Inhale, Arms Up. Exhale, Forward Fold. – #5 by Mario Toon

Public teaching week just ended.

As I slowly understood more about what it takes to be a good yoga instructor, I found myself farther and farther away from reaching my goal of being one. I never realised how long-winded and monotonous my voice was, even when I thought I was applying the various teaching techniques taught to us.

Even before I started my YTT journey, I never considered myself a good storyteller. People would seem visibly bored halfway through my anecdotes and stories, and I’d assume it was the content of my story that wasn’t appealing. “Just go straight to the point and tell me the ending”, people would interrupt, “you’re making me lose interest in what you have to say.”

And it was the same approach I took when I started teaching too. “As you inhale… bring your… arms up to the ceiling… and as you exhale… slowly… bend from your hips… into forward fold.” I’d find myself rambling drearily non-stop for the whole hour, going out of breath eventually, and my course mates looking like they’re all ready to go into savasana and call it a day. Feedback for my teaching reiterated how everyone felt. “You need to work on your tone and pace. I was struggling to stay awake throughout your class,” Jess would say, “come out of your shell and find the X-factor to make your class engaging.”

I didn’t know how to improve on my teaching. I’d record myself attempting to talk in an exaggerated manner, and I still sounded the same. I asked different people for advice, and they were all pretty similar: “You just gotta be confident. You’re pretty extroverted, once you get the hang of it I’m sure you’ll be fine.” The worst part was the more I practiced teaching, the less confident I became. I’m also an introvert, and getting the hang of talking to myself in the mirror didn’t make my speech delivery better.

I also studied how other yoga instructors taught on YouTube. I remember watching a video about how to transition from side crow to eka pada koundinyasana by Dylan Werner, and thinking “He’s also talking non-stop, and he seemed like he’s catching for breath too. What’s really different from the way I teach and the way he does?” It eventually came to a point where I thought I just wasn’t cut out teach yoga.

“No la, you’re doing fine. You just need more experience. You’re not used to public speaking,” Alexis said on Tuesday over dinner, “you’ll get there eventually.” But I only had 4 more days before public teaching week started. I was getting anxious over it. If “eventually” was to come, it better come soon.

And it did, when I was driving around town running errands on Friday. The radio was playing “I Want It That Way” by The Backstreet Boys, and so I sang along with it. “Inhale, arms up. Exhale, forward fold.” The rhythm of the song works with instructions for Surya Namaskar!! For the rest of the day I did the same to the other songs I was familiar with, going through my sequences.

How singing out teaching instructions helped me improve my teaching, I would never comprehend, but it definitely worked. Feedback this past weekend was that there was a huge improvement, which was really, really encouraging. People actually looked alive after my classes, with smiles on their faces!

Now that public teaching week is over, exams week is just mere days away. Time to show the hard work I’ve put in the last couple months.