The end of teacher training is always a bittersweet time for me. Graduation day comes and I feel like a proud parent, teary-eyed and nostalgic about how far my students have come (our first day together feels like just yesterday!), excited to be able to catch up on Netflix again (mostly kidding), and so excited and eager to see where they’ll go.
As a new teacher you might feel a sense of relief that you’re getting your weekends back, you might feel a little lost as to where to go next, you might feel a mix of emotions, or you might feel nothing at all (I guess we wore you out, huh?). All of those feelings are valid, and in light of them, I share some parting words of wisdom to my teacher trainees and any other new teachers out there:
1. Keep practicing. Practice teaching, practice yoga, and remember that your yoga practice isn’t necessarily all physical. I have weeks where I practice asana daily, either on my own or in a public class, and I have weeks where my yoga is a mindful walk, a quiet moment with my phone off, or turning on loud music and dancing my heart out.
I’ve had people give me advice about how as a teacher I shouldn’t let go of my own practice. And while I completely agree, they never asked me what my practice was like; they judged for themselves and projected their ideals onto me. When I wanted to yell “you don’t know anything about my life, a$$hole!” I held my tongue, took a deep breath, tried to understand why I was annoyed when they were trying to help, and smiled and thanked them for their advice. So sometimes my practice is not letting my inner angry mean girl freak out at people (hey, no one’s perfect!). And I would argue that this practice is more important for me than picking up the latest trendy creative sequencing to get into headstand, or the theming of a Valentine’s Day class.
Don’t let society’s standards of what a yoga teacher’s practice should look like make you feel like you have to master handstand or meditate in lotus an hour every day. You’re a better yoga teacher by being mindful, compassionate, and present than by bending into a pretzel. Only you know how to get yourself into that state of mind.
2. Things will continue to change and evolve in your life. Find people who support you through those changes, and change out the people who don’t. Nothing is forever. You’ve probably noticed some shifts in your life since you started your teacher training, and will continue to notice them as time goes on. Change can be scary, uncomfortable, throw you off your game, or make you feel like you’re going crazy (or all of the above). Change can also be really awesome because it means you’re growing, you’re moving onto better things, and that you won’t experience the same year 90 times in a row and call it a life.
It helps to have supportive people around you, and a place where you can be yourself. Find your people (or person), a home studio that feels right, and don’t be afraid to change those as needed. When you’re honest and true to yourself you attract people who resonate with that truth. The people who matter don’t care how you’ve changed, and the people who care don’t really matter. And if nothing else, know that your teacher training family is there for you, even if you haven’t spoken to them in years.
3. Be authentic, and let that authenticity transfer into your teaching. Don’t try to be your favorite teacher. It’s great to borrow sequencing or cues that you like, but try to make them your own. If you learn something new and want to teach it, teach yourself, and teach from that place. Be honest about what you don’t know - no one can know it all, and no one likes a know-it-all.
Teach the kind of class you’d want to take and what comes naturally to you. Know that you will never be able to please everyone, and that’s totally fine. Do you, and the right students will find you.
4. Take care of yourself. This one feeds into all the others, but it’s a super hard one for me so I’ll reiterate it on its own. You may have been drawn to teaching because taking care of others comes effortlessly to you. You will lead classes and people will come to you for advice as a leader. They’ll ask about poses, and about life. They’ll share and cry, and you will be there for them. And it will probably feel really good to help them.
There may be a moment (or a few years, if you’re anything like me) that you realize you’re putting everyone else before yourself. You’re helping others reach their goals and feel better about themselves, while you’re still stuck in the same rut you’ve been in for so long. Don’t forget to help yourself. Take some of the advice you give, and give yourself a break from always being “on.”
5. Keep learning. I like to consider a 200 hour teacher training a buffet where you can only fill your plate once so you take a little bit of everything. Now is your chance to go back to the stuff you liked on the first pass and really dig in (go back for seconds and thirds; fill 3 plates!). Read, read, read (you can never read enough). Take workshops. Take classes from teachers you like. Take classes from teachers you don’t like. Take class from yourself. Research questions you don’t know the answers to. Work with people you don’t know. Learn a completely new style of yoga.
Figure out what makes you tick, and what ticks you off. Ultimately this practice is a self-study (svadyaya for the bonus points). We are each our own best teachers, and there’s ALWAYS more to learn.
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
Follow my adventures on social media!