10 Minute Podcast Excerpt – Teaching Yoga: Sometimes What Seems Like an Obstacle is Actually a Pathway

Sometimes an obstacle is actually a pathway

Sometimes what we think of as obstacles or challenges, what causes us to doubt ourselves as yoga teachers or doubt that we could even become a yoga teacher – are actually pathways, opportunities to provide something new, to specialize, to reach a particular group of students where they are at, or just to share our wonderful, unique selves with others.

Sometimes the thing we think we need to overcome to even become a yoga teacher, the thing we need to fix or hide or sort out before we begin teaching, is actually something to highlight and lean into.

I’ll share a few examples:

If you have been concerned about being a yoga teacher of a certain age – that might be older or younger, maybe that’s something to lean into.  Age brings experience and a certain wisdom, and some students will seek that out and really benefit from it.  Youth also brings some magic – I love working with younger teachers who are full of energy and curiosity and enthusiasm and are perhaps less conservative, more willing to challenge our ideas of what we are capable of.

If you have been concerned about being a new yoga teacher – that newness and beginner’s mind could be an asset. If you’ve just trained you are likely up on the latest in yoga, movement science, teaching methodology, and all the current conversations in yoga.  You could lean into your newness, bringing with you fresh ideas and a fresh voice.

If you don’t practice fancy poses, you are differently abled, you have injuries or areas where you are restricted in your movement, that’s something you could lean into. Rather than apologizing for not being able to do every iteration of a pose, you could really lean into accessibility, adapting each pose for each unique body.  Showing the world that yoga is for every body.

If English – or the primary language in the country you teach in – isn’t your first language, this can also be a benefit.  If you worry about your accent, well your accent might be what keeps students paying attention, it might be something they love about your classes.  And, you might teach bilingual classes, which teaches your students a new language, and allows ESL students to have more practice and exposure to English.

If you have practiced yoga in a bigger body and know how modern postural yoga often doesn’t give physical or cultural space to folks in bigger bodies, you might want to make that your specialty.

On the business management front, maybe you don’t have a regular schedule due to shift work or regular travel, you could lean into that and teach popup yoga, sub for other teachers, teach in short, intensive blocks, teach online, or teach more in the workshop style like with yoga labs or half-day or full-day yoga retreats.

For me, living with chronic pain and practicing in an aging body has led me to teach much more towards an accessible space. I have to admit that it used to be something I ignored and kind of bulldozed through for many years.  These days, it’s something I lean into, and it’s made my teaching more accessible, and it’s helped to empower me on the mat both in my teaching and in my own practice.  I no longer feel the obligation to demonstrate every pose or every version of a pose, I’ve developed the skills to teach with a lot less demonstrating, which allows me to have much more safety and longevity in my practice, and I kind of feel like it’s taken the performative aspect out of my teaching that I had grown really uncomfortable with.

What I’m saying is, what you see as a flaw could be just what people love about you, or what brings them to your classes, or what you could build your teaching practice on.

Now, having said all that, some of these specialty areas might require specialty training, or at least a good bit of research.

Having had an experience yourself isn’t enough to teach others, and I’m thinking specifically of specialties like prenatal and postnatal yoga.  Having practiced prenatal yoga isn’t enough to teach it – there are specialty trainings you’ll need to reach into that special population. Or, yoga for menopause or yoga for arthritis or yoga for frontline workers, doing some training or research will help you to support those populations.

When it comes to yoga for any kind of sports performance, or performing artists or any other special population – having had a depth of experience in that activity is really useful.

Having said that, not having had an experience doesn’t preclude you from teaching to a special population – for instance you might not yet be elderly, but wish to teach to older adults.

Right, well I’ve said a lot, and now I’d love to hear from you – what has this discussion sparked for you?  Have there been areas that you thought were obstacles but you can see now are pathways?  Have you had this experience in your own journey from yoga student to yoga teacher?  We’d love to hear your insights and wisdom.

Join ERYT-500 and Senior Yoga Educator Heather Agnew for more discussions about teaching yoga.

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