Celebration was the theme for all of my classes last week. When it comes to celebrating things in life, the little celebrations are just as important as the big ones – birthdays, anniversaries, achieving a big goal, breaking a habit, developing a healthy habit, getting a job promotion, going further in a posture, losing weight, gaining muscle, tackling a meaty to-do list for the day, etc. I invited my students to think of something in their own life, either on or off their mat that they’d like to celebrate and dedicate their practice to. It could even be celebrating that they made time to show up on their mat for class. Sometimes the hardest part about yoga isn’t achieving the full expression of any given posture. It’s making the time to come to class. I reminded my students that they made it to class, encouraged them to celebrate that huge victory and enjoy the time on their mat.
I celebrated a pretty big victory myself recently. On Sunday, July 16th, I taught my 100th yoga class since I started teaching back in January of this year. With teaching 3-4 classes a week, it took me about six and a half months to get to this milestone in my teaching career. How did I do it? I started off teaching one type of format, 2-3 times a week at a couple of studios in the Seattle area. Then I extended my teaching repertoire by learning a new format to teach, doubling my weekly teaching schedule. Not to mention all of the countless classes I’ve subbed for my fellow teachers. Now I’m up to teaching six of my own classes a week. My 200th class will be here before I know it!
When I was in teacher training, I remember one of my teachers telling me it would take me about 100 classes of teaching before my newbie nerves would go away. She even went as far as telling me she wishes she could go back to all of her students who took her first 100 classes and have them take her class again. For some reason, 100 was her magic number. After 100, her confidence as a teacher soared. She no longer considered herself a new teacher. She didn’t worry about memorizing cues. She also felt more comfortable sprinkling in her own personality into all of her classes.
Now that I’ve taught my 100th class, I can see what my teacher was trying to tell me. I do feel more confident as a yoga teacher, much more than when I taught my first class back in January. These days, I look at my students and cue to what I’m seeing in class. If no one wants to go into the full expression of Standing Forward to Knee pose or get into Toe Stand, I won’t cue it. The newbie teacher in me would cue everything only because I was worried about forgetting part of the sequence and getting off on my timing for class.
Hands-on assists used to scare me when I first started teaching. Where and when do I touch my students during a posture? Does it feel okay? Am I applying enough pressure? Am I sweating on them? Nowadays, I’m feeling much more comfortable offering hands-on assists to students who don’t opt-out of them. I can even cue while doing multiple hands-on assists for multiple students. Talk about multitasking!
I no longer camp out on the teacher’s mat in front of class or stay in one spot in the back of the room. I’m comfortable teaching from any part of the room. I move around and watch my students from all different angles during class.
I’ve also been able to figure out how to better connect with my students. Now that I’m not worried about forgetting how to cue certain postures or mixing up my rights and lefts, I’m more comfortable learning my student’s names and using them before, during and after class. I’ve also opened up a lot more to my students in my personal shares after class.
Despite what my teacher said to me during teacher training, I still feel like a newbie teacher, even after teaching 100 yoga classes. I teach a set sequence several times a week and it still feels like a new class to me each time I teach it. It may be the same sequence, but I have new students, new vibes, a new playlist, sometimes I’m teaching in a different studio with different heat and humidity gauges and even on occasion new issues arise during class. No class is ever the same, even if I’m teaching the same set sequence back-to-back.
Confession time! It doesn’t matter how many classes I’ve taught in my yoga teaching career or on any given day or week. Every single time right before I go into to teach a class, I have to pee. All of my fellow teachers whom I share desk time with know it as my nervous pee. It doesn’t matter, nervous or not, I still always have to run to the ladies room before every single class I teach. Maybe that goes away after teaching my 200th class?
Newbie teacher feelings and nervous jitters aside, I had no idea how much teaching yoga would change my life. Gone are the days of stressing out in front of a computer screen, being tied to an email inbox, endless conference calls and working to increase someone else’s bottom line. Teaching yoga gives me a chance to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I’m able to connect with others in a special way, on a daily basis, something I’ve never experienced in any other job I’ve ever had. I certainly couldn’t do all of this without my students and each of my blog readers. If you’ve ever taken one of my classes, thank you for showing up and sharing your practice with me. For my blog readers, thank you for showing up and reading my posts. It’s because of all of you I’m able to fulfill this crazy yoga dream of mine. Here’s to the next 200 classes!