Tips for teaching yoga for when life throws you a curved ball

Almost six years ago, my daughter Sofia-Rose was born. She brought me a happiness I could never have imagined. It also erased my practice at home beyond all recognition for over a year. Before I was born, I was so excited about adrenaline, oxytocin, and optimism (not always my strength) that I didn’t think his birth would change my practice. In fact, I was fooled enough to think that his birth would inspire even greater dedication to my practice. I thought his presence would be my chance for a complete overhaul, a total overhaul in which nothing could stand between my mat and me. Yes, I love it to the point that it makes me tremble. Yes, parenting has taught me more about patience, breathing and love than the rest of my life combined. No, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But did my practice stay the same? [email protected]#l no! Not even close. My asana practice collapsed in a shell of his old one and I raised a father like you wouldn’t believe. Even more to the point of this post, my teaching suffered temporarily with these changes. Now, it’s better than ever, as I have more life experience to take advantage of (and I’ll share some of the yoga teaching tips I learned below). But I didn’t see that at the time. Everyone goes through different chapters of life. Everyone faces curved balls. And, like a good curved ball, you don’t usually see them coming. Being a yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher does not inoculate you with life. It only provides you with knowledge and skills that help you deal with the complexity of the human condition. Because we all face unforeseen circumstances from time to time that affect our practice and teaching, it is important to know how to stay honest and authentic in your teaching when your life gets complicated (even more so).

Here are some practical yoga teaching tips to work with:

1. Do not press too hard

When baseball players are in a fall, they sometimes perpetuate it even more by pressing, or with an excessive desire to make something happen. This undermines their ability to relax and respond to the game in a skillful way. Sometimes I’ve noticed the same thing in myself. When my teaching becomes obsolete, I often make up for it by making too much of an effort. I get too talkative, too complicated, and in too much of a hurry. If you are going through a difficult time in your teaching, try this tip: step back and let the practice shine. Minimize the urge to overdo it and be confident that the practice itself will be sufficient for your students.

See also 5 ways to (re) inspire your yoga practice

2. Be transparent without being too lenient

Never take a class on yourself and what you are going through. After all, students pay you, don’t pay for group therapy. At the same time, it’s nice to be relatively transparent and acknowledge what’s going on in your life (at least in limited doses). Students appreciate the reminder that you are a real person, flesh and blood, and that yoga is a practical and accessible practice for everyone (at all times). Many of your students are likely to have experienced what you are currently going through and this can help them connect with your teaching even more deeply.

3. Do not radically change your teaching class or style

It is important to be consistent with your students. When teachers go through a significant transition in their lives, they sometimes make abrupt style changes in their teaching. While it’s important to be relatively transparent, it’s also essential to provide a consistent experience for your students. If you are teaching a vinyasa class, do not randomly teach a Yin or restoration class because you are tired or overwhelmed. Of course, you can play with the rhythm, but respond to your students and give them the class they came to.

4. Practice, even though it looks very different now

My practice was shorter, smoother, less frequent and less concentrated for 18 months or so after Sofia was born. But I still practiced. I still connected with my breathing and made the occasional salute to the sun. I still did some shoulder and hip openers most nights. I also made sure to do a little more intense practice each week. Instead of sticking to the way you practiced before the curved ball met your plate, do your best to survive the storm and do your best to savor it.

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