YTT: Yoga Teacher Talk

Welcome to Chime's YTT series (that's Yoga Teacher Talk, not Yoga Teacher Training!), where yoga teachers share their experiences as they continue to grow personally and professionally. Although teaching yoga is rewarding, it is also very challenging. It is my hope that the YTT series will give voice to the various facets of the teaching experience.

This month an inspiring group of teachers talk about the ups and downs of transitioning from teacher training to teaching. They get honest about everything from a fear of public speaking to self-doubt and the frustration and anxieties that come with building a following.

 

KRISTI BALDWIN
I had a very hard time feeling comfortable speaking in front of a class. In fact, it took me a long time to complete my certification because of my fear of public speaking. No one ever talks about that in teacher training. It's just assumed that you can simply stand up and teach a pose or sequence. I wanted to find a teaching job, but it’s pretty impossible to land a job at a studio without an audition. How was I going to audition with a fear of public speaking? Luckily, I found a community YMCA that was willing to let me teach, and I just jumped in. Most of the students had never done the kind of yoga I was teaching, so I felt saved in a way, because they wouldn't know or care if I made a mistake. I found that even when I did make a mistake, my class was still OK. In time, I found a studio that let me teach their community class, and they offered me my own class after that. 

Kristi has been teaching for 2 years. She completed her teacher training at Power Yoga Works in Malvern, PA.

NICK DOBKOWSKI
I was fortunate to be offered a teaching job at the studio where I trained. While that was an enormous blessing, growing my confidence is an ongoing pursuit. I strive to be my true self while teaching, and this is a multi-step process. The first step is to memorize and feel completely at ease with the sequence of poses that I teach. The second is speaking naturally about something I love (except maybe a little louder). This is where I feel I am at in my teaching, and I am trying to take the next step, which is bringing my personality into the class to more meaningfully connect with my students.

Nick Dobkowski has been teaching yoga for 2 years. He recently moved from Philadelphia to Grand Rapids, MI, to spend more time with his family and have more time to do yoga. He completed teacher training in December 2013 at Hotbox Yoga in Philadelphia.

LINDSAY GITLITZ
It was with luck that I landed my first teaching job at the gym where I practiced before I did my teacher training. I showed up for class one day (like 4 days after training ended) and subbed the class because the teacher didn't show. Teaching at the gym turned into a regular gig. It was harder to move forward from there however. I did my training away from home and didn't have an affinity to a studio. I ended up getting classes at two new studios about 8 months after training. I didn't have a following, so very few people showed up for my classes. Two of my classes were cut when the studios downsized class schedules or changed the schedule. Building confidence is still an issue for me, because it doesn't feel too great when people don't show up to my classes. I also don't have as much time to shop around at studios and take classes. To stay motivated I continuously come back to my intentions as a teacher, which is to keep at it and keep learning.

After years of academic study, Lindsay found yoga as she worked toward a Master’s degree in human development. Through yoga, she returned to her breath and physical body as feedback for experience, and she was able to gain an understanding of what it meant to live from purpose. Lindsay received her yoga teaching certification in multidimensional yoga. Her passion for practicing and teaching yoga focuses on the insights that can be applied off the mat: creating a stable foundation, a balance between strength and flexibility, and a healthy understanding of limitations. As her vinyasa practice deepened, the magic of yoga continued to reveal itself to Lindsay, not just in the physical body, but in other very subtle but undeniable ways. Patience, commitment, and practice guide Lindsay as both a teacher and ongoing student of yoga.

LAURA PRIOR
I walked right into my first teaching job. I had a friend who taught at Fit Result and she recommended me to the owner because they were adding yoga to the schedule. I was nervous as hell my first few classes—shaky voice, red blotchy face, and sweaty palms. It took a good month before those "symptoms" went away and I became more confident in my teaching. When I first started out, I would come to class with prepared sequences. Every transition, every asana, every song was planned. I quickly learned that, although it was nice to have a skeleton of a class prepared, mostly the students would dictate where the class went and I couldn't be married to my piece of paper. 

In 2014, Laura completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training with Beyond Asana with Maura Manzo and Britney Policastro. During her teacher training, Laura raised over $5,000 for buildOn, an organization that believes in breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. In February 2015, Laura and her fellow teacher trainees traveled to Malawi to build a school in the village of Mchereka. Laura finds inspiration for her classes through music, community, and most importantly, laughter. Connect with Laura on Instagram and Twitter @jubsmom_yoga.

SID GUNAWARDENA
I sub at the same studio where I did my training. The studio owner co-led the teacher training, which helped me get my foot in the door. I teach 4 to 6 times a month, which is more than I thought I would as a new teacher. One of my teachers is opening a studio, and we have spoken about my teaching there.

My first teaching experience was not quite what (or rather, when) I had expected it to be. I had signed up to sub a class and was quite excited and nervous. About a week before my first class, I was asked to sub a class the next day. Since going through teacher training, I am more inclined to say yes to challenges, so despite not feeling 100% confident (or even perhaps 50%), I agreed to teach the class. I was very nervous. Once class started, however, I did not have time to think about anything beyond the present moment. I received a lot of useful feedback from students, many of whom said they enjoyed the class. When I shared with some students after class that it was my first class, I was happy to hear that they did not sense that in my teaching. Confidence does not always come naturally, but keep in mind that others’ perception of you is a lot less critical than your own self-perception. My advice to new teachers is to not open a class by telling the students it is your first class. The yoga class is about the students, not the teacher. But after class is over, I strongly suggest you let the students know that you are new to teaching and ask for feedback. This will help you develop your teaching style.

Sid has been practicing yoga since 2011 and completed his 200-hour teacher training with Mark Nelson and Chae Yang at the Yoga Garden in Narberth, PA, in May 2015. He teaches everything from gentle to vinyasa classes at the Yoga Garden. For Sid, yoga has immeasurably changed his life for the better, and he hopes he can help his students experience the benefits of yoga in their lives. Connect with Sid @sidgunawardena.

LINDSAY O’BRIEN
When I first began teaching, I was mostly concerned with looking good. I had a script and I stuck to it because I didn’t want to screw up and look stupid in front of my students. I was stuck in my own head and disengaged from my students, and I was terrified to share anything personal with them. During the past year, I realized that I needed to get out of my own head and connect with my students in order to be an effective teacher. Now I am constantly challenging myself to truly be present with my students and find new ways of connecting with them during each class that I teach.

Lindsay is currently a lawyer by day and a yoga teacher evenings and weekends. She has been practicing yoga since she was a college student in New York City and discovered Baptiste Power Yoga after moving back to Philadelphia for law school. She found that Baptiste Power Yoga was the one style of yoga that allowed her to truly quiet her mind and be present on her mat. Lindsay completed her 200-hour teacher training through Anjali Power Yoga in March of 2014 and began teaching shortly thereafter. Since that time, she cannot get enough of teaching and learning about yoga. Lindsay has completed Baron Baptiste’s Level 1, Level 2, and Art of Assisting, and she is currently working toward her Baptiste Certification. She also recently obtained her certification to teach kids from Karma Kids Yoga in New York City. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook @ Lindsay O’Brien; Instagram @ lindsay.ob.

ZOE PARENTE
I first began as a teacher’s assistant before I even considered teaching yoga. I soon pursued a wonderful opportunity—teacher training. I’ve never had more fun than I did during my training. I finally felt like I knew what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Although later, I would learn that not every yoga class has a “coming to Jesus” moment. After teaching for over a year at the studio where I trained, I moved to a completely different state. I had no job or connections in the yoga industry. It was difficult to convince studio owners that I was the instructor they were looking for when they already had 20 other yoga teachers saying the same thing. Finally, I got fed up with trying to get hired, and I created my own job. I called a school and offered to teach yoga after school hours, and that is how my business as a children’s yoga instructor blossomed.

A Rhode Island native, Zoe has been teaching children's yoga for 4 years. Zoe completed her children's yoga certification a Karma Kids Yoga in 2012 and her infant massage certification in 2015. Zoe is excited by the energy and flow of children's yoga. She enjoys being a child herself while mooing in cow pose and barking in down dog. Zoe strives to provide children with the opportunity to stay physically active while combating the stresses of everyday life and competitive sports. She enjoys filling her classes with music, crafts, and laughter, allowing children to benefit from you while continuing to act and enjoy being a child. Connect with Zoe: www.omshantikidsyoga.com; www.facebook.com/Om-Shanti-Kids-Yoga-1569617116620666.

KIMBERLY REILLY
I went right from the frying pit into the fire when I began teaching yoga at Villanova University four days after returning from teacher training in Costa Rica. I had been hired by the University to teach a 1-credit course for the honors program in mindfulness meditation. I knew I wanted to incorporate yoga into the curriculum, although I was scared to death to do it! The decision to "dive right in" was very out of character for me, as I tend to be a rather risk-averse perfectionist. Thankfully, my undergraduate students were wonderful "guinea pigs," with a wide range of experiences, and I learned a lot by teaching them, particularly the beginners. I also began offering some free community classes to my graduate theatre students. I forced myself to practice, practice, practice.

Right around the end of the semester, I was teaching my undergraduates about Brene Brown's theories on the power of vulnerability. I decided to practice what I preach by putting myself out there and auditioning for studios. Things didn't work out exactly as I expected, and that was an incredible learning experience. I ended up lucking into an amazing teaching job at Sol Yoga Studio in Conshohocken. The studio owner, Ang Travaglini, said something in her gut told her she needed to give me a shot. She put me on the schedule right away to teach a free class as my audition, and 20 yogis filled the room with love, energy, and light. I was petrified, but from that day forward, Ang and the Sol Yoga community embraced me with open arms. Ang will often text me some of the kind words that yogis have sent her about my classes. She is so supportive! Teaching at Sol has really built my confidence and encouraged me to grow as a teacher.

Kim is a power flow and vinyasa yoga instructor at Sol Yoga Studio in Conshohocken, Lucille Roberts King of Prussia, and Bulldog Yoga. She is also a professor of Mindfulness Meditation at Villanova University. Kim helps her students experience radiant health, authentic self-expression, and compassionate, whole-hearted living. Her classes are creative, joyful, soulful, and empowering. Kim resides in Plymouth Whitemarsh, and she works as the Director of Marketing & Public Relations for the Theatre Program at Villanova University. She loves philosophy, theatre, music, dance, kickboxing, photography, and animals. Connect with Kim: https://www.facebook.com/kimberlykreilly; https://instagram.com/kimberlykreilly/; https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlykreilly.

MARIE SHUTER
After teacher training I found a job teaching a morning class at a local gym. I could wake up early and just walk to the gym to teach. It was really difficult at first, because no one came. I remember the first class I taught. I arrived 30 minutes early to set up and calm myself down. It wasn't until 3 minutes before class started that three people finally showed up. After that first class I focused on building my confidence and marketing skills, but the class did not take off, which was disappointing. To help build my confidence I tried teaching yoga to friends and doing my own practice. I'm still pretty nervous teaching people I don't know because I am unsure of what they think about the class afterwards. I've learned mostly on the job about my teaching style. For example, I typically have students in savasana for a different period of time from what I was taught in teacher training. I'm excited to try and really change from doing the standard practice I learned in teacher training to something that's more my style.

 

What was your experience transitioning from teacher training to teaching? I would love to hear your story. Please share in the comments.

Email me if you would like to participate in the YTT series. The more voices the merrier!