A New Beginning: The Story of a Newly-Qualified Yoga Teacher

5 Surprising Challenges and Rewards of Being a Yoga Teacher

I never planned to become a yoga teacher. I was a college professor with a full-time job and two young children. Yoga was my own personal practice, and I didn't think I had the time or energy to teach it to others.

But then I stumbled across an email announcement for yoga teacher training. The training was in a neighboring town, scheduled on a day that I didn't have to work, and there were only a few spots left. I felt an overwhelming urge to sign up, and I did it on a whim.

I didn't expect to fall in love with teaching yoga. But I did. I loved sharing my passion for yoga with others, and I loved seeing the transformation that it could bring about in their lives.

One year later, my yoga business has grown to teaching at least three studio classes a week, hosting events and retreats, and writing about all things yoga. It's been a whirlwind of a year, and I've learned a lot along the way.

Here are five of the most surprising realizations that I've had in my first year of teaching yoga:

1) It's Not About the Teacher

When I first started teaching yoga, I thought it was all about me. I wanted to be the perfect teacher, the one who could inspire and motivate my students. I wanted them to love my classes and leave feeling transformed.

But over time, I realized that it's not about me at all. It's about the students. My job is to create a safe and supportive space where they can connect with themselves and each other. It's to offer guidance and inspiration, and to help them find their own unique path to self-awareness and transformation.

I used to idolize my yoga teachers as if they were superheroes who were kind enough to share their wisdom. But in reality, most teachers are just trying to figure out how to help their students feel better than they did before class.

Students are not there to brighten our day or applaud our teaching. They are there for themselves, and we are there for them. A teacher's relationship to their teaching cannot be dependent upon whether students say hello or thank you, smile, make conversation, keep to themselves, or quietly disappear out the door after class. Most of the time, how students behave in class is about them and whatever is circling around in their lives at the moment.

So if you're a yoga teacher, don't take it personally if your students don't always act the way you want them to. Just keep showing up, keep offering your guidance and inspiration, and keep believing in the power of yoga to transform lives.

2) Trust Is Earned

Trust is essential for a successful yoga teaching relationship. Students gravitate towards teachers they trust. It takes time, effort, and consistent showing up to build trusting relationships. Be consistent, present, respectful, authentic, and open to feedback. Be transparent about your own practice and be mindful of your words and actions. Be patient and don't expect your students to trust you overnight.

3) The Anxiety in the First Year

I've heard yoga teachers being praised for being forever calm and grounded, but in my first year of teaching yoga, the anxiety was off the charts. I worried about everything from getting the inspiration for new sequences to the number of students showing up to class. I was constantly second-guessing myself and wondering if I was cut out to be a teacher.

If yoga philosophy teaches us to calm the mind and make peace with acceptance, the start of a teaching career is the true test of these practices. But the good news is that the anxiety does subside over time. As I gained more experience and confidence, my feelings of uneasiness slowly blossomed into gratitude for my gifts as a teacher.

4) Extraversion Is Required

Being an introvert myself, I know that there is little room for shyness in the business of yoga. As a student, I could sneak in and out of class with only an exchange of hello and thank you. I would sit on the sidelines of post-class conversations, weaving my way around chatty yogis to find the fastest way out the door. However, as a teacher, I have had to get comfortable with being seen and heard often, initiating and keeping conversations, and making social connections among students.

5) Teachers Are Their Own Best Advocates

In the yoga business, there are mentors, clients, and colleagues who can help you succeed. But ultimately, the best advocate for your yoga business is you.

It's easy to rely on the optimistic belief that opportunities will come to you because you're a good teacher. But more often than not, new opportunities become a reality through intentionally taking steps to bring them into fruition.

If you want to teach a class, get more client reviews, run an event, or have any other new opportunity that will propel your yoga business forward, then you have to step into the driver's seat and make it happen.

It took me an entire year of teaching to come to this realization. I wish I had known this as a student. It wouldn't have deterred me from signing up for yoga teacher training or starting a yoga business, but it would have given me a more enlightened sense of gratitude and appreciation for my teachers.