We as Yogis love going to Yoga classes, workshops and retreats with our favorite teacher to get some new inspiration for our practice. And as Yoga teachers we want to be as inspiring to our students as our own teachers are to us.
But how is it that some teacher’s way of teaching and sharing Yoga is so inspiring, transformative and engaging that it allows their students to go beyond their perceived limits and leave the classes empowered and joyous while in other occasions we just perceive the teachers to be flat and boring.
I think it has not much to do with the actual information and facts that are shared (even though those things have some influence and should always be correct), and a lot to do with whether or not the teacher has a unique voice and how much personal experience and passion backs up the information and facts that are shared.
Spice up the facts and information you share as a Yoga teacher with personal experience
Many young Yoga teachers are afraid of not knowing everything and lack the confidence to share their own personal truth as they often think that there is a right and a wrong way. To cover up this lack of confidence, they tend to to provide a lot of learned theoretical information in their classes, just to make sure they provide „enough“ value. Oftentimes they end up overwhelming students with a lot of broad information, yet don’t allow for one thing to actually stick with their students.
They might even think that the key to a great Yoga class is to share a new and secret way for getting into a challenging asana and might actually hold back some tips and tricks as they fear that students will stop coming once they have heard it all.
From my experience as a student and a teacher, limiting yourself to fewer things but spicing up those few with a story, personal experience, or even a joke (selectively, where appropriate) goes a long way and reaches the students on a much deeper level than providing too many facts.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel
And the truth is: We all share similar information. Any Yoga teacher, even the famous ones, have only a limited number of ways to use and explain Yoga techniques. After all, there are just so many ways how to do Downward facing dog, get into handstand and use our breath. What makes them different is how they use their personal experience, which examples they use, how they are not afraid to use their unique character, just passionately being themselves, not caring if people will like them or not for being the way they are.
If somebody is acting from the heart and fully sharing their true self, it usually has an inspiring effect on others.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and discover a new secret to practicing Yoga in order to attract loyal students that want to join your classes and workshops. But you do need to enliven your teachings with your very personal and unique voice.
7 ways to find and hone your unique voice as a Yoga teacher
1. Watch your practice and journal about it:
Write down and formulate how you would explain to others how YOU practice Yoga. Start writing a practice diary or discuss changes in your practice and the transformations you observe in your own practice with fellow practitioners over a delicious smoothie or coffee after class.
Anything that makes you aware of techniques and how they help you can eventually be useful in your teaching.
2. Watch the teachers, that inspire you and become aware of how they teach and what makes the way they teach unique:
Observe your teachers: what kind of language do they use, in what relation do they use stories, facts, explanation and demonstration, how do they interact? Write down your impressions and observations on what unique characteristics your teacher is using to get their message across and what you find attractive and inspiring about it.
Becoming aware of how others do it will help you creating your own voice, and watching teachers that are inspiring to you will provide you with examples that are likely to work for you, too.
3. Use stories of moments that transformed you:
If we practice Yoga for a while, we automatically start collecting stories on how Yoga has somehow benefited and transformed us. Sharing those stories is a great way to make the way you teach unique. Nobody else has had the same story, and when you share something that has moved you, you will have this special sparkle in your eyes.
And that is what students feel and that will make them connect with you. That is what can inspire them and benefit their practice much more than any tip you give them.
4. Become aware of your natural character and be confident about being yourself:
We should always be ourselves, acting from the heart, not trying to play a role of what we think might be the ideal Yoga teacher. Try being yourself and you will attract exactly those people that like you for who you are. Any negative thought you have about yourself deserves attention as it’s just a mental construct preventing you from being your best and most authentic self.
And one big thing of being yourself is using your unique humor. Yoga should be taught in a way that spreads joy, as only then will we and our students be likely to step back onto the mat again tomorrow. As David Swenson puts it:
“The teachers that I’ve been most inspired by were humorous, they brought joy into it.” -David Swenson
5. Experiment and explore different ways of communicating to find your unique voice:
Start teaching, become aware of the way you use your voice. With that awareness you can then start adjusting and tweaking the way you communicate, in class and in life. Don’t be afraid to drop what doesn’t work. Improve and hone, what seems to work. Ask for feedback from trusted students.
As with anything in life, the process of finding your unique voice is not straight forward and there is no finish line. See what feels best.
6. Start to write a blog on your website
Committing to writing an article about something that interests you every week is one of the best ways to learn new things, share valuable information, try out various topics, improve your writing skills and become aware of how you want to communicate with the world.
As you write down your thoughts about a certain topic, you get to know how you feel about it, you learn how to gather and present information, you connect to your community of students and get feedback from them. As you keep writing consistently, with dedication over a long period of time, you will be amazed how you become much clearer about what you know, how to share it with others and your unique voice.
7. Always connect general information to your personal experience:
Everything you learn, you put into practice first. Don’t repeat information like in a school test, make it unique by engaging on the information, putting it into action and find out which infos actually resonate with you and what doesn’t make sense to you. Then you cannot only give personal and direct advice, you will also know why you don’t advice the things that don’t resonate with you: You tried them and they didn’t help you – but you might exactly know whom they might serve.
And that is what makes you being perceived as an expert of your field, no matter if it’s asana, any other awareness technique, healthy food and nutrition or anything else:
„An expert is one that has done all possible mistakes in a narrow field“
I am not saying you have to do mistakes, the main idea behind it is that you have taken action and tried out and explored all kinds of ways to do something in a certain field, in our case Yoga techniques..
Your unique voice is based on the awareness and clarity about what you know, how you practice it (experience), the personal stories that come with it and your confidence to share all of it whole-heartedly.
An unique voice is the base of your personal brand as a Yoga teacher. It creates integrity if it reflects you as you truly are and determines how you are perceived by your students and other Yoga teachers.
Start paying attention to the way you communicate and see how your life changes.