Yoga & Emotions — On Becoming A Yoga Teacher

Yoga, when done regularly and with intention, is known as a way to integrate your mind, body and spirit. Through a mindful yoga practice, you can learn to better control your emotions and bring peace and harmony to your outer and inner lives.

This is but one reason yoga teacher training programs, like the ones offered by the Asheville Yoga Center, want their students to have a daily yoga practice before starting. When you’re thinking of becoming a yoga teacher, you need to be prepared to share the bliss with others. You need to teach from a centered, grounded place.

So what happens when you’re up in front of a class, and a student in the back row continually interrupts you? What do you do if you find your anger rising and your muscles tensing? Or what would happen if you find yourself attracted to one of your students to the point of distraction? What can you do? Call for a recess?

You Can Control Your Emotions

You can stay calm in the midst of chaos and learn how to control your emotions. Yoga helps drive your thoughts inward, to explore the rich, fertile soil there. Meditation, in fact, is an integral part of a yoga practice. It’s a technique used to learn more about yourself, including your emotional state. This is why most yoga teacher training programs require you to meditate when you’re in the process of becoming a yoga teacher. Meditation clears and calms the mind. It helps you integrate your many facets — the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual — into one cohesive whole. It also helps you stay grounded and in control. Being in control of yourself is like the difference between swimming and canoeing. If you’re struggling with a situation, you’re swimming in it. If you can remain calm in the midst of a situation, you’re paddling through it. You’re in it, but it\’s not in you.

Becoming a Yoga Teacher Has Responsibilities

When you take on the responsibilities of leading a yoga class, it’s up to you to ensure the physical and emotional safety of your students. Furthermore, you have to use your position to move their practices forward, whether through alignment or instruction. You must, therefore, remain in control of your emotions at all times. You must be able to work with all kinds of people and stay focused. Becoming a yoga teacher is a serious endeavor. To master the skills, you have to learn not only the yoga poses and philosophies, but human anatomy and human psychology as well. When you lead a class, you must remain in control. Everyone is looking to you for guidance and expertise. Students want personal attention. Many will vie to be your favorite. You cannot afford to show favoritism or shower too much attention on any one student. You have to stay objective and detached — something you can’t do if your emotions get in the way.

What to Do If You Lose Control

Whenever you begin to feel yourself losing control, one trick is to focus on your breath. Your breath always follows your emotional state. When you’re angry, for example, your breath gets short and quick. On the other hand, when you’re calm, your breath is deep and slow. If you can slow your breath, you can abate your anger. You may learn other techniques when you’re becoming a yoga teacher. For example, pay particular attention to your emotions at the beginning of the class. Since yoga lowers your blood pressure during the course of a class, it will be highest at the start of class. If you enter a class collected and together, you’re more likely to remain in that state.

More Tips for Quieting Your Mind

Whether or not you’re becoming a yoga teacher, a regular meditation and yoga practice will go a long way to provide you with inner peace and harmony. Still, it’s not often easy to stay calm when you re-enter life off your mat. Things happen over which you have no control. So here are a few more tips to help you maintain that serenity no matter where you go:

• Eat healthy. For best results, try a vegetarian diet.

• Avoid garlic, onion and heavy spices, which can rile up the mind.

• Do breathing exercises (pranayama).

• Practice mindfulness all the time.

• Give of yourself. Selfless service can do wonders for your frame of mind.

When you are becoming a yoga teacher, your instructors may encourage you to “be yourself” when you lead a class while acting within respected boundaries. That means keeping your emotions in check.

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10 Tips for Leading a Yoga Class

Yoga teacher training can take you only so far. You still have to actually lead a yoga class by yourself. If you’ve trained at Asheville Yoga Center, you’ve had some experience that gave you the foundation for success. Like life, yoga requires continual learning and a curious approach. Incorporate new ideas, such as the 10 tips below, continue with your formal training and learn through trial and error, and you’ll discover the techniques to lead a yoga class successfully.

1. Teach Consciously

When you lead a class, draw from your yoga teachers training and your personal yoga practice. Remember how difficult certain poses were for you. Expect similar difficulties from your students, and help them before they even realize they need help. Your students will think you’re reading their minds, when in reality you’re really reading their bodies.

When you model poses with the class, explain the intricacies of the asana. Highlight the common areas your students may be holding instead of letting go. Emphasize where they need to focus their attention. Point out where their alignments may slip.

2. Model Behavior

When you know your postures and sequences intimately, you can model them to your class. Show them what the asana should look like when done right. Use your yoga teachers training to find the right words to convey the important details of the pose. The class will mimic you and pay attention to what you emphasize.

When you’re in front of a class, you have to be perfect in your poses. You have to know where you are in the lesson and what’s coming next, so you can transition the class from one pose to the next. Modeling the transitions is as important as the postures themselves, especially to keep your students from getting hurt.

3. Get Off Your Mat

It’s fine to model the poses for your class. It’s important to show visually what exactly you mean with your verbal cues when teaching an asana. People really do learn that way, with the auditory messages reinforcing what they see.

But in order to really lead a class, you have to get off your mat and engage your students. You have to get hands-on and make those minor adjustments that result in a major difference. Modeling only reveals so much about a pose. Students will not be able to mirror you exactly, so bring yoga teachers training to them.

4. Attain Balance

Some yoga asanas, such as Downward Facing Dog, work both sides of the body at the same time. Others, like Triangle Pose, work on one side at a time. When you’re teaching a class, it’s easy to say everything you know about the posture while the class is still in the first part of the pose.

One of the skills yoga teachers training teaches you is to balance your instruction so you have meaningful comments for both sides of an asana. One way to do this is to explain the basics of the pose on one side and the details on the other. However you do it, make absolutely sure that you hold the pose equally long on both sides.

5. Let Your Students Breathe

You don’t have to fill every moment with chatter, even if it’s instructive chatter. You can make their experience memorable merely by getting out of the way. Keep your attention on your students so you can give them what they need. Sometimes, that means silent time to let them focus on their bodies and their minds.

As you learned in your yoga teachers training, the class isn’t about you. It’s all about your students. Teach with authority, but guide with humility. When you don’t feel the need to fill every silence, your students will listen more carefully when you do speak.

6. Be Prepared for Anything

Surrender to whatever happens in your classroom. Your yoga teachers training at the Asheville Yoga Center taught you that you are not really in control. Embrace your lessons, but accept that the unexpected will happen.

Only with this attitude can you lead a class. You may learn as much from your students as they learn from you. If you’re too rigid in your approach to teaching, you will not be flexible enough to deal with whatever happens. Yoga advocates flexibility in body and mind, so take that attitude to your classroom.

7. Keep a Flexible Plan

Just as you need to keep a flexible attitude, you will learn to adapt to the classroom environment. One pose may be more challenging for your class than you anticipated. You may have to answer a question with a lengthy explanation.

Whatever the reason, sometimes your class won’t go according to plan. Yoga teachers training required flexibility. Your class plan also should reflect a certain amount of flexibility. Go with the flow, so your students get what they need from your class.

8. Know Your Students’ Levels

If you have a roomful of seniors, you should know how to explain the asanas, based on your yoga teachers training. You know what to look for in your students and where they will likely need help.

But if you have a class of mixed-level students, remember you need to challenge the more advanced students while providing easier options for the beginners. Sometimes, you may have to use aids or blocks. That’s all right, because the point is to keep your students safe while advancing their individual yoga practices.

9. Teach, Don’t Lead

The difference has to do with goals. If your goal is to show your students a new sequence that you came up with, then you’re leading a class, even if you spend time explaining and demonstrating each asana.

But if your goal is to move your students forward in their yoga practice and knowledge, then the sequence becomes secondary to helping your students evolve. You have to spend time with them, getting them not only aligned properly, but also to understand why it matters. You have to teach them.

10. Mention Your Name

One tip rarely mentioned in yoga teachers training is the line between self-promotion and ego-stroking. If your students enjoy your class and benefit from it, they’ll want to return. Make sure they know your name! This isn’t about the ego; it’s about helping students find you. It’s about earning a living from doing what you love. And that’s as important as anything else you do in the classroom.

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8 Ways to a Peaceful Class

When you first asked how do you become a yoga instructor, you probably weren’t thinking of becoming a peacemaker, negotiator or disciplinarian. The focus of your answer to How do you become a yoga instructor was more likely on the poses, the marketing and the yoga philosophies that drew you to the teaching path. Fear not, you will learn asanas and philosophies, along with deep breathing and quiet meditation techniques.

Become the arbiter of good and respectful behavior. It’s inevitable. Yoga students come to you from a wide range of backgrounds with varying sets of baggage. But how do you become a yoga instructor in the midst of chaos? The most successful teachers learn through training and practice. Even when it seems as if the negative will destroy your bliss, you will learn how to handle it with grace. Here are eight tips to help you on your journey.

1. Spell Out Your Conditions

When asked, how do you become a yoga instructor when you have to deal with so many differing opinions and states of mind, you answer with a clear set of rules. Write down your class guidelines that include such behaviors as tardiness, cell phone usage and talking during meditation. Leave no room for interpretation when it comes to certain behaviors that will disrupt the class.

Require each student to sign your list of policies upon registration. When a student breaks one of your rules, simply point to the agreement. It will serve as an unbiased arbiter and relieve you from the accusation of singling out any one student. The rules apply equally to all.

2. Control Your Emotions

But how do you become a yoga instructor peacefully when you are feeling angry and resentful? The answer is — you don’t. You must first control your own emotions before you can create a peaceful space in which to teach yoga. It is when you are being challenged that your meditation training and practice will become most vital.

Take a moment to gauge your feelings. Breathe and bring your thoughts to the power that guides your practice. Think about the positive energy you exude and the confidence with which you speak. Look at your anger and understand that its origin most likely lies in fear. Put that fear to rest so that you can take appropriate action as a leader.

3. Become the Listener

So how do you become a yoga instructor with compassion while you’re dealing with disruptions? By taking the time to listen. Very often, your students act out from a place of fear or internal pain. Your willingness to listen to a student’s problems may be all that it takes to diffuse a situation and prevent it from escalating.

A compassionate yoga teacher doesn’t immediately discount any student before hearing her out. Kindness and patience often reward you with respect in return. You’ve learned in your training how to read students — apply it when they are less than forthcoming as well.

4. Believe in Yourself

Disruptive students may challenge your authority and ask you point blank: “How do you become a yoga instructor when you know so little about the practice?” It’s times like these that demand your complete confidence in your training and experience.

Draw on your own truth and the fact that you mastered the training. Bring a wealth of experience to the class. Do not focus on the challenge; instead turn your attention to those students who appreciate your style and methods of teaching, who respect the training you bring and who want to follow your lead.

5. Bring a Sense of Humor

Bring a healthy sense of humor to class along with your mat. While meditation and yoga practice is serious, it’s best served lightly and with the understanding that sometimes laughter is the best prescription for a difficult situation.

After all, it was Einstein who told us: “Before God we are all equally wise — and equally foolish.” A healthy sense of humor can neutralize a negative outburst or disruptive events. Be prepared to laugh at yourself and your sense of self-importance when students challenge your authority. Create a sacred space filled with joy when you react with light humor and decide to laugh instead of cry.

6. Maintain Order

Above all else, students expect you to maintain peace in the studio. You have a sacred duty to stop disruptive behavior immediately and return the class to its sense of emotional and physical safety. How do you become a yoga instructor who promises peace when you can’t maintain order?

You quickly address the problem. Whether you revert to humor or turn to your rules of conduct, you do it immediately. You must stop poor behavior right away if you are to earn the respect of your students and ensure their comfort with your leadership. Just as quickly as the class was interrupted, you can resume your instruction with blissful order.

7. Turn It Over

When studying human nature, you learned that you can’t be all things to all people. There will meet those students with whom you can’t build a connection — those students who, no matter how hard you try, will not be a good fit for your style of teaching.

When you asked how do you become a yoga instructor, you may not have expected to learn how not to become someone’s yoga teacher, but that day may very well come. There are those students who do better practicing yoga alone or who will thrive under another’s tutelage. You’ve sometimes got to let them go. While you may not want to give up on anyone, the fact is that you may have to — for the greater good.

8. So How Do You Become a Yoga Instructor?

By preparing yourself. BY grounding yourself. By relying on your training and the confidence you earned when practicing your art. By creating peace in your classes through self-awareness, humor, compassion and urgency.

A serene environment does not always occur naturally just because you are teaching one of the most peaceful practices on earth. Negative events will occur. Be prepared, practice patience and know that you are ready for any challenge because you are following your bliss.

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

5 Tips to Prepare for the Training of Your Life

Once you’ve developed a strong desire to move from the role of student to become the teacher, you may wonder: How do you become a yoga instructor with the tools you have now? You may feel that you are ready, but there are several steps to take before you immerse yourself in the process.

You’ll be competing with a slew of potential teachers as the yoga movement continues to grow, so step back a moment and follow these five tips before beginning your journey. Through the process, your own yoga practice will deepen, as will your understanding of yourself and how it all fits together.

1. Approach Experienced Teachers

Seek guidance from those who have gone before you. Ask the question: “How do you become a yoga instructor?” Your own teacher, other instructors at your studio and elders with blog posts and advice columns can provide you with a wealth of information. After all, they’ve been where you are and can share their experience about certified programs like the courses you’ll find at the Asheville Yoga Center. Your personal teacher can give you feedback about your own readiness and provide insight on how do you become a yoga instructor with the level of skills you currently possess.

2. Boost Your Own Practice

Yoga teacher certification programs expect students to already have a strong daily yoga practice in place. When asked how do you become a yoga instructor, many teachers answer rhetorically, “How did you become a yoga student?” You purposely chose the practice and have worked hard to become stronger and more focused with your daily program. You must bring the same resolve you had when first you were introduced to the physical, emotional and spiritual demands of yoga. Prepare to go even further once you start the work to become a teacher.

3. Prepare by Reading

Just as you prepare physically by hitting the mat more often and more intensely, so you can prepare your mind by immersing yourself in the yoga classics, many of which you’ll be required to read during your training in a certified program. By absorbing many of the texts before you even start, you’ll come to class with a fresh perspective, well-thought-out questions and intelligent additions to the daily discussions.

4. Take the Plunge

To become a successful yoga instructor, you must make a commitment to stick with your training over the long haul. Yoga teacher training isn’t something that can be accomplished over a weekend workshop, but requires a deep level of commitment and a considerable chunk of time and money. Once you make the commitment, set a pace that you’re comfortable with because training should never cease. The teachers who keep learning are those that attract a devoted following of students who share the same commitment.

5. Check Out the Program

Now that you’ve steeled yourself for the journey, upped your daily practice and taken the leap to commit to growth, you are ready to start researching the various schools that train yoga teachers. How do you become a yoga teacher now? It becomes a practical question that demands clear and honest answers. Your gut will guide you through the research as you learn about the facilities, the teachers and their backgrounds, the costs involved and the focus of the courses. Look for the kind of challenge that resonates with your needs and enjoy the journey.

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide