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Teacher Training is Over ... Now What? 4 Tips for Recent Yoga Teacher Training Graduates
Ending a yoga teacher training program is bittersweet. In trainings, you meet incredible individuals who are interested in the same material you are. Kindred spirits who are willing to talk to you about Trikonasana for two hours are not so familiar outside the yoga world. You study under great teachers who share their knowledge and passion for teaching yoga with you. Without a doubt, you learn a great deal about yourself in the process of deepening your knowledge of the art of yoga.
The tricky part is that after your program is finished, there are no more long days of intense yoga study. That wonderful, united group of teacher trainees has slowly started to scatter, and you aren’t quite sure where to begin with all of this newly gained information.
You are not alone. Thousands of yoga teacher trainings take place each year, with many schools offering multiple sessions per year in intensive styles and longer formats. There is no shortage of recent grads. However, I cannot state this enough: 200 hours of yoga teacher information is just a glimmer of what it is like to be a yoga teacher.
Since yoga teacher trainings are not unified, and the guidelines set forth by Yoga Alliance are quite flexible, 200-hour yoga teacher training programs can vary quite a bit in terms of the information presented. Within a particular training framework, a student will learn one perspective on yoga. If that same student was training at another studio, they might be introduced to a different perspective of the same information.
For instance, many were trained to tuck the tailbone, while others were told to lengthen the tailbone or lift the tailbone. Or maybe there’s no word on the tailbone.
We, yoga teachers, live in a fluid world. Information is constantly changing in the field of yoga and just because your teacher gave a cue one time in class, maybe for a specific reason (that has long been forgotten), the information or cues that we repeat can often be unqualified statements. But teacher training is over, and you don’t have the same access to your mentors and your peers to talk for hours on how to cue Ustrasana (Camel Pose) “correctly,” so what do you do?
Tip #1: Start Where You Are
In the words of T.K.V. Desikachar, “Start where you are.” We do have to start somewhere, given the information that we’ve learned, observed, and practiced. So, in your first few months of teaching, use that glimmer of the life of a yoga teacher you learned about in your training to gain confidence in the classroom. Standing in front of a single individual or a group of people and presenting information clearly and consistently is a challenge. Practice enough to grow your confidence.
Start with what I call “ambient” yoga classes. These classes are designed to help students let go of their day and feel good at the end of practice.
When your students become more interested in the study of yoga, that’s when you grow into yoga classes where students can study and apply the actions and philosophy that you present. This takes years of physical practice, life practice, and teaching to develop. In the meantime, take the information you have and start where you are. Practice teaching where you can, and become confident standing in a yoga teacher’s space.
Tip #2: Study, Study, Study
Study, study, study. Then take an hour break and study more. Study yoga books and online classes, but also make it a priority to find several established yoga teachers inside and outside your community to take classes from.
Having a local teacher gives you weekly contact and an opportunity to practice with them. Working with international teachers or traveling teachers gives you the chance to increase your exposure to a different style or a different perspective on practicing and teaching.
Over time, these teachers may change—or not. Be open to both experiences.
When it is feasible monetarily, make the time to study with them because they will help to elevate your practice and your teaching. They will inspire you to practice regularly because you will have something to work on from their classes or workshops. Their teachings will help you to look at your students differently and help you address your students’ needs rather than just taking them through a general yoga sequence.
Tip #3: Practice More than You Teach
I would be lying if I said that I have always practiced more than I have taught. But it is a good rule of thumb to go by. If you teach three classes a week and practice with a teacher and on your own once every other week, how does that impact your teaching? That is a huge question to examine for anyone teaching yoga.
The story I hear way too often is that a teacher is teaching a lot of classes, but is no longer attending class or is attending classes irregularly. How can we teach if we do not dedicate ourselves to our practice?
Great teaching opportunities can arise, and the number of classes we teach can get out of control. I regularly look at my class schedule to determine where I am of the most service to my students. Then I make shifts in my schedule, even if I end up releasing a class that I love to teach.
It is painful and bittersweet. But I have come to realize that when I let go of a class, there are other great teachers and perspectives that my former students can benefit from. Those students can always get in touch with me and practice with me at another time if they wish. That way, I can inspire myself and keep up with my studies.
The more in touch I am with my practice, the more my teaching will improve. Practice first; teach second.
Tip #4: Find a Job
Once you’ve graduated from your teacher training program, the next step for you as an aspiring teacher is to find a job. It is important to keep in mind that just because you graduate from a program, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be hired. If your school graduates a lot of teachers, the chances can decrease drastically. But that’s not always the case.
Some studios host auditions for their graduates, and that can be a great opportunity. If you aren’t local, don’t want to work at that studio or they don’t offer such an opportunity, then what do you do? When you practice regularly at a studio, that studio might have an opportunity for you to teach. Outside of your yoga studio, there are numerous yoga teaching opportunities at gyms, hospitals, wellness centers, schools, community centers, volunteer organizations, businesses, and more. Where there are people, there is a possibility of offering a class.
Get in touch with people you know, see who is interested, send out your resume, and see what comes to fruition. Lastly, the workshops you go to allow you to meet other yoga teachers and studio owners. Going to workshops is a way to network and create possible teaching opportunities and think tanks with your colleagues.
Graduating from a yoga teacher training program can be a wonderful highlight in your life and a doorway into a more in-depth study of yoga and yourself. It’s a process that must be continually fed, nourished, and restored. It can be overwhelming and scary when you first step into the space of a yoga teacher but stay humble.
There is so much yoga, and every single individual has his or her unique mark to make in the yoga world. The teaching and the studies cannot and do not end after a 200-hour yoga teaching certification. Continue to explore, teach, wonder, study, practice, be involved, inspire, and grow.
Change directions, go back to old teachers, search for new ones, teach new material, and try new styles of yoga. Be consistent in what resonates with you and cherish the gift and privilege of presenting your perspective of yoga to the students in front of you each time you teach.
Also from Allison Schleck and YogaUOnline, more yoga practice tips - Deepen Your Backbending: Three Ways to Use a Strap in Ustrasana.
Study with Shawnee Thornton Hardy and YogaUOnline - Yoga for Kids with Special Needs: Focus on Autism and ADHD.
Allison Schleck, E-RYT 500, RPYT is a vinyasa based yoga teacher, fascinated by the intricate relationship between the mind and body. She offers a range of alignment-focused classes touching on anatomy, philosophy, and creative propping with a mindful approach. In addition to teaching group classes and managing the Yoga Culture studio in Danbury, CT, she also teaches at Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester, NY empowering mother's to be with prenatal yoga classes and childbirth education. You can find her @allisonschleck on Instagram and www.allisonrayjeraci.com.