We are tribal by nature. We like to belong. To belong we need to connect. Be sure to connect with each student personally, let them know you appreciate them being there, get to know them as a person, their interests, what they are seeking from yoga, and their goals in life. Accept them for who they are without giving advice. Use email and social media to connect, not just to advertise.
2. Treat your students as adults and teach that way
Most yoga teacher training programs do not teach a lot about “how to teach” based on sound educational principles. Most teachers use the methods they saw modelled to them and most times it’s the way children are taught (pedagogy) and not the way adults need to be taught (andragogy). Adults like to be respected as learners, treated as equals, asked questions rather than given answers, and to be collaborators in, rather than objects of, the learning process. If you missed out on this in your teacher training look around for some further education on different approaches to educational practice when teaching adults. (This short YouTube video is an easy place to start). In all our Teacher Training programs at Phoenix Rising we include a module on the Theory and Practice of Education applied to the art of teaching yoga to adults. We think the distinction is important.
3. Be Real
Many teachers take on a “persona” when teaching yoga of what they think makes a yoga teacher. It has usually been passed on from their teacher and they take on that person’s style, tone of voice, language, and even dress. Be yourself, let the real you come through, and above all, be human. There will be plenty of time for being a spirit when you no longer inhabit a body on this earth. See my colleague Jen Munyer’s recent blog post on this one for more detail.
4. Give added value
You don’t have to be a martyr but give a little more where you can. If you have a new student, offer a free half hour one on one or small group class with a few others to go over some of the basics and ways you do things. Look for ways to add little extras that don’t cost that much – boxes of tissues, water, clean bathrooms, small gifts from time to time, verbal appreciation, and above give each and every person a little of your complete attention from time to time.
5. Leave the soap box at home
You might think it’s important to be a vegetarian or to support the “save the whales” campaign but your yoga room should not be a forum for you to impose your personal, political, or religious beliefs. By all means don’t hide who you are and what your preferences are in friendly conversation (that’s part of being real) but don’t push your beliefs. You have power as a teacher and will be much more respected for being who you are and letting others be who they are. Focus on what you do as a yoga teacher and be professional.