Teaching Yoga

Shy Yoga Teacher: How to Overcome Self-Doubt

Maybe you’ve recently started teaching yoga. Teacher training was great, you’ve studied the Sanskrit names of the poses, and it was easy to create yourself a beautiful yoga teacher profile on YogaTrail. Now, it’s time to teach! But teaching live classes to people that are looking to you for guidance and expertise can be intimidating. Here’s how to step out of yourself and overcome self-doubt, especially if you’re somewhat of a shy yoga teacher…

Breathe, You Got This!

Transitioning from the seat of the student to the seat of the teacher can be tricky for yogis. We are, by nature and by love, learners – we gobble up as much yoga knowledge as we can, but we often doubt that we “have what it takes” to pass what we’ve learned along to our students in a compelling way.

Sure, we can instruct them about how to physically move through a sun salutation – but will we be able to give them what they really need? That intangible goodness that drew us to the practice? And that is where self-doubt, shyness, and fear can creep in — somewhere between moving our students through a vinyasa, and moving their minds and spirits.

The truth is that all teachers, whether they’re fresh out of teacher training or they’ve been instructing for decades, have moments when they doubt themselves. It’s just human nature!

The teachers you greatly admire, whose words sound like poetry, and whose classes pass like the blink of an eye didn’t let self-doubt get the better of them. These teachers realize that the messages and the lessons are more important than their own trepidation — and so they power through. Scared or not, they keep showing up, keep honing their voice, until eventually it becomes effortless for them to instantly tap into their authenticity.

In an effort to help you get in touch with your own authenticity, here are a few tips to help you to move past your shyness and self-doubt, so that you can become the world-changing yoga teacher you are meant to be:

Start Teaching Right Away

Like Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said: Practice and all is coming. And that applies to your yoga teaching too! Start practicing teaching yoga — like in most things confidence comes with doing. You’ll probably experience some stage fright at the beginning, sweaty hands, a shaky voice, fear of forgetting the name of a pose, of not speaking loud enough, even fear of injuring a student… don’t let it stop you.

Get started teaching right away. If you don’t find a gig in a studio, be creative. Offer to teach your friends and relatives for practice, set up a space in a park, in your living room, and keep your group small to start with. You may not get paid for these classes, but you’ll get practice (and you’ll be able to add this your resume too). You’re like a new driver who just got their license, so get behind the wheel and hit the road.

You’ll quickly find that your nerves settle, your voice no longer shakes, you’ll find your teaching style, and you’ll truly start enjoying the time with your students. And if you sometimes confuse left from right, just laugh it off…

Stop Comparing Yourself

First and foremost, stop comparing yourself to every other yoga teacher out there – especially if it leaves you feeling inadequate. You are one-of-a-kind, so you are not supposed to teach like anyone else; you’re supposed to teach like you! Every time you find yourself comparing yourself in a negative way, realize that if these other teachers can find their unique yoga voice, so can you.

There are thousands and thousands of people who love and practice yoga – and they all need teachers. Plus, there are thousands of more people who need yoga who aren’t yet practicing, and they need teachers like you to be their doorway into to the practice.

Consider even taking a break from social media as this might help you focus on what you have to offer rather than comparing yourself with crafted snapshots of other people’s life. (Unless, it’s this post). If after checking Instagram or Facebook and seeing posts from teachers that would normally inspire you, you instead find yourself full of doubt, then it’s a sure sign that social media isn’t helping your self-confidence.

So take care of your mind and let go of doubt-inducing habits. Give it a try for a couple of days; it’s not as hard as it seems!

Find Your Own Voice

Part of your reflection on what kind of teacher you want to be will inevitably have you considering what you like in other teachers, what makes their classes great. That’s of course necessary, but beware of the dangers of going from admiration to emulation. To be a good teacher you don’t have to imitate someone else, no matter how much you like them and their classes.

Ask yourself: are you teaching in your voice or are you perhaps sounding a little too much like that teacher you really admire? Does it really feel like you?

Over time your teaching style will doubtless evolve but what your students will invariably be attracted to is your authenticity. So don’t be afraid to use your own words, make up your own metaphors, share a little of your own story; that is a sure way to build your identity and your reputation as a great yoga teacher. Like another wise man said: remember that you cannot fail at being yourself.

Your Students Like You

Sometimes we live so much in our heads that we forget some very fundamental things – one of them being that your students really like you. They’ve chosen your class for a reason, and they show up week after week because they get something positive from the time spent with you.

This is an especially good thing to keep in mind when it comes time to market your yoga workshops, trainings, and private lessons. If you find yourself shying away from sharing all the wonderful, fun, and beneficial yoga offerings you’ve got lined up, remember that your students like you, want to learn from and work with you, want to see you do well, and want to support you in any way they can.

Also, keep in mind also that people are often more wrapped up in what’s happening in themselves than outside, and this is especially true during yoga practice. Your students will probably be too focused on their own breathing or on what is happening in their own mind and body to focus on your (imaginary) imperfections.

They’ve come to you to learn, not to judge. Students attend your classes because you’re giving them something valuable. Treasure that thought, and use it to build your confidence: people are choosing to come to you!

Ask for Feedback

While this may be a little daunting at first, asking your students for feedback is a great way for you keep moving forward, finding out what your students love, and what needs more attention. Your students will very likely be delighted to give you feedback, and it will also show them you care.

Yogis are generally nice people, so most of the comments you’ll get will probably be positive, and that will do no end of good for your confidence. If you do get less than positive feedback, embrace it and be thankful for this opportunity to honestly re-evaluate certain points.

Remember that it takes a little ‘sampling around’ for students to find their ‘ideal’ teacher, so if some people don’t like your teaching style, that doesn’t make you a bad teacher. You’ll teach these students once, and perhaps never again — you yourself probably did go to some teacher’s classes only once, and that wasn’t (necessarily) a reflection on their ability as a teacher but rather a lack of affinity. That’s ok.

You can also ask your students to leave a review on your YogaTrail profile. That will help you greatly as you build up your business since positive feedback is the best of introductions. It will also give you something to go back to whenever doubt creeps in and you need a little ego boost. 😉

You Are Here to Serve

Why did you become a yoga teacher? You became a yoga teacher to transform lives. You became a yoga teacher to serve your students. So now, get out of your own way! When you let shyness or self-doubt stop you, you’re actually doing a disservice to your students.

When you neglect to tell them about a yoga immersion or workshop that you’re going to be teaching, you’re denying them a chance to grow and expand their practice. You are a conduit through which the teachings of yoga flow – so don’t block the pipeline. Keep the channel open.

And, when self-doubt and bashfulness arise, remember: you’re doing it for your students. It’s not about you, or your ego, it’s about changing lives through yoga. When self-doubt creeps in, remind yourself that as long as you’re teaching authentically, with knowledge and care you’re giving your students the best you have to offer.

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Cailen Ascher

Cailen Ascher is a Clarity Coach for women entrepreneurs who want 3 day workweeks, 6-figure years + success on their terms. Get her 3-day workweek guide on her website. Connect with Cailen on YogaTrail
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