Finding your inner voice
Let’s face it, “there is nothing new under the sun”, so we are unlikely to be completely unique and different in our yoga teaching style, and nor do we need to be. What we do need to be is authentically ourselves and not try to live up to perceived ideals of what a yoga teacher should be. But how exactly do you do that?
My first recommendation for newer teachers is to develop a yoga teaching style inspired by what you like about your favourite teachers. Really pay attention to what it is you like about them and try to imitate that. In the end everything we teach will likely be a winning combination of all of our best teachers. Pick up clear and precise cuing from other good teachers.
Another way of finding your own words is simply to instruct yourself out loud, whilst doing self- practice. Try to say simply and directly what you are doing physically and then try to refine your language even more. Sometimes this takes a little contemplation.
Pay a lot of attention when doing self-practice. Notice what small adjustments in your own body make a difference, especially when you are getting into a more challenging pose. Turn these small movements or tips into cues. Your own practice can go a long way towards informing your teaching style.
Metaphors and similes can be useful, but only when they make sense to you and you feel comfortable using them. For example a couple of phrases I like to use are, “allowing your head to hang heavy, like a ripe fruit” or “turning all of your attention inwards, just like a tortoise drawing back into it’s shell”.
Having a sense of humour whilst teaching goes a long way to getting the students to relax and enjoy the class. This doesn’t involve telling jokes or being too laid back but just occasionally saying something that puts a smile on your students’ faces. Let it come really naturally -it will happen when you are relaxed and at ease whilst teaching.
Smiling occasionally also can light up the class, so don’t be afraid to make eye contact with a student and to smile.
Try to avoid slipping into the “yoga teacher voice” trap. Sometimes yoga teachers adopt sing-songy or hypnotic voices, which sound artificial and do not allow their personalities to shine through. Use your normal voice, but speak a little slower and a little louder.
Above all relax, be yourself, and express your own enthusiasm for the practice. If you are fully present and enjoying the experience, there’s far more chance your students will too.
Vidya Jacqueline Heisel
Director of Frog Lotus Yoga International, Yoga Teacher Trainings and Suryalila Retreat Centre.
For information about Yoga Teacher Training courses led by Vidya, see here.