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teaching balance..

May 20, 2013

I’m about to embark on a trip to Thailand to lead yogis into the realm of teaching yoga. Thus, I have been considering (as I obsessively already do) what makes a good teacher and what makes a great teacher.

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What a noble path to share yoga and help people dig deep into themselves! However, it can be exhausting when we only focus on the emotional. So let’s look at some technical/external qualities of a great teacher. This checklist is simple and direct (2 things my favourite teachers embody). With these tips we can expend energy while teaching where appropriate and harness ample energy for our own growth and practice. And hopefully avoid all the flus and colds that circulate in the teaching community.

Take care of your students and take care of you. This is a give and take relationship. Great teachers understand this balance.

(my faves are #4, 8, 11)

1. Start and end your classes on time.
We are a busy culture—we all need to honor other’s time commitments.
2. Project your voice.
You might have something important to say or you might be concerned that you have nothing to say, but it won’t mean a thing if no one can hear you. You come across as unsure of yourself if your voice is too soft. Be aware that when you are in downward dog or some other inversion, your head is facing away from the class—you must speak a lot louder if you are going to teach from that place.
3. Open your eyes when you teach.
You will appear disconnected if you close your eyes for long periods of time. Plus, you will not know how your directions are being understood. Remember: people want a live teacher who sees them. Be present, both inside and out.
4. Teaching is not your time to practice.
People are paying to be taught yoga instruction by you, not to do yoga with you. Your personal practice is exactly that, personal.
Don’t overload your teaching schedule. Leave time for your own yoga.
5. Get off your mat.
When you first start teaching, use your mat to help you remember cuing and your sequence. The faster you can get off your mat and walk around, the more connected you will be with your students. So work on getting off your mat as fast as you can.
6. Mirror teach if you are in a room where the whole class is facing you.
Students have an easier time copying, especially when they first start learning.
7. Know your kramas!
Most classes are ‘Open’ level. Make sure you know the modifications of most poses to help your less experienced people in the room.
8. Integrated sequencing is key to a vinyasa class.
Don’t take students into difficult poses without being properly warmed up or they will rightfully resist you.
9. Demo when it’s appropriate.
Demonstrating to students where a pose can go next will serve to ignite their desire to deepen their own practice. However, showing an advanced pose in a beginner class can sometimes be disheartening. Use discernment.
11. Teach breathing.
Everyone needs to slow down and take deeper more connected breaths, including yoga teachers. Breathe deeply throughout the whole class—lead by example.
12. Be aware of when you make mistakes, but do not give your power away by over apologizing.
Acknowledge it briefly and move on. Otherwise, it gets awkward and the students feel like they are taking care of you.
13. Come prepared with a class plan but be open to ditching it.
Be structured, yet allow for intuition. Most importantly: be yourself.

(list adapted from Anne Falkowski)

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