Before I started learning to teach yoga I assumed that I'd learn a lot about yoga poses, the human body, some Sanskrit, deepen my knowledge about meditation... What I hadn't expected were all the ongoing lessons beyond the yoga teacher training. They say you never stop learning and nowhere is that truer than when it comes to teaching yoga. I'm coming to the end of my first year teaching and here are just some of the (many) things I've figured out in year one.
You are your own biggest critic
The pressure we put on ourselves is huge, and it can be so easy to fall into the comparison trap: Why can't I do that pose? Why aren't my classes always full? Why aren't I doing x, y and z to develop my yoga business?
As a brand new yoga teacher, it can easy to assume all your plans will immediately come to life - but good things take time. Having a lot of drive is great but I've come to realise I have to give myself a break - I'm doing pretty well.
Teaching yoga changes your relationship with yoga
Most of us will have started teaching yoga because we adore practicing it so much - but what happens when every time you hit the mat you're thinking, 'this would be great in class'? It certainly changes things.
I love my personal practice but it has changed over the last year. I now try and keep class planning completely separate from my personal yoga practice. Going to other classes and learning from other teachers will never bring you so much joy as when you are a teacher yourself.
Connection is everything
Ironically, since teaching yoga is all about being with other people, it can be a bit isolating being a teacher. You're on your own when it comes to class planning, marketing, setting up your classes and schedule, and while you're with people in class it's not often you get huge amounts of feedback (especially after a long Savasana).
Connecting with other yogis is amazing - I have made some amazing new yoga friends online, at trainings and from going to local classes, and that sense of community makes life as a teacher so much more fun and rewarding.
You have to say no
Being a new teacher doesn't mean you have to jump headfirst into every single opportunity that comes your way. Looking after yourself is important and that doesn't just mean keeping up your practice or eating well (although of course, that is pretty crucial).
It also means being realistic about what you take on, and scheduling your diary so you don't end up burned out or rushed off your feet. Don't be afraid to say no to things that don't completely work for you.
Running a business and being a yoga teacher are two very different things
Being a great yoga teacher does not make you a great business person. Money makes lots of yogis feel awkward and figuring out what to charge is hard as a new teacher. I felt guilty charging a certain amount because I felt I was 'new and inexperienced'.
But remember all your hours of practice, all your knowledge and the time you spent in teacher training...Money is like energy and you are giving a lot of yours. Undercharging is no good for anyone and devalues yoga for everyone, so know you are awesome and charge accordingly!
Likewise, it's scary to put yourself out there and advertise your class or workshops in case no one comes - but you have to separate your work from your ego. If no one comes, then it may just be that the time / format / venue perhaps isn't the best for you to pursue going forward.
You will find your people
Fresh out of teacher training, I assumed I would be teaching a completely broad range of people from the get-go, and everyone would completely understand what I was trying to teach. In reality, much of the last year has been about me figuring out my niche, identifying who my target market is, and refining my teaching style. It's impossible to please every single person and that's okay - but I've learned to stay solid in what I'm doing rather than try and change to suit particular people.
Social media is a blessing and a curse
Instagram is full of people doing unrealistic versions of asana but if you see these things all the time (and nothing else) you will start thinking it's normal. Realistically, most of the people coming to my class aren’t interested in learning to do a Handstand so I started to question what value this content was giving me.
I've learned to unfollow accounts that make me feel bad and instead discovered other amazing resources (on and offline) that add a huge amount of value to my life and teaching.
You will figure out what's important to you as a teacher
I learned so much during yoga teacher training but I have learned so much more this past year. Only experience can help you realise what your core values and focus as a teacher are. I am slowly uncovering who I really want to be as a teacher and figuring out where I 'fit' in terms of style, spirituality, alignment is a constantly evolving process.
No one knows everything, and that is totally okay. Wisest are they who know they do not know. I am sure the years ahead will have infinitely more lessons for me. It's all a journey after all, but what a fun one to be had.
About the author
Annabel Parkinson-Lee is a Hatha flow teacher based in Oxfordshire, UK and has balanced yoga over the last year with looking after her two-year old, and her pre-yoga job of copywriting part-time. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram.