Yoga With Leo

7 Keys To Being A Successful Yoga Teacher

Teaching YogaLeo Cheung1 Comment

Length: 7 Min Read

I'm here to share with you key areas of development that have led to the success of achieving my goals. If your goals are to teach yoga full-time, make a decent living from it, be confident as a teacher, be supported and feel connected in a community and grow as a person (very vague, I know) then you might find these suggestions helpful. If you're goals as a yoga teacher are different, great! You just might not find everything you read here relevant.

1. Presence / Voice

Presence is how you show up in the room, and your voice is how that is expressed. If you're presence is grounded, confident and strong, then it will likely be expressed through your voice as well. By enacting those qualities physically through the body, the brain will register the corresponding emotional and mental effects. As mentioned in my other article: 3 Confidence Tips for Yoga Teachers, you can create the state of confidence by doing such things as placing your hands on your hips or holding your wrist with one hand behind your back while teaching. This helps to calm anxiety and eliminates fidgeting with the hands. Feeling the ground with your feet and doing everything 20% slower is another way to cultivate a powerful presence. For me, the purpose of presence is to create a state which is conducive for holding space and being an anchor for transformation in others.

2. Teaching Technique - Hard Skills

These are the types of skills that most teachers learn in their 200hr Teacher Training. However, depending on the training, skills like verbal adjustments, cueing, sequencing and demonstration may be brushed over due to lack of time and require refining through practice, practice, practice. Ways to improve this area of teaching is taking more training (even another 200 hr, I took two) with teachers who are skilled in these techniques. I learn best through experience and modeling myself from teachers who demonstrate these skills in their teaching. Other ways are going to teachers classes and making mental notes of how they teach and what stands out. If I find a particular method of doing something effective, I'll use it in my own teaching. Through trial and error, I discover what works and what doesn't work for me. Teaching technique is like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get (but be sure what you're doing is a habit you want to reinforce.)

3. Leadership, Communication, EQ- Soft Skills

These skills are often less taught in teacher training, (and life in general), unless they're asked, yet I think they are equally as important when handling yourself professionally. As teachers, we're required to be leaders and make smart decisions that honour the students in the class and the overall working environment. That means showing up early before class and ending on time, communicating issues to management, handling situations with front desk or in the classroom, phone calls vs email/text communication, wage negotiation, organizing the room, conscious listening... the list goes on and these details could make the difference between a student having a great experience or a horrible one. I think that many of these aspects of conducting oneself are learned through experience working in an organization, which is something I don't conventionally have, and for that reason, I have several business mentors who I go to for consultation for many of my decisions or getting feedback. There isn't a clear set of standards for what the best practices are in any given situation, thus mistakes will be made. The most important thing that I've learned is having open, honest conversation with whomever involved, to create understanding, to extract a learning lesson and then to hug it out. 

4. Relationship / Community

Having good quality relationships and being a part of supportive communities is what makes the experience of teaching pleasurable and rewarding. Like many scenarios, it's not what you know, it's who you know. But just knowing someone doesn't help, it's who you ARE in relationship to them. What has helped me build relationships, whether it be professional or personal, is the quality of time spent, the level of communication, and the positive attitude I carry. Some small details that go a long way are the following:

  •  Instead of emailing, make a phone call/in person meeting with your manager, especially if the content is sensitive or complicated
  • As a teacher, be present 10-15min inside the classroom before you start so that there's opportunity to create a connection/relationship with your students
  • Then, shake their hand and ask them their name, then remember it, because they matter!
  • As a student practicing, interact with the student next to you, they're probably not a serial killer.

5. Self-Promotion / Marketing

As a independent contractor and an ambassador of yoga, it is in my best interest to promote my services. Unless you are selling snake oil, there's no shame in marketing your services if your offerings are genuine and valuable. My goal is to help strengthen the commitment of a student's practice and that requires other forms of learning outside of public classes, like workshops, private sessions, retreats or teacher training. If students do not know what you have to offer, then they will never have a chance to invest in their practice with you. Here are some important business practices / tools to consider:

  • Make a website! This is the best way for people to get up-to-date information about your offerings. From my experience, this is the easiest, best-looking site builder out there: Squarespace
  • Promote on social media - be tasteful in your posts so that you're not annoying to others - divide up the content between information / inspiration. Peak times to post for optimal viewing: 12pm / 5pm
  • Give a short 30 sec plug for your offerings at the beginning of class, not at the end when people are in an elevated state after savasana - they either want to be in silence or hurried to leave. Bring business cards/flyers so they have something to take home with them if they're interested. Give a quick mention to pick one up at the end of class.

6. Personal Development

Whether you're a teacher or not, this is a non-negotiable with me. Teacher training is great, I've experienced a lot of growth, but some things like mommy and daddy issues are better dealt with therapists or counselors. I think everyone should have a therapists, but that's just my opinion. The quality of my teaching (way of being) is a result of the various events/workshops I've been involved in: Landmark forum/advanced course, silent meditation retreats, men's group, personal therapy, transformation workshops, yoga teacher mentorship, Artist's way group facilitation. Anything that would benefit my well being and evolution are open to consideration. The quality of teaching is the quality of studentship. 

7. Personal Practice

As a teacher, the importance of having a personal practice is not a new idea. Nonetheless, it's an incredibly challenging thing to maintain in an age of overwhelming superficial distraction. Maybe you should be practicing right now instead of reading this blog! Any long term commitment of real worth will always be confronted with resistance, and we could analyze, rationalize, plan this, read that (War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a good book on overcoming resistance), BUT, at the end of the day, Nike had it right - JUST DO IT! Sit for 5 mins in the morning after you get out of bed, do a practice if it's long over due, even on youtube if you can't get out of the house or distracted doing it on your own. I try to remind myself that my relationship to personal practice isn't about beating myself over the head if I'm inconsistent, but also to remember that if I'm avoiding the practice because it's uncomfortable, to remember that the practice is not about being comfortable, it's about personal discovery.