by Kat Fowler
In just the last few years alone the amount of people practicing yoga has skyrocketed! The boom of new yoga students has also paved the way for almost as many new teacher training programs. Some students do teacher trainings just to deepen their own knowledge of the practice, but the majority enroll to become teachers themselves. After completing your first 200-hour training, there are so many different paths to take that simply getting started can feel a little overwhelming. After getting to work with and mentor many new teachers from all different types of trainings and backgrounds, I have come up with a few bits of advice to help new yoga teachers get grounded and feel comfortable in the new role they have taken on!
1. Gaining Teaching Experience
Many new teachers try to pile on the trainings as soon as they can. Take the precious time you have after your first training to absorb all of the information given to you (it's a lot!) so you can fully apply it to your teaching. If you do not practically apply what you've learned, you’ll lose it. Secondly, teach as much as you can! Your teaching practice is exactly like your yoga practice. As Sri K Pattabhi Jois said, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory.” Consistency is key. A minimum of around 1-3 years of consistently teaching is a good indicator that you’ve had some time to apply what you’ve learned and really let it all sink in.
2. Take what you can get
This is something not everyone wants to hear. When you first start teaching, try to teach as much as physically possible, anytime and anywhere you can. You are new to this, and like tip #1, the best way to refine your skills is by actually practicing them! That means subbing last minute when the opportunity arises, adding on that weekly 6AM Friday class offered to you, teaching your friends or relatives in the park, or teaching a community class at your local studio. Do it! You will be so happy you did.
3. Be open to feedback
Most of the time spent in the beginning of your teaching practice will be spent discovering and solidifying your voice, your truth, and the intention of your practice. A big part of that growing process is graciously listening to feedback, and deciding whether or not it aligns with your intentions and mission as a teacher. Sometimes feedback won’t always be what we want to hear, but we can only grow when we leave space open for improvement. This can be hard on the ego, but there is nothing more refreshing than hearing someone else’s perspective. Ask for feedback from your bosses, your colleagues, family, or anyone you think would give you an honest and informed opinion of your teaching. From there, it is your choice to discern what to take to heart.
4. Find a mentor you trust
Find a teacher who truly inspires you and who you’ve been practicing with for years. It is crucial that this teacher comes from a place of experience and is someone you have a personal relationship with – not just someone you did a one week intensive with or follow on social media. Having guidance when you need it is everything. Find a teacher you resonate with, take their class frequently, and ask to speak to them about the possibility of forming that relationship together. As students, we usually feel that connection instantly when we have found our teacher(s). Similarly, your intuition will tell you which teaching mentor is a good fit for you. Fortunately, some studios offer mentorship programs with their teachers, which can make the process a little more organized and your time in training will be credited.
5. Be forever a student
The writer Ray Bradbury said, “Do what you love, and love what you do.” The best yoga teachers are those that are forever students themselves. It is so important to be constantly learning and immersing ourselves in our field of study and within our community through reading, meditations, workshops, consistent practice, etc. Try taking classes outside of your comfort zone. If you are a vigorous vinyasa yogi, take a few restorative classes; if you like advanced postures, take some basics classes. When we step outside what is comfortable for us as students, we broaden our knowledge and increase our ability to become better teachers. We can also learn so much simply from supporting and taking other teachers classes in our community.
6. Practice, practice, practice
We probably learn the most about the yoga practice and ourselves when we connect to ourselves through meditation. Developing a home practice is everything. When we have a deep connection with ourselves, we are able to connect more deeply with our students. One of my teachers, Sri Dharma Mittra, will always set aside ten minutes before he teaches each class in order to relax and meditate, so he can come from a peaceful sattvic state while working with his students. It’s helpful to set aside time to practice and to meditate before you teach so that your energy is grounded and your words are coming from a place of truth. Committing to a home yoga practice helps us dive deep into our practice and discover who we authentically are, at our highest and most true level.
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Kat Fowler is a New York City based yoga teacher with 1000+ hours of training, known for her light hearted and inspirational style of teaching that encourages personal expression, inner connection and courage through movement. Rooted in over fifteen years of rigorous physical training in dance, ballet, and multiple modalities of yoga, her classes are creative, athletic and challenging while remaining accessible to students of all levels. Kat's teaching methodology is authentically grounded in the true knowledge of the yoga practice that comes from a lifetime of personal experience. Previously the lead yoga director of two yoga studios, Kat now leads teacher trainings and workshops in her hometown, NYC and around the US. Kat is on the international teaching faculty of The Travel Yogi company, on the global online faculty of Yogin' it, and the lead yoga expert on Qinetic’s interactive team of fitness coaches. Kat has trained and mentored numerous teachers at Pure Yoga and Yoga Vida in NYC, and co-teaches Yoga Vida’s 300 hour advanced teacher training. Kat personally assists her mentor and teacher, Tiffany Cruikshank’s training programs all over the globe. Kat is a signed fitness model to Wilhelmina Models in New York and has been featured in various video and print ads for Shape Magazine, Lululemon, Runners World, Amazon, and Athleta, as well as featured on the cover of Om Yoga Magazine and Natural Awakenings Magazine. For Kat’s schedule in NYC, visit: www.katfowleryoga.com