpressed energy inside me that I was then forced to deal with and work through, this wasn’t and isn’t an easy path to take, so I would like to start here, with my first point.


1. Teaching yoga and practicing yoga are 2 different things


Yoga has made such a big difference to my life from a young age and I always looked up to my teachers and wanted to be as grounded and at peace as they were. I was convinced that because I had been practicing yoga for a while and had a “strong practice” that I would make a great teacher.



"Being able to do a pose and being able to explain or teach a pose, in a safe and concise way are 2 different things."



I soon realized that just because you are able to bind, touch your toes or stand on your hands it doesn’t mean that you’re a better teacher than someone who can’t do any of these things. Being able to do a pose and being able to explain or teach a pose, in a safe and concise way are 2 different things. The one great thing about becoming a teacher was that it allowed me to come out of my shell. I was always very intimated by the idea of standing up in front of people and talking, never mind standing up, and teaching them something new and physical.


My first few years of teaching were filled with fear and anxiety and all I could do was consistently think about all the things that were going wrong, which was obviously my own narrative. On the inside I was freaking out, on the outside, I was calm and composed.


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I soon discovered that in order to teach a decent class I needed to be aware of what my students were doing. In order to do this I couldn’t possibly demonstrate every pose that I was teaching. This was a skill that I had to develop over the years as it’s really tough to tell someone to raise their arms without you doing it yourself…try it out. Haha! You see what I mean?


This might seem like a trivial point to those of you who have been teaching for a few years, but the challenge really came in during the pandemic. I’d got so used to talking my students through a class and now everything moved online and just like all of the other teachers in the world, I had to talk, demonstrate, check that my students where beings safe, for those who were comfortable enough to have their cameras on, or worry about the ones who had blank screens. This took some adjusting and learning but I got there eventually.


2. Imposter syndrome is more common than you think


Imposter syndrome is something that I think everyone can relate to. You learn something new and when you go to apply it you begin to doubt yourself. Am I doing this right? Am I doing justice to what I have learned? Is the information that I’m sharing correct? Does someone in the room know more than me?


These were all questions that circled in my head at the start, and even today, I sometime doubt myself. What I didn’t realize at the time was that none of this mattered more than my intention as a yoga teacher. It’s like that famous quote from Maya Angelou:


“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


In times like these I tried to think back to when I was a student and the kind of things that went through my head when I was on my mat. None of them revolved around doubting the level of knowledge that my teacher had, everything revolved around how I felt after class. If I ever had a negative experience it wasn’t because that teacher was a bad teacher, they just didn’t offer me what I needed on that day and that had everything to do with me.


Remembering this gave me a bit of relief and helped me to alter my perspective on how I wanted to present my teachings.


Which brings me to my next point…


3. We seek outside validation too


We have insecurities and want people to like us too, we seek outside validation just like any other human being.



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Although Patanjali’s 8 Limb Path teaches us Aparigraha (non-possessiveness, self-reliance), we are still human beings. We might be more aware of ourselves because we have been exposed to teachings and knowledge that our students might not have been exposed to. However, at the end of the day, we still want our students to like us, to enjoy our classes and to come back.


In essence outside validation is something that yoga teachers seek out, whether we are attached to the outcome or not is up to the individual but I do think that it’s an important point.


I put a lot of energy and love into my classes and do my best to share words and teachings from my heart, but sometimes I do find myself teaching specific poses or sequences because I know how much certain students enjoy them or because I know that they received praise in the past.


In contradiction to what I say in class about not chasing sensations in poses; I sometimes I seek out an approving smile or giggle from one of my bad jokes. Haha!



4. The constant push and pull between personal values and business


It can be confusing to balance your personal values with building and creating a business and asking people for money. I became a yoga teacher because I believe in what yoga has done for me and how it has altered my perception of myself in a positive way. I want to share that with as many people as possible.


I find it challenging to strike a balance between being authentically me and asking people for money for my services. At the end of the day yoga teachers need to eat too but where is the line between charging what you believe you are worth and making the practice available to everyone?


"Everyone comes to the mat for different reasons, but I wanted to make it clear that we as yoga teachers have a choice to work within our own value systems..."


I learned a lot about this through the Accessible Teacher Training with Jivana Heyman. There was an entire lecture on this and I found that tiered pricing is what I’m most comfortable with. So now I offer:


  • a weekly donation-based class

  • a monthly video subscription (including a 3 day free trial) for students who can’t afford to join a studio but still want to practice regularly

  • and class rentals for those students who cannot commit to a monthly payment or perhaps want to try out a class before they commit.


I also have a YouTube channel where I offer short yoga sequences and meditations that are free to everyone.


In terms of my private offerings, I offer online and in person private classes, and will never turn anyone away who reaches out to me and wants to do yoga but cannot afford it. For now, I feel like I’ve struck my personal balance, but I know that this will evolve and grow as my journey as a teacher progresses.


Everyone comes to the mat for different reasons, but I wanted to make it clear that we as yoga teachers have a choice to work within our own value systems and we should feel comfortable with what we are charging and the idea that we provide a service that is of value to others.


5. It get’s lonely

Shifting from working with a group of people to being on your own every day can be challenging, especially if you’ve never worked on your own before. When I teach classes I have the privilege of teaching and sharing energy with so many wonderful souls, but when I get home I have no one to bounce ideas off of or to reassure me that the decisions that I’m making are right for me.


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I have recently been discussing this with one of my fellow yoga teachers and she agrees that it can get very lonely and isolating. No meetings to discuss ideas, or emails to colleagues about their thoughts on your next presentation, no “water cooler” conversations or little morning routines to get coffee and head to a specific destination.


"...on other days, especially the days when I am craving structure, focus or direction it can be tough to be purely reliant on you to get going. "


We miss out on social events with family and friends as our working hours differ so much, when everyone else is busy we are at home and when they are ready to socialize we are teaching.


In other words, no routine, which for some people is a great thing, but for me personally is a necessity in order to feel grounded and motivated.

We run around all day and have really weird schedules. This is the truth, and on some days I love this, but on other days, especially the days when I'm craving structure, focus or direction it can be tough to be purely reliant on you to get going.


Just like any other self-employed entrepreneur, we are our own everything, we are our own social media manager, content creator, website designer, marketing department, accountant, etc. So we’re not only teaching classes, that take hours to prepare for, but also running a whole business behind the scenes that no one really sees.


I created my own fully functioning website, all self taught and this was purely because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do this for me … and I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my vision for things, there I admitted it!


One thing that helps me to stay motivated and moving forward is consistent learning, whether that is learning technical skills to do with social media or web design or learning more about the human condition, I am consistently learning in order to keep myself inspired.


6. Not all yoga teachers practice what they preach


Here is the most honest part of this blog. . .yoga teachers don’t do yoga asana (poses) ever day, well at least I don’t. Not all yoga teachers practice what they preach, I lost my asana practice during the pandemic, due to a lot of reasons, but mainly due to grief after losing 3 close family members to Covid and my mother being in hospital with Covid. . .it set me back.


" I struggled to meditate because I would end up in a ball of tears every time..."


You might be thinking, but this is when your practice should have been your savior, wouldn’t it have helped you to keep moving during these tough times? You see what I've discovered about myself is that my intuition is the most powerful tool I have in my arsenal, and during this time my intuition told me to rest, be gentle and fill my cup by being around my family.


Note that I stated above that I lost my asana practice, I was still teaching asana but I wasn’t moving my body for self-practice. I struggled to meditate because I would end up in a ball of tears every time, and I found that the only thing that helped me during this challenging time was Pranayama (breathwork).


Some mornings I would simply wake up and show gratitude for my breath, other days I’d find myself holding so much tension in my body that I’d have to lay down and breathe to “bring myself back”, and through all of this, I was still teaching about 6 – 8 online yoga classes per week.


Some of my fellow teachers can contest to the fact that they were consoling me before or after class due to little breakdowns that I was having at the time. It takes a lot to hold space for others when you are struggling to hold space for yourself. Not all Yoga teachers are calm and centered; we experience a range of emotions and lose control too.


7. We repeat ourselves a lot!


Sometimes I get tired of repeating the same thing over and over again. Some days I spend so much time talking that I get tired of hearing my own voice. Occasionally this triggers an out of body experience, where I’m teaching the class and physically in the room but it feels like I am watching myself do it.



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I’m not sure if this out of body experience is a coping mechanism or a part of being in teacher mode, I’m still learning about this and will hopefully have more insights on this for you in the future but for now, I’ll refer back to the repeating ourselves.


It’s important to remember that your students have a lot of information to take in during a class. Most students might even look angry but they’re not angry with you, they are just focusing really hard on what you’re saying.


"This was a light bulb moment for me..."


So you might say the cue, bend your front knee 25 times in a class and a student might only hear that cue after a month, that’s not because they were ignoring you, it’s because the brain can only absorb so much information in a short period time.


I had a student who was practicing with me for over a year and one day they came to me and said that they’d never been able to get up to crow pose before and it was all because of one specific cue that I’d given.


This was a light bulb moment for me, as I realized that I’ve been using that cue in every class from the day that I qualified and this student had only “heard” it now.


So to all of the teachers out there who feel like the repetition is monotonous, I’m here to tell you that not only do your students not hear every single word you say but they might not even remember your words until they’ve heard them a few more times.


8. Your practice changes when you become a teacher


This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will change. You will judge other teachers, you will struggle to bring your mind back into student mode, if it ever goes back, and you might find that your home practice changes too.


I noticed this a lot during the pandemic as my bedroom evolved into my office, studio and the place where I sleep and find sanctuary. I really struggled to get onto my mat and do a class.


I found it easier when I had another teacher to lead me and hold space for me but even so getting through a full hour class at home was challenging.


Eventually I stopped expecting my yoga practice to look like it did before, and instead chose to accept where I was in that moment. Easier said than done.


I found a balance of acceptance for where my practice is and how sometimes it will move forward and sometimes it will move back.


9. It can be tough to strike a balance between being true to you and teaching to be popular so that you can pay rent


It takes time to build up a “following” of students who like what you have to offer. Sometimes students will tell you that they had a great class and that you changed their lives and then you’ll never see them again, and that’s ok because life happens.


"I have been silently judged by teachers and students for not being the “ideal body size...”


I personally didn’t come into this industry to be popular or famous for what I do, I simply wanted to share something beautiful with whoever was in the room and willing to listen.


I have been silently judged by teachers and students for not being the “ideal body size”, no one has ever outright said anything to me but I’ve noticed when I tell people that I’m a yoga teacher they look me up and down with a questioning gaze. This is my own personal insecurity so I won’t boil lack of popularity down to appearance only, but I do think that it’s important to note how the industry caters to a specific looking person and their ability to levitate.

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Some students come to class for a work out but in my classes you get more of a work in and I let all of the students know that they get to make the class as challenging or as gentle as they want it to be.


Some people prefer to be told what to do whereas others prefer to be given autonomy to move in a way that feels good; I prefer to teach with the latter approach, and have learned that I cannot please everyone and that is ok too.


Unfortunately if your class numbers aren’t at the level that the yoga studio needs them to be in order for them to turn a profit then something needs to change and this is a part of the industry. Just like yoga teachers need to eat, so do yoga studio owners I guess.


I have lost classes and gained classes over the years but this has taught me resilience and has also led me to be the teacher I am today and to have the fortunate privilege of sharing my teachings with those students who resonate with what I have to say.


Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with my latest offerings and content.


If you became a teacher because of your passion for yoga then there are so many rewarding moments coming up for you. Being a yoga teacher is not all stretching, meditation, sunshine and unicorns, it’s simply the toughest job you’ll ever love.


Love and Light

Eliza

xxxx

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