Getting inspired - and staying that way - is one of the most challenging but exiting parts of being a teacher. You could be teaching the same class over and over again, 15 times a week for 15 years without ever getting bored, or you could teach a class, feel totally flat and be tired of it before you are even half way through. It is all about the inspiration behind it, the narratives that you weave in and the way in which you are developing as an individual as much as a teacher. There is a huge opportunity to share this wonderful practice and be a really strong guide to someone elses life through your work as a teacher but there will most certainly be times where you feel uninspired, lacking in energy or just in some way insufficient in your ability to hold the space for those in your classes.
As a teacher, it is so important to remember that you are also a student, because that learning and personal development is going to help you stay inspired, as well as allow you to grow and strengthen your teaching. There will often be times where your own practice falls to the bottom of the list, and at the end of a busy day, it might be the last thing you want to do so you have to make it work.
If that means shifting your teaching timetable to allow you to go to just one class a week that you love, then that is perfect. If you find it hard to self-practice, then getting to those classes are particularly important. But take away the pressure of feeling as though you have to do it everyday. Of course in an ideal world that would happen, but don’t let that be cause for additional anxiety.
You will get students who want to know how often you practice. This is your opportunity to be real with them. You don’t have to pretend you do more or less than you do, that openness will remind them that you are human too, and often that will help them to connect to you as their teacher. That being said, remember that yoga is not just your asana practice. You can ‘do yoga’ daily without stepping foot on the mat. However, I have found that it is not sustainable to be teaching a full timetable without allowing time for personal practice to keep me connected to myself and to the practice – so you will most likely find yourself on this constant road of adaption, whereby you have to keep checking in with yourself and making sure that you are filling up your cup as well as those of your students!
I find it helpful to make myself accountable so I try my best to schedule the classes I want to go to in advance, then put them in my diary just like I would with the classes that I teach. I then check in with a few friends that I often practice with and where I can, and when I feel like it, I arrange to meet them at the class. That way, there is someone that will notice if you don’t show up! That being said, life happens and so don’t be hard on yourself if you tried to get to 5 classes in the week and made it to just 1 or 2. Perhaps, the better way is to commit to less, even just 1 or 2 classes that week, and then anything else is a bonus. Then in between, you can spend time on your mat at home or just make time to breathe as you sit on the tube etc.
I also try to mix up the classes that I attend – which I appreciate is a luxury of being in a city like London – so that I have some teachers that I go to regularly in order to really develop my practice, and then others which are more for inspiration. It can be really refreshing to go to a class with a teacher that you’ve not met before, or not practiced with at least, and just move through the class in a different way. Firstly you might find something you love yourself, but you also will pick up on different ways in which teachers communicate with their students, create flows and hold space. So then it becomes an educational process, helping you to continue your own development without investing in another training!
I really enjoy listening to podcasts, reading books and finding new music. Often if I find a track that I like, I will get on my mat and just flow intuitively and see what happens – it’s a really natural way to come up with something a little different which you can then work with and sequence properly for your classes. Just remember that not all students will have the same movement and experience within their bodies – so your challenges and strengths wont match theirs so you need to be able to modify and also TEACH what you are doing not just demo.
Podcasts are also so easily consumable, particularly compared to books, and a great way to create conversation to share in your classes. I find that listening to podcasts is a great way to develop narrative for my classes, which can then flow nicely and naturally without preparation. They don’t have to be yoga specific either – anything philosophical or relevant that interests you is perfect. The key is that it really should draw you in so that you can express it authentically and with confidence. There is no point talking about the moon just because someone else did if you have no idea what you mean! So educate yourself about the things you find interesting and it will help you to keep inspired and keep inspiring. And remember to use your own words for the same reason. For example if you loved a quote, tell people you read it somewhere rather than just quote it as if it’s your own. You can give it the context and expand on your own interpretation if you wish – just remember its about inspiration rather than regurgitation. And I think that is a good point to leave it at, because the next on of these will be about developing your voice as a teacher.
Oh, but there is one last thing – you are so much more than a yoga teacher, so don’t let that be a label that defines you. Make conscious time to do something that isn’t teaching or practicing yoga. Get outdoors, or do something creative that feeds into that positive energy and gives you the space away from classes to inspire yourself in other ways. For me that could be drawing or seeing friends, going for a run or just walking through the park, reading a book that has NOTHING to do with yoga (although it’s amazing how you’ll find ways to see the yoga in everything!). Inspiration can be found in wonderful and unexpected ways, so just make sure you leave a little time to let that happen!