When you first emerge from your yoga teacher training course (YTTC) a bright, shiny, new yoga teacher, it’s natural to feel a little self-doubt. There are thousands of other teachers out there with more experience than you, more advanced practices than you, and long-established followings of students. The yoga industry is as competitive as any other.
But fear not! The world is filled with all kinds of yoga students, meaning that there’s room for all types of yoga teachers. However, no student will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.
I’ve gone through many bouts of self-doubt on my yoga teaching journey, and I’d like to share with you some of the wisdom that I’ve picked up along the way.
When I first finished my YTTC, I did one thing very right. I immediately started teaching. My own teacher had warned us nervous newbies that unless we threw ourselves into teaching right away, fear would only multiply. And I had a lot of fears already threatening my self-confidence: fear of being a bad teacher, fear of speaking in a group, fear of injuring my students.
I remember my teacher saying that action cures fear, and this slogan has since helped cure my self-doubt. Just days after finishing my YTTC, I started offering free daily yoga classes. I was so nervous that first class, cursed with a shaky body and voice. But my nerves settled midway through, and I continued offering free classes every day for the next six weeks. Each day, I squashed some self-doubt and replaced it with some self-confidence. I began to find my voice as a teacher, and by the end of six weeks I was nearly fearless.
If you’ve recently finished your YTTC, I implore you to start teaching now. It’s not easy to get a job in a studio, so you might have to get creative. You can offer free classes in your living room, backyard, or in a park; or volunteer to teach a class in a community center. You probably won’t get paid, but you will gain confidence and some experience to put on your yoga resume.
Midway through my first class as a teacher, I learned another valuable lesson. I noticed that my students were way more concerned with themselves than they were with me. Students have their own needless fears: farting, being the worst in class, or looking fat in yoga pants. After nearly a decade of practicing yoga, I had forgotten how intimidating the first few yoga years can be. I quickly realized that I needed to get over myself and my insecurities, and focus on my students. After all, class is all about them.
Students are too wrapped up in their own performance to care about yours. And the thing is—you’re not performing; you’re teaching. Your duty is to translate the practice for the safety and benefit of your students, not to talk, look, or act a certain way. Loyal students will value the knowledge that you give them more than anything else.
Teach with the intention to share your wisdom, putting perfection of performance aside. Your voice might shake. You might forget the name of an asana, or say right side when you mean left. But students are very forgiving, and so caught up in what’s happening on their own mats, they might not even notice.
Some people will simply not dig your teaching style. You’ll teach them once, and never again. They might even walk out early. But none of this is reason for self-doubt.
I used to let one-timers get to me. If they didn’t come back, I thought it was a reflection on my teaching. How did I forget all the teachers I had only been to once or twice, simply because I didn’t vibe with their teaching style? Other yogis did vibe with it, proving that we can’t all love the same teacher.
Not all students will like you, but that doesn’t make you a bad teacher. You have a unique way of sharing your knowledge that will perfectly fit the way some students want to receive yoga wisdom. You’re meant to serve them, and probably not meant to serve those who don’t come back to your class. Keep this in mind when fear tries to creep in. As long as you’re teaching with care, love, and the right knowledge, there’s no need for self-doubt. The students who will really benefit from your class will keep coming back.