I’ve been feeling quiet and introspective in the wake of the untimely and shocking death of Maty Ezraty. I’m still very much in the throes of processing this loss. As if grief wasn’t complicated enough, I never had a personal relationship with Maty. In fact, I only practiced with her once.
I think one of the biggest challenges of teaching yoga is the tendency to make assumptions. The truth is: It’s hard to read a room without reading into it. It’s hard not to label what we see and feel. It’s hard to hold space without getting in the way. It’s ALL hard. Teaching is HARD.
The Practice of Authenticity
Ironically, one of the biggest challenges of becoming a yoga teacher is the very process we as teachers facilitate for our students: the practice of being authentic. Teaching will leave you feeling so vulnerable in revealing and unexpected ways. Beyond the wave of insecurities that will crash over you as you stand at the front of a room full of strangers, or the feelings of inadequacy that arise when you strive to teach well, is the very real obstacle you never knew you had to face: yourself. Your work is to unblock the channel through which the teaching flows by eliminating the patterns, blindspots, and beliefs that prevent you from embodying who you are. To be a good teacher, you need to know your subject; to be an excellent teacher, you need to know yourself.
The Art of The Edit
There is no short-cut to becoming a good teacher. It takes time and experience. The craft of teaching demands practice—as Patanjali suggests—for a long period of time, without break, and in earnest. I know what you’re thinking: “But Chrissy, what am I supposed to do while I wait for experience? I have to teach my next class in an hour!” I totally get it, navigating the awkwardness of inexperience is hard. I remember walking into the classroom those first few years feeling like a total fraud and how tempting it was to cover up my insecurities with over-instruction, fancy sequencing, or superficial spirituality. I learned quickly that this will only pull you off course and make this inherently long road even longer. Here’s my advice: Rather than trying to make up for what you feel you lack, focus on editing out what stands in your way.
How To Be An Effective Sub
One of the most difficult aspects of being a teacher is teaching for someone else. While subbing is a necessity of this profession, one that offers an amazing opportunity to refine our craft, it’s not always easy or obvious. It can be challenging to navigate a space we did not personally cultivate, and it can be intimidating to face the visible disappointment or even outright resentment wafting from the students. Our mere presence puts us at a clear disadvantage: we are not their teacher!
Growing Your Classes
When it comes to growing your classes, I believe that quality is more important than quantity. In my opinion, success lies in being the best teacher you can be. Building community has always been more important to me than building a following. That said, teaching is also my profession—it’s how I put food on the table.
The Art of Sequencing
Sequencing a yoga class is a science and an art. It takes not only a clear understanding of asana, but an ability to translate that understanding in a way that’s accessible and relevant. An intelligent sequence empowers a practitioner to be their own teacher by supporting independent exploration. Smart sequencing creates a clear, sound framework in which students can unpack a concept and look it from multiple perspectives. This kind of learning fosters a dynamic relationship with the practice and reminds us that there’s always something more to see.
Live Your Questions
Every year I spend five days at Heathen Hill in upstate New York to study with one of my teachers, Rodney Yee. It’s a very special week, not just because I get to enjoy time with my friends (the same group returns every year), or because I love the magic that is Heathen Hill, but because I get to be a student. My role as a teacher is to give, and this precious time with Rodney helps me refill my well.