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Week 4 of YTT: Learning to appreciate the work behind Yoga Teaching

For my 6th and final blog post, I wanted to talk a little about learning to appreciate the hard work behind yoga teaching. It’s now the 4th and penultimate week into the YTT course and moving on from focusing on ourselves and our postures, to teaching and bringing that focus and love to someone else.

It’s surprising to realize how much work there is to become a good yoga teacher. It’s easy to assume that teaching yoga is not that hard – just walk around, give some cues now and then, and show a few cool moves; however, in reality, there are so many things happening at the same time. Also, just because a person is good at yoga, it doesn’t mean that they can teach it well, and there is also a big difference between a yoga teacher and a good yoga teacher.

My head is spinning with learning all these new terms, connecting my body and the brain, learning how each pose feels for my own body so that I know what the future student should feel, learning about how each pose feels for other people’s body because my students won’t always have the same body type as me, learning about the human body as well as beyond the physical body, the many different schools and teachings of yoga, and a lot more. At the beginning, the physical pain was definitely more prominent but as the days go on, it turns out that the physical activity – doing the yoga poses – is actually the easier part of yoga teaching.

About teaching – I was definitely really scared and shy at first. I don’t even know why, because I’ve given classes on complicated investment strategies before so I had a lot of practice facing a large or small crowd. I guess it’s because I’m not confident in whatever I was teaching – and not being that well attuned to my body, and so unable to link up what I’m saying with how it should feel; also of course, not enough practice. After a couple of times, I did realise that coming up with your own words is also a little easier than memorising word-for-word the instructions that we were given. Sometimes we don’t use the right politically-correct words, but after knowing how it feels for us and how it should feel in a certain pose, instead of trying to bring up the memory of all those words, it’s actually much easier to talk about how to get into the pose the way we would get into it.

When you’re just a practitioner, it’s easy to feel whether a yoga teacher is good or not. And we tend to gripe a lot when we have a bad session – the teacher sucks, she has no idea what she is doing, she can’t even do the pose, yada yada. While there are teachers who are just teaching to make a living and don’t care about their students, I think we don’t appreciate how hard it is to be a good teacher and how much effort and experience it takes to become a good one. Now, I feel that I don’t thank the good ones enough for all the work that they have put in to give us a good session.

I also think that we don’t give enough chances or encouragement to the ones who are still trying, but are not there yet – as Singaporeans, we are very quick to complain. Nobody becomes a great yoga teacher overnight; it takes time and sometimes we are so quick to judge that we don’t give people enough time to become what they could be. I had sessions with teachers who were obviously new to teaching and still unsure; I never returned for another session. Now with social media and the growth of keyboard warriors, the time that people have to grow into something good have shortened because bad news travel fast. While I did not complain about them, I also never offered encouragement nor gave them a second chance – and now I know how much work there is behind it, I feel bad about it.

Next time, Namaste with a full heart, and remind the ones who are still trying to keep it up and don’t give up.