Learning to Teach; Teaching to Learn

Today I complete my 200 hour hatha yoga teacher training course. Over the last six months as I prepared to take the seat of the teacher I learned a great deal of lessons both on and off of my mat. Through it all one thought which kept running through my head as I listened to the course lectures, had discussions with the wonderful women I have walked this path beside and sat alone with my thoughts in between, is that you can’t be one without the other. The teacher needs the student, and the student needs the teacher. I would take this further to say that in order for the student to become a teacher they must first be, but also remain, a student. These two roles are cyclical as they play into and feed one another.

These are the thoughts I have been telling myself as I begin to say, “I’m a Yoga Teacher.” I share them with you in the hopes that it might resonate with you too. Whether you teach or not, traditionally or not, yoga or not. Take from it what you will and share your thoughts back. As I’m about to tell you, I certainly don’t know it all, nor do I have any notion that I do.

Keep growing. Successful teachers will continue to bloom by way of learning so that they can continue to offer their students more day after day. Don’t think that in order to step to the front of the classroom that you must first have all of the knowledge. You could spend your whole life preparing this way and never actually doing the thing. Never stop learning, from your teachers and from your students as you step into the space of the teacher. It is okay, even necessary, to be open to growth from whatever position you hold.

Stay humble. Don’t think that now that you carry the label of teacher that you must know everything and that if you don’t the people who have shown up to your class are going to think you are a fraud. Everything is a process and this is certainly no exception. In the case of yoga, you may have completed your 200 hours but you can’t possibly know everything in that much time or even in the weeks and months between while you were undergoing your study. For me, this was a 6 month program from January to June, and while I was only clocking time at teacher training a given number of hours per week I was constantly processing my thoughts, listening back to lessons, reading books and articles. Absorb it all and don’t stop absorbing just because you graduate and receive that piece of paper officially giving you this title.

Mess up. Laugh it off. Take it as a lesson. No one starts out perfectly and to be honest neither are your teachers. Go to a class of someone you admire and listen for it. If you can’t notice a mistake, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. With time doesn’t necessarily come perfection, but it comes with experience which will help you recover and hide it better. If you can, talk with them after class and ask if everything went exactly as they had planned. Chances are it didn’t and they had to improvise.

Wear it with pride. You are now a teacher. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 years of experience or this is your first class. You have something to offer those who sit or stand before you. You may choose to be honest about your newness in this position, just as seasoned teachers are about their amount of experience.

There is always more. Just as the universe is infinite and expanding, so too is yoga (or whatever field you’re teaching). Just as astronomers discover more planets and stars, there will always be a wealth of yogis and gurus creating new asana poses, combinations of sequences, and adding in variations.

Don’t be afraid of or put off by the wealth of other teachers. There is only one you and thus you have something unique to offer. Continue studying from the teachers you admire. Take their classes, attend their workshops, sign up for their retreats. Honour those who came before you. Embody their teachings. Don’t worry if you replicate them, sound like them, stand like them or sequence like them. You might be the only one in the room making this connection. And with enough time you will find what works best for you and you will sound only like yourself.

Talk to your contemporaries. You just graduated among a wonderful network of your peers. Don’t lose touch and most of all don’t make it a competition. Hold hands and walk this road together, just as you did through your training. Support them by taking their classes. Choose to make them your inspiration rather than someone you pit yourself against.

Just do it. Just like the first step in the Universal Principles of Alignment, open yourself to grace. You’ll never flourish if you don’t try. There are many more hours ahead to spend learning. Ask those you admire and have been learning from how many hours of training they have accumulated, to be where they are. Rip the bandaid off and teach whoever is willing. You might not have all the knowledge but you have something to teach.