I recently started teaching yoga once a week to my colleagues. I’m lucky to have a group of such willing and supportive Guinea pigs to practice on and help me get more comfortable with this whole teaching thing.
And of course they’re lucky to have a chance to do some yoga for free, in the office straight after work – quite a few have never tried yoga before, or have only been to one or two classes, so it’s great to offer them a safe space to try it out.
I was pretty nervous before the first class, with flutters of anxiety creeping up on me in the days running up to it. In my training we have only been teaching one pose at a time so far, and of course we’re teaching our fellow trainees which is completely different from teaching beginners. Other than that, I practiced once on my husband (and to be completely honest that didn’t go so well!) and once with three of my friends for about 20 minutes, which was a nice gentle start. But teaching my first full hour-long class was more than a little daunting, especially when nine people showed up!
Keeping all the juggling balls in the air
The experience of that first class brought home how many balls need to be kept in the air in the role of teacher: demonstrating, instructing, observing, remembering to switch your left and right when mirroring your students, assisting and adjusting, planning ahead for the next set of poses, making modifications, thinking about timing…the list could go on.
But as I moved through the hour, lo and behold – I started to enjoy myself. About half way through I had a moment of fear as the reality of what I was doing hit me (as well as the fact that I still had half a class left to teach!), but that subsided and I flowed through the final half hour with some semblance of inner calm.
It gets easier…quickly!
I purposefully kept the first class very simple so I could find my feet, gauge where my colleagues’ bodies were at and support them to move with their breath and create length and space in their spines. I have taught two more classes since then, raising the bar a bit to bring in some slightly more intense poses and short flowing sequences while maintaining this focus on breath and space.
After teaching my third class this week I realised I hadn’t really felt nervous this time, didn’t feel the need to cling to my notes, and enjoyed the whole hour from start to finish. I also found I was able to adapt things more easily and naturally than in the first couple of classes, which was reassuring progress for me – it turns out I do actually know some stuff!
Trusting my instincts
My colleagues seem to be enjoying it too, leaving the class feeling ‘calm but energised’ (which is pretty much what I’m aiming for). One of my colleagues came along for the first time this week and even said it was the best class she’d been to because I gave much more feedback and input during my instruction than she had experienced before.
Obviously my ego was happy with that, even though I have no idea who I was being compared to! It may have simply been a coincidence that I happened to teach what she needed on that day. But what I love most about that feedback is that I didn’t feel like I was frantically reeling off all the cues I could remember, but was just speaking what I know to be true from my own practice. So I felt proud of myself for teaching with authenticity and thankful that it seemed to work.
Taking the rough with the smooth
I also found I was able to be kind to myself when I didn’t get things completely right, like when an instruction caused confusion, or I accidentally skipped part of the sequence I was going to teach! I’m sure letting these things go will be harder on some days than others but for now I’m making the most of my ‘new teacher’ status and giving myself permission to make mistakes.
This is all such a learning curve, with so many twists and turns along the way. And the strangely comforting thing is that I don’t think this will ever stop being the case.
With many thanks to my official yoga Guinea pigs x