One Year Later - Lessons from a Yoga Instructor

Hello Beautiful Souls,

It's hard to believe, but today marks one year since I graduated from 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training! This past year has been quite the whirlwind with so many changes, new insights, and tons of growth. For those new to my journey, I decided to do a 200-hour YTT during the spring of 2016 and began looking for the program I thought would be a good fit. I was super fortunate to have my best friend decide to join me for the training, and she not only helped give me the confidence to make good on my decision but was by my side throughout the crazy, challenging, and life-changing experience. Having gotten so many recommendations and loving their classes, we decided to go with the program offered by South Boston Yoga and started the training that fall. David and Todd were amazing in giving us a well-rounded training, pushing us to explore and grow while remaining supportive and understanding. We also had a cohort of trainees who are amazing, diverse, and inspirational individuals. Overall, it was an experience that's hard to put down into words, and I'm so happy I decided to take the leap into this new life.

In celebration of the first anniversary post-training, I thought it was be good to spend a little bit of time to reflect on this past year and share with you all. 

Our graduating class after our beautiful photo shoot at Castle Island in Boston

So, one year later..what have I learned?:

- Jump into teaching! Once I graduated from YTT, I had that moment where I thought, "Oh crap, I'm actually a teacher now. I'm not ready to teach!" The funny thing about teaching yoga after a 200-hour training is that no one really feels ready, at least no one I've talked to. You just have to jump into it, trust your abilities, and learn from experience. I was so nervous to teach, especially once I started to get offers from universities and retail stores, and the truth is, I'm still nervous about teaching. I think this is totally normal and probably a good thing. Being nervous tells you that you actually care about what you're putting out there and the people in the room. Just don't allow that fear to stop you from teaching and learning.

- Jump into it but remain open to learning. While you should absolutely start teaching, you should also keep yourself open to learning as much as possible from teaching, especially early on. The reality is that 200 hours really isn't that much time. You certainly haven't mastered the art of teaching yoga, which again, is fine. No one is amazing at anything after 200 hours. As you go out and begin to teach, you'll come across situations you hadn't thought about. How do I adjust someone during Sun Salutations? What should I do when someone comes in with an injury, pregnant, or in recovery from trauma? How do I put this or that pose into a sequence? Should I talk during savasana or just keep quiet? Take these moments to grow and learn in these first few months. These moments are golden, because they are firsthand chances to learn, grow, and find your style as a teacher. If you can take these moments as ones of growth and opportunity instead of ones to fear and run from, you'll find yourself growing substantially.

Teaching my first public class at graduation

- Network like crazy. Once you've graduated, advertise yourself. Let everyone know that you're now a yoga teacher and are looking for opportunities. No one is going to know unless you tell them, and you'll likely find people who are super excited about having you teach a class for them. Most of the opportunities I got were from telling people about being a yoga instructor, sometimes this happened just in casual conversation, or asking if they wanted me to teach a class for them or at an event. Social media makes this super easy now. You can advertise on Facebook or Instagram that you've graduated or are teaching an upcoming class. It's up to you about how much time you want to put in, but I think a website could be helpful with this; you're essentially starting your own business. One of my first teaching opportunities asked me for a website to help advertise the event, and luckily I had just finished it.

- Don't be afraid to take unpaid opportunities or fail. Things are likely going to be difficult in the beginning. You're trying to start up a new career, and you've got to give yourself time to develop and people time to realize your potential. The early stages are the hustle time. I know working for free after you just paid a couple grand to get the education doesn't sound appealing. I was not stoked about this, at all. But, here's the thing, take some of these to get your name out there and keep learning. Try to think about the big picture of what those free classes will lead to. I took a few opportunities that were unpaid and do not regret it. These taught me how to teach in unique situations (like in a retail store or a hallway), and I got some valuable feedback from students along the way. And, when I did get jobs that paid, it was just that much sweeter. Know your worth and when to ask for it, but be open to what unpaid opportunities can provide you.
Along these lines, don't be afraid to fail. These, again, are going to be golden moments of invaluable learning. I tried to get a yoga group started for employees at one of my social work side hustles. I emailed back and forth with the supervisor, set up a space, got supplies, and advertised like crazy. Then, when the first class came around, no one showed up. Second class, no one...third, again no one. Eventually, I cut the loses and let the project drop. It was disappointing and confusing, but it taught me lessons in how to communicate with a partner of an event, effective advertising, and when to cut your losses and move on. It's funny, too, because I offered a chair yoga class for the same employer and got a great turnout and feedback from the employees. Sometimes, it's just about the right timing, location, and type of yoga. These moments do not mean that you're a bad instructor or never going to succeed, it's just part of the process. Take what you can from these moments and keep moving.

- Continue to practice on your own and go to other's classes. This is one that I've struggled with throughout the year with having another full-time career. I also made the mistake of thinking I just needed to teach in order to improve my teaching. While this is true in one sense, there's also the aspect of growing through your own practice. Keep up a home practice, because it's really true that we teach from our own practice. If I'm struggling with something, maybe heart openers, I might challenge myself to work on it and teach it in a class. Conversely, if I'm loving a particular pose, I might teach it. But, your practice is where you'll find amazing material, and you'll be able to teach more authentically. Also, keep going to other's classes. We can get stuck in ruts when practicing by ourselves, so continuing to learn from others will help open you up to new ideas.

- Develop your voice as a teacher but know that this is just your authentic self. I think this might have been the thing that caused many of us the most anxiety. Who am I as a teacher!? What kind of yoga should I teach? The thing is, the type of yoga or the way you should teach is already in you, you've just got to find it. This might take a bit, but again, teaching and your own practice will help you awaken your voice. Focus on what you're passionate about and go from there. There are so many areas of yoga to choose from, so explore and have fun with it. Maybe you're someone who focuses on the asana practice, or maybe you bring in some chakra flows, or add some strong pranayama exercises. Know that yoga can be what you make of it, and your teaching is uniquely you. So many of us make the mistake of trying to be like another teacher we admire. Certainly get inspiration from teachers you admire, but allow yourself to find your own voice. You're going to come across as more genuine in your teaching rather than trying to mold yourself into something you think you should be.
Honestly, I'm still finding my voice as a teacher, so it's certainly a process. After finishing YTT, I knew that I was passionate about combining yoga and mental health, specifically in trauma and substance use. I also knew that I loved both powerful vinyasa classes and soft, quiet restorative. So, my first gig teaching was at my full-time job with a substance use residential program. I started teaching the women there a combination of vinyasa with powerful poses and stress-relieving restorative classes. I don't know if I'll always teach in this capacity or these types of classes (especially since I'm no longer working there and moved to another country), but it's all part of the journey, and I have my passion to guide me along the way.

- Stay in contact with your fellow trainees and community. After training finishes, you all might go your separate ways, moving around; some might start teaching, some might decide not to. Regardless of each person's path, I would suggest staying in contact with your yoga community, whoever you want that to be. Going through training together, you'll likely get close with at least a few of your fellow trainees. YTT puts you into some pretty challenging situations, physically, mentally, emotionally. My cohort inspired me with their amazing unique strengths, confidence, and compassion. They saw me in both confident, strong moments and ones where I completely broke down and cried for a solid two hours. They were there for the whole journey of my heart being cracked open, filled with compassion and love, then sealed back up as a new yoga teacher. They continue to motivate, inspire, and support me. As you move into this new phase of life, these people will help answer your questions, give you advice, and tell you to keep going when all you want to do is throw in the towel. Keep them in your life in whatever capacity you can, whether in person or through the interwebs from afar.

To my fellow yoga teachers out there, I'm sending you so much love and appreciation for all your support and love throughout this past year. You all have inspired, motivated, and taught me so much. I'm so honored to witness and be apart of your journey. What do you all feel like you've learned over the past year along this yoga journey? Any advice or reflections you can add to this list?

To any yogis considering a teacher training, I hope these reflections were helpful as you embark on your own teacher journey. If you have any questions that weren't covered here or want someone to talk the decision over with, I'm here for ya. I have been so fortunate to have some amazing people help me along this path, so it's the least I can do to pass that on.

With love and light - Namaste