Dear New Yoga teacher: I feel you.
You’ve just finished your yoga teacher training and are preparing to launch your career. And yet, when graduation finally comes, you find yourself drowning in a waterfall of what ifs as you grapple with the biggest fears of new yoga teachers everywhere 😬
What if I get too vulnerable in front of a bunch of strangers?
What if I mess up the whole sequence?
What if no one shows up?
The truth is that nobody has answers to these questions that will help you sleep at night. Facing fear is all part of the journey to becoming an amazing yoga teacher – no matter how trivial they might seem (we haven’t covered the fear of a wardrobe malfunction when you bend over in this guide, but lemme tell you – the struggle is real!)
The good news is that it’s totally normal to be afraid of failure. Besides reviewing your YTT manual (for the hundredth time) and actionable tips for new yoga teachers, it’s always helpful to be reminded that you’re not alone in your experience. In fact, some fears of new teachers are so common that even experienced teachers can relate. Because we’ve all been there at some point 🥰
Read on to learn about the 5 most common fears of new yoga teachers and how to overcome those fears so you can blossom into the incredible yoga teacher you’re destined to be 🌸
1. Fear of Public Speaking
Even the most confident individual is secretly working to steady their shaky voice in their first yoga class out of training. Learning to calm the fear of public speaking as a yoga teacher is a process that only time will heal. For some of us, this can be quite a big deal. If you’re a little shy or introverted, this fear alone can seem like an impossible obstacle between you and teaching a solid class. Even thinking of teaching in front of strangers (!) might make you feel like you’ve hit a dead end on a dark night. If the fear of speaking in front of a yoga class grows, it might take on the force of anxiety over the constant fear of making a fool of yourself in front of a crowd.
🌟 Let Yourself to Be Vulnerable
If you’re super freaked out of speaking in front of your students, you’re probably already feeling vulnerable! So how does allowing your audience to see your vulnerability help overcome this fear?
If you’re a yoga teacher, you already know something about the power of the mind. When we resist some form of our reality, it often reappears in sneaky ways until we figure out how to face it. Can you hardly breathe before beginning a class? Sweaty hands? Imagining escape? Try this to start:
“Welcome yogis! I’m really excited teach today. It’s one of my first classes here at (studio/location/etc), and I hear you’re an amazing, supportive community. I am literally sweating bullets up here, so let’s start with some deep grounding breaths.”
Disarm your audience by letting them know what’s going on, and give your students the opportunity to support you by subtly encouraging them to live up to their community’s good reputation. Seriously, I’ve tried this – people light up. People love hearing about themselves (we all need encouragement), so sharing your butterflies and making it relatable also gives you the chance to change the subject back to the students.
From that point on, focus on leveraging your teaching skills and sharing the knowledge you’ve started to build hours after your TTC. Standing in front of strangers might be scary the first few times, but teaching yoga doesn’t have to be hard.
In order to become a truly great yoga teacher, you need to live your yoga, even (and especially) in those tough moments. Practice ahimsa, self-love for your mind, and trust yourself. You’ve got this!
2. Umm….What’s Next? Messing Up the Sequence
Probably one of the biggest fears new yoga teachers face is messing up the perfectly planned sequence you spent hours designing. When you start teaching yoga, it’s normal to be scared of failing, getting stuck in a pose, and forgetting your flow. This is especially true if it’s a rather complicated vinyasa sequence. The more poses you teach, the greater the chance of mixing up the sequence, forgetting poses altogether, or the dreaded mistake of mixing up left and right. We often think this translates to an unprofessional mistake in our student’s eyes. But relax, because you’re not the first and you won’t be the last teacher who forgets a sequence! Take a deep breath and see how to prevent and improvise around this inevitable event.
🌟 Plan Ahead (And Learn To Improvise)
Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Plan ahead!! And that’s really a golden rule: You might notice seasoned teachers calmly walking through a class while guiding students through complex movements and breath sequences with total ease. You can’t tell if they’re improvising or teaching from memory, but they’re definitely not reading from a script. This skill might look easy, and that’s because it takes years to perfect, and even more time to make it look easy.
When you start teaching, create a class plan and try to practice the flows you’re teaching every day by incorporating them into your daily practice. With time and practice, this will help your mind and body integrate the sequence so if you happen to forget what comes next, your body will remind you. It’s just like when we learn dance choreography. Our body has a memory of certain movements. Once you practice them with consistency, every movement will flow with effortless ease.
On top of it, I will gently remind you that it’s ok to bring your notes to class so you have a guide whenever you feel lost. Nobody will judge you for that! The best teacher is always the one who’s still learning. Obviously, try not to overdo it, keep your notes by your side mainly for psychological support, but with time, try to practice and memorize your flows and you’ll see that it will all happen naturally.
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3. And Now, Handstaaaaaa…💥 (Falling Out of the Pose)
Tangled up with the fear of messing up the sequence, one of the most common fears we tend to feel when we teach yoga for the first time is the horror of falling out of a pose while demonstrating. Especially with more advanced asanas, the chance of falling out of the pose is just not really avoidable sometimes. And yes, the embarrassment that follows is also part of the game! The underlying source of discomfort might really be around expectations. How can you expect students to nail the pose if you can’t demonstrate them yourself? Your role as a teacher is to outline to your students what’s possible. You’re not the main show – the student is!
🌟 Remember That Your Mistakes Make You Human
If there’s one thing we all need to realize, sometimes mistakes just happen… And there’s nothing we can do about it! You might have set up the PERFECT yoga playlist for a prime time class, only to arrive and find that the audio equipment isn’t working on that day. You might forget the Sanskrit name of a yoga pose. And, you might fall over when demonstrating a balancing pose.
First and foremost, it’s usually a good idea to teach what you know. So practice up! If you’ve practiced what you’re teaching thoroughly, you’ll learn to embrace the common obstacles in the pose and use them as teaching points. From there, building self-confidence is all about practicing self-compassion. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t nail a shape! Don’t worry too much about it. When you find yourself in such circumstances, embrace the breath – and move on.
If it goes real bad, feel free to have a good laugh! After all, who said that yoga has to be deadly serious? Showing your vulnerability doesn’t make you a bad yoga teacher at all – just a genuine human being. And this way your students might as well feel more related to you, hence more connected.
4. Struggling to Get That First Teaching Job
A natural concern many new yoga teachers face is not being able to find a job after the first yoga teacher training. The yoga business is a rather competitive field with new teachers graduating left and right. But there’s also a huge demand for yoga! You can make money teaching yoga online, in workplaces, in private sessions, in schools – and that’s not even touching on workshops, blogs, or developing passive income. Here are some tricks that could potentially help you land a job that allows you to share your knowledge and expertise with the world.
🌟 Look for Work in Unexpected Places
When you’re on the lookout for a new yoga job opportunity, your inexperience might feel like an obstacle. But what I personally find beautiful about teaching yoga is that there’s always an opportunity as a volunteer somewhere in the world. Some teachers find volunteering gives them teaching experience they wouldn’t otherwise get – and today, you can volunteer anywhere in the world on work trade platforms! The internet is literally clogged with websites that connect volunteers and hosts. This might transform into an amazing life-changing experience that allows you to hone your teaching skills while enjoying the experience of living abroad.
Volunteering isn’t your only option though. You can absolutely get a studio teaching gig right out of training if you project confidence and a polished professional flair (resume, CV, courting rituals). A little experience of any kind will make it much easier to find new job opportunities. Make a list of all the studios in town. Then make sure you have a nice CV and an honest, motivating cover letter, where you explain your passion for yoga and your dream of starting this new career. And stay persistent!
5. Students Will Walk Out of Your Class
Some days, you’ll finish class with a giddy feeling. You nailed it! Other days, you’ll probably find yourself wondering if your students enjoyed the class. When I first started teaching, I was also devoured by the constant fear that students didn’t really like or get the message of my classes. If you try to get people to like your classes by changing your sequences and messaging, you might start to doubt your own abilities and find yourself becoming overly critical.
Ask yourself this: Are you seeking approval from your students to fill a gap in self-understanding?
There are some simple practices to help you find some peace of mind and ensure that everyone enjoys the fantastic benefits of this beautiful practice.
🌟 Ask for Feedback
Back to vulnerability! Showing your real, questioning self is a sign of great strength. If you start to doubt the effectiveness of your classes, ask your students for feedback. New teachers can especially benefit from real time feedback as the find their voice and develop specialty interests. Don’t like, attack your students right after savasana with “how did I do?” – let them complete their practice. Follow up your first few classes by handing out a feedback form that makes it easy for students to share their experience. Think check boxes, answers on a scale of 1-10, etc. Give a couple of lines for ‘other thoughts’, but keep it simple.
If you’re struggling with specific elements of teaching, don’t be scared of asking for help from a colleague or your YTT crew. The yoga community is usually full of people who are understanding and compassionate, and love to talk about, well, yoga! You’ll surely find a helping hand when in need. Asking for help, especially if you work in a studio, gives you the chance to connect with other teachers, learn from each other, discover shared and differing insights – and grow!!
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