A helping hand
Develop your teaching with a yoga mentor. By Melissa Albarran for Yoga Alliance Professionals
A recent survey conducted by Yoga Alliance Professionals found that 88% of yoga teachers were interested in receiving mentoring. These results follow a generally positive trend toward mentorship in the workplace, exemplified by the 71% of Fortune 500 companies that now offer mentoring programmes. And, with advocates such as Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey, reportedly mentored by Steve Jobs and Maya Angelou respectively, a good mentor certainly seems to be the key to success.
Indeed, reports suggest that 87% of mentees feel empowered and more confident on account of their mentoring relationships, whereas 84% said mentors had helped them to avoid costly mistakes. Given these results, it’s easy to see why mentoring among yoga teachers is gaining popularity. It’s also why Yoga Alliance Professionals is encouraging mature yoga teachers to offer mentoring to their less experienced peers.
What is a yoga mentor, and more importantly, what makes a good mentor?
For yoga teachers, a mentor is someone you can turn to for advice and guidance when faced with a professional challenge or difficulty. While a yoga teacher training course can prepare you to teach a sequence and hold your own in front of a room full of students, when the training is done, it’s done. The inevitable obstacles that come with teaching yoga…difficult students, low pay, studio conditions, boundary setting, burnout…these are left for the teacher to deal with alone.
This is where a mentor comes in.
Depending on the relationship between student and teacher, a mentor may provide coaching, motivation, inspiration, emotional support, professional advice and friendship. A mentor can help by providing feedback on your teaching development, connect you with others in the yoga industry, set goals for your teaching and identify resources that will aid your professional growth.
In this way, mentorship supports newly qualified yoga teachers to navigate teaching yoga as a career. So, what should you look for in a yoga mentor?
First things first, look into the teaching and training experience of your prospective mentor.
How long have they been teaching? What qualifications do they have and are these qualifications relevant to what you need? Which studios have they taught in? Do they run training programmes?
A good yoga mentor should be able to apply their skills, personal experience and industry knowledge to support you in your teaching. This comes with at least a few years working in the field, and a clear commitment to their professional development.
Do you get on with your mentor on and off the mat? A good working relationship is crucial for effective mentoring. You should be able to be open and honest with your mentor, and in turn, your mentor must feel comfortable sharing feedback or constructive criticism about your teaching. Before you approach a more experienced teacher about mentoring, check out their social media, attend their yoga classes, speak to them after classes to make sure you are a good match.
Pip Taverner, a yoga mentor explains why it’s important you look up to your mentor: “A key question I would ask myself when seeking support is whether the mentor is inspirational and aspirational. What has their journey been and have they walked the path I wish to walk, and do they show success in the areas of business that I wish to explore?” Keeping this in mind will help you choose the right role model for your professional development.
According to Yoga Alliance Professionals’ survey, 20% of yoga teachers are interested in business mentoring. Try as they might, a senior yoga teacher specialising in Yoga Nidra will not offer the same quality support and guidance as a business mentor.
If you are looking to specialise in a particular area, it is best to find a mentor with expertise in that field. Yes, it may well mean another bout of Google searches and teacher research, but then again, nothing worth having comes easy. And trust me, the right (and relevant) expertise, contacts and personal experience are well worth it.
An effective yoga mentor is someone whose teaching you admire and respect, someone you can learn from and who inspires you to better yourself.