When I first began teaching, I was terrified students would see my insecurities. I was afraid students would think I was a teaching fraud. I knew all my weaknesses and none of my strengths. To build confidence, I impersonated my favorite teachers: I spoke with their cadences, copied their class themes, and used their sequences. Yet unlike their classes, mine was empty in both students and personality.
Whether you aspire to teach yoga or are currently teaching, you undoubtedly have been told to teach with an “authentic voice.” This means to teach from your heart, from the present moment, and from your personal experience. Tapping into your authentic voice is not an overnight process. When you begin to teach yoga, there are several skills to simultaneously master: learning to cue, assisting students, being open, being receptive, and teaching to a range of student abilities.
One of the reasons finding your authentic voice takes time is that you need to be fully present with your students. You must be comfortable looking at your students and cueing them from what you see. You may love your teacher’s cue but, instead of automatically repeating it, look at your students: Do they need to ground through their back heel, relax their shoulders, or draw down their tailbone? What you see is the best way to refine your student’s postures, connect more fully with your students, and speak from a place of true presence.
To teach with your authentic voice requires an intimate knowledge of the postures. This includes making time each week to practice alone. In class settings, you have the opportunity to learn new cues and advance your practice with a teacher’s guidance. A solo practice gives you the chance to become attentive to the subtle adjustments of a posture in your body. The more intimate you are with the way a pose feels, the more knowledge you have to help others adjust their bodies into postures. The more familiar you are with postures, the more you will root into your own voice.
To guide your students beyond the physical postures and into their emotional body requires you speak from your heart. To open your heart is to teach what resonates within you. I do not recommend talking about yourself but rather creating a space for your students around what you know. For example, if you are experiencing heartbreak, then create a class theme around overcoming obstacles, releasing expectations, or non-attachment. Speak from your heart, and you will find your authentic voice.
To speak authentically is to voice your truth, and this can be scary. When you open yourself up, there is always a fear you may make a mistake or a student will not return. It can be hard not to take this personally. Yet when you authentically teach, you put your ego aside in service to your students. To find your authentic voice takes time, inner reflection, and the confidence to be vulnerable. When you are in doubt, led by ego, and scared of failing: Stop, breathe, and allow your words to move from your heart to your mouth.