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Oh the lessons I've learned in my first year as a yoga teacher

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

They say you’re never too old to stop learning. This week brings me to my one-year anniversary of becoming a yoga teacher and teacher my very first “real yoga class”. And holy crap in just this one year I honestly believe that I fell down one hell of the biggest rabbit holes I have ever discovered. I think I may have learned more about me in this one year than anything else.


Before I started my journey into teaching yoga, I had spent 3 years as a student. Not fully understanding what I was about to get my broken body (and mind, not that I even knew my mind was also a bit beaten up as well) into. Yoga truly saved my right leg! I live with a tumor that seems to really enjoy my right achilleas. It was removed once, but Arnold, as I refer to it, grew back. While dealing with that lovely new addition of me, my meniscus in my right knee had ripped all the way and my left knee was not far behind. I swore I was not going to go through another knee surgery as long as I lived. Long story short, my health insurance said no more physical therapy. I was still not able to walk and the doctors continued handing me more pain meds, which I happily declined. I live in chronic pain every moment of my life, that was now my body, my new normal.



Well hello yoga!

I became a yogi a year ago because I want to share all the magical gifts yoga has to offer. Yoga saved my left knee as well.


Right before I started my journey into teaching yoga, I assumed that I had already learned as much about every yoga pose as could be learned. The anatomy of the human body blew my mind (and it blew my mind that I could even get through those classes). Understanding another language, Sanskrit, not an easy task (just knowing that English was already an issue with me). And learning to bring more awareness and knowledge into meditation…What I didn’t expect was all the ongoing lessons beyond the yoga teacher training. It’s very true what they say, you never stop learning and nowhere is that truer than when it comes to teaching yoga. When one teaches two learn. This week marks the end of my first-year teaching yoga and here are just some of the (many) things I have discovered in year one.


We are our own biggest pain in the ass

We seem to put so much pressure on ourselves and comparing ourselves to others; Why can’t I do that pose? Why aren’t my classes filling up? Why am I not doing this, that, or the other thing to make my yoga business grow?


As a brand-new yoga teacher, I just assumed all my wonderful plans would ultimately come to life. But all good things take time and patience (something I have always struggled with). Having a high drive is great and everything, but I have really come to understand that I needed to be less hard on myself and to listen to my being, and just give myself a well-needed break.


My relationship with yoga changed once I became a teacher

Most of us end up teaching yoga because we fell in love with the practice and how it make us feel after every class we attended. Now as a yoga teacher I find that every time I step onto the mat, I have a hard time “doing my practice” and start to find myself thinking, “Would this be cool to add to my classes?” It most definitely changed things, big time. I was less about my practice and more about my work.


I just adored my personal yoga practice, but it seems to have taken a backseat to my teaching yoga classes now. I had to learn to separate my practice from planning my yoga class as two different parts of me. Finding the balance between student and teacher has been a practice all in itself. Attending other yoga classes and learning from fellow yoga teachers always brings me so much peace and joy but it has a much more deeper meaning now that I am a teacher.


Connection is what’s it’s all about

Ironically, since teaching yoga is pretty much all about being with other people, it can be very isolating at times being a new yoga teacher. You’re totally on your own when it comes to lesson planning, marketing, setting up classes and scheduling them all. Pretty much pimping yourself out to every yoga studio you can find. So, you’re very much like a brand-new startup company and you have to sell yourself as best you can all by your badass self. You have to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. Finding what makes you, you and separating yourself from all the other yoga teachers out there. You become the CEO, the marketing dept, and head of sales (sales, not my strong asset by any means). This means you’re wearing many hats and keeping lots of balls up in the air. I have found that feedback after my classes was few and far between, especially after a nice long Savasana.


Saying No

One of the hardest things for me to do and learn (still learning) is saying no. Being a new teacher doesn’t mean you have to jump headfirst into every single opportunity that happens to come along. Take your time and really look after yourself first. That should always be number one priority; you come first. Really take the time to create and build your classes. I took four months after graduating from Yoga Teacher Training to fully prepare myself and create my style of teaching and classes. Get really comfortable with to whom you are first teaching “your class”; it’s yours, so own it and make it yours. Just be your true self, and everything else should eventually start to just fall into place.


This also means being true to yourself about just how much you pile on in your daily life, so that you don’t end up so burnt out or end up being so rushed completely off your feet. So, don’t be afraid to say no to things that just don’t fit into your life and understand that’s its ok to say no from time to time. Once again you come first and so does your self care, saying no is part of that. Understanding your limits is key.


Running a business and being a yoga teacher are two completely different worlds

You may be one of the best yoga teachers, but that doesn’t mean you are a great business person. Money makes many yogis very uncomfortable and awkward and figuring out what to charge is very hard as a new teacher. I really felt guilty charging a certain amount because I felt “so green and inexperienced”. But remembering all those long hard hours you devoted to becoming a yoga teacher and into your own practice, all your knowledge, and all that time and money spent learning your skill. Money is like energy and you’re giving so much of yours away. Undercharging is no good for anyone and it devalues yoga for everyone, so just know you are awesome and charge accordingly!


Likewise, it’s pretty damn scary to put yourself out there and advertise your classes or workshops if nobody shows up. But you really are going to have to separate your work from your ego. Let it go…If no one shows up, then it just might be that the timing doesn’t work, or perhaps it’s the venue. You need to figure out what works best and pursue it going forward.


You will find your Tribe

Straight out of teacher training, I truly thought I would be teaching a wide range of people right from the get-go, and everyone would totally understand what I was trying to teach. But in reality, much of this past year has been about me finding my way as a teacher, identifying, discovering and focusing on my target market, and really refining my teaching style to best suit my students and to make my classes more my style. You will never please everyone and that’s fine. I’ve learned to stay solid in what I truly believe and what I’m doing rather than trying to change my style to suit particular people and yoga studios.


Social media is a blessing and a curse

Instagram and Facebook are both chock full of amazing people doing some of the most unrealistic yoga poses. Yoga magazine covers are so unrealistic. If this is what you see all the time (and nothing else) you will start to think that these poses are normal. Realistically, most of my students showing up to my classes aren’t at all interested in learning to do a headstand so I started to really question what value this was giving me. I really want my yoga classes and focus on the everyday human body and really understanding that every body is different and we need to celebrate that. We need more “real” and not so much photoshopped, perfect body, perfect pose images. Yoga is for anyone, anybody type and yoga may be practiced at any stage of our life, young or old. Yoga will always meet us on our mats right where we are. The benefits start to show up every single time you arrive on your mat.


I have unfollowed accounts that make me feel inadequate and instead have discovered other great resources, online, in yoga classes and books that have added a great amount of value to my yoga teaching, practice and overall life.


You will discover what’s important to you as teacher

I learned a great deal during my yoga teacher training course, but I can truly say I have learned way more in this first full year of teaching yoga than anything else. Experience is the only way for you to really understand what your core values are and what your focus as a teacher really is. I am slowly unpacking and discovering who I really want to be as a yoga teacher and finding where I “fit” in terms of style and spiritually. Everything is constantly evolving and changing…and that’s ok. Just remember to always be true to yourself first.


No one knows everything, and that is totally fine. When one teaches two learn. I have made mistakes in this first year and I have grown so much from them. I am sure in the years to come I will have infinitely more lessons to learn. After all, life is about the journey and to have fun with it. We are all here to experience all the wonderful gifts life has to offer us.


I hope that through my experiences on this journey I will at least help, inspire or bring peace and hope to others.


Peace

Leslii

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© 2019 Leslii C Stevens RYT200 Yoga Teacher  |  Artist  |  Photographer  |  All rights reserved.

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