10 Lessons Learnts During My First Year as a Yoga Teacher

10 Lessons Learnt During My First Year as a Yoga Teacher

Tips and Insights for Success - By Chantelle Magrath

Reading time: 4 minutes

December 10th 2022 - nervously waiting to complete my final assessment - teaching an hour long yoga class to 8 people - some of my amazing fellow YTTs, some of my family members and two former students that had come along to support us. I was the last one to teach and the anxiety was creeping in. Everyone else’s classes had been amazing; I wanted mind to be amazing too. My warrior 3 lesson plan* had been meticulously prepared with a little note at the top: “you’ve got this!”

Hearing that I’d passed was such a relief and the feedback from my teacher was invaluable. The celebration / graduation the following day with the rest of the group was a wonderful day to mark the end of our year long journey. And so it began. I was now a qualified yoga teacher.

Everyone said that completing your YTT was just the beginning and that is definitely true. There is so much to learn. I’m still finding my feet and figuring out which path I will follow. For those embarking on or soon to finish their YTT, here are some my lessons that I’ve learnt along the way.

1. Teach, teach and teach some more

Once you’ve finished your YTT it’s tempting to just stop and come back to teaching “when the rime is right” Even if you don’t teach your own classes or have a studio slot, keep up a regular teaching schedule. Even if it’s teaching friends and family a short class on a regular basis that will help you to continue to work on your lesson planning, your verbal cues and the dreaded mirroring! Teaching is a skill and if you don’t continue to use and perfect it, you’ll get rusty very quickly and it will be harder to get back into the flow.

2. Don’t forget your own practice

Running through your class plan is not self practice! Make sure that you continue to get onto your mat and carve out time that’s just for you. Go to classes and events regularly - not only will it inspire you but it will help you to continue to develop your practice and make you a better teacher for your students.

3. Continue to learn (but don’t rush to take endless training courses)

Now I have a confession - I’ve completed further training in Yoga Nidra, Yin and Gong Sound Healing! But hear me out…I wasn't actually going to complete these trainings this year but the offerings were too good to turn down. Plus I was lucky that time and finances allowed me to do them.

Notwithstanding how things have worked out for me, I still stand by the advice that you should not rush into lots of training. Be discerning abut any course that you decide to do - do you really want to do it? Do you need to do it right now? How is the course going to benefit you in the long run?

4. You will doubt yourself and imposter syndrome will creep in

I’ve had to cancel classes and events and I’ve had low numbers in classes. It makes you doubt yourself and wonder whether this is the right path. However for every low there have been incredible highs - the classes that are full, the loyal students that stick with you, the positive feedback. You need to hold onto those moments; they’ll get you through the tough times. If you haven’t already - write down a little note about why you wanted to become a teacher.

If you can get some of your fellow YTTs to write a little note for you (we did this in one of our sessions and I return to the notes often!) They will be the perfect boost when your confidence takes a hit. Remember that you have your own unique voice and have something beautiful to offer. You don’t need to try and copy others - figure out what you want to offer, be yourself, keep going and you’ll get there. Everyone has to start somewhere!

5. Don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities

Not every opportunity is the right one for you - very early on I turned down a teaching slot as I just knew that it wasn’t the right time and not the style of yoga that I wanted to teach. I think of it often - not because I regret it but because I’m glad that I had the confidence to say no. Remember that what is for you will not pass you by. It may be tempting to take every teaching post that you’re offered but does it align with how you want to teach or where you want to be in the future?

6. You will make mistakes

You’ll mess up your mirroring, you’ll forget to teach one side in a sequence, you’ll forget your lesson plan. Be gentle with yourself. We all make mistakes - you will learn from them and grow as a teacher. Acknowledge if you’ve gone wrong make a joke out of it if you want to - I’m always saying whoops let me try that again! Get yourself back on track and carry on. You don’t fail - you have your first attempt in learning and each time you teach, you’ll just keep getting better and better.

7. Find your yoga community

I’ve met so many amazing people in real life and online that have been so supportive and so helpful in ways that they may not even realise. From inspiration to information to support, there are people out there that really can help you on your journey. Don’t feel like you are alone - there’s a gorgeous community just waiting to welcome you into the fold.

8. Keep things simple

Don’t feel like each lesson has to be different. Don’t think that each flow has to be super complicated. Themes can be a great way to structure your classes and give you a focus. Repeating a lesson will be a great help to you and your students - they’ll become familiar with a sequence and be able to notice their progression. Simplicity really is your friend!

9. Don't be afraid to try new things

If you always stay on your mat and demo, maybe try teaching without a mat and force yourself to move around the room and rely on your verbal cues. If you never teach with props - maybe introduce some into your self practice and then try a prop based class with your students. The more curious you are and the more you experiment, the more you can offer. When teaching students about the yamas and focusing on aparigraha, I spent part of the class teaching a chair based flow. It was something that I’d been practicing more often and it was lovely to share this with my students.

10. Enjoy it

Even in the toughest moments, the joy that teaching has brought me cannot be explained. When my mood is low, I activate my teacher alter ego and get going (think Beyonce having her Sasha Fierce alter ego). By the end of the class when students are saying how relaxed they feel, I’m thinking the same thing to myself. Make a note of your wins and celebrate them!

Remember the note that I wrote to myself for the assessment and say it to yourself every once in a while....you’ve got this!

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Chantelle Magrath

The Wellness Place currently operates in Chelmsford, Essex offering yoga classes and events. Follow @thewellnessplace.cm for more information and updates as to future offerings.