What, yoga teachers get nervous? You mean they aren’t always tranquil, floaty gurus? Of course they do! I have never met a yoga teacher who doesn't occasionally get nervous teaching. When you care so deeply about your profession, and care so deeply about the lives that you touch in your classes, it is totally normal to occasionally have some performance anxiety. And we all have different triggers that can set this teaching anxiety off. I have taught classes for over 100 people, outside, inside, both private lessons and at small studios… and surprisingly the smaller classes are the ones that give me a bit more anxiety. After teaching over the past few years, I have a few things that help me get over these nerves, so that I can teach from a place of clarity and confidence.
1. Keep It Simple
If you know you are going to be teaching at a new studio, or maybe taking on a new class, this is not the time to try out a brand new transition, poses you don't usually teach or a new playlist. When you know you may already be feeling anxious, go with a flow that you know well and that you feel in your body. Hopefully, even one that you have practiced a few times yourself. Even if the class seems simple to you as a teacher, it is most likely a great fit for your students.
2. Breathe With Them
In the beginning of class, as your students get settled in their comfortable easy seats, don't walk around the room, or fuss with props and lights. Instead, sit down with them! Take this time to ground yourself. Dive into the energy of the room, and take those beginning breaths with them. Not only will this connect you to the group, which in itself is comforting, but it will slow your own breathing so that you can calm yourself down. Adding in additional breath cues, such as exhales in down dog or child’s pose will also give you another place to breath with them and let go of your fears, so take advantage of those throughout the class.
3. Ask for Help
No, don’t ask for help from the students, but ask for help from a higher power. Whether you check in with your guardian angels or with the Divine, take a moment or two to ask that they help you lead this class. Ask to simply be a channel for the Divine, and let the words and the poses flow through you. Some people call it The Universe, others may call it God… connect with something bigger than yourself. When you let Spirit take the wheel, everything becomes easier.
4. Remember, They Don't Have to Like You
This can be a tricky one, because the ego loves to rear its ugly head when we feel anxious, but your students have come to their mats for a safe, calming yoga practice — not to look for their new best friend. As long as you teach a balanced flow of poses that keeps their bodies safe, you are doing your job! You may have one or two people in the class who might not like you. That’s fine! And it is most likely more of a reflection of them, not you! Try not to be hung up on making yourself their new favorite teacher, and instead on simply teaching a balanced class that is safe for all bodies.
Some classes will be more challenging than others. As you teach more, you will most likely become less and less nervous. But even as an experienced teacher, you may still get those butterflies when you are teaching in a new place, or to a new group. By using some of these tips, you will be able to bring a sense of calm to yourself first, and then to your students around you.