As another year of college comes to an end, so has my first year as a yoga teacher. It’s hard to believe that just last summer I finished by month-long teacher’s training program. After a summer spent immersed fully in yoga, I came into the new school year feeling recharged and holding an excitement to begin teaching others what had and continues to so greatly help me find a sense of balance and calmness within my life.
I used to be a very on-the-go kind of person, always racing to the next activity without really taking the time to appreciate the present moment in which I was living. In a sense, I went to the yoga training program not primarily to get certified as a yoga instructor, but to help me slow down my own life. The program helped to reconnect me with the true, collective powers of yoga, and to this day has really helped to eliminate the stressed-out side of my personality. By allowing me to fully feel the repercussions of staying in the present moment, I have been able to let go of a lot of unnecessary tension and stress. The month immersion of yoga also has helped me begin to realize that life is not a race. It’s the day-to-day experiences that really matter. These are the moments that make a difference and bring optimal joy, not racing thoughts about what experiences may lie ahead in the future.
The experiences leading up to finally receiving my yoga certification have made yoga a strong and utterly valuable component of my life. While my initial intentions of the training program weren’t necessarily to become a yoga teacher, the program has also showed me that instructing yoga is something I really enjoy. So as soon as I had the chance, I applied to become a yoga teacher at the gym near my college. Ten months ago, I taught my first official class, and boy have I come a long way since.
My first class remains pretty vivid in my mind. The way I felt after it ended was far different from the classes that would follow. After all of my students had left that first morning, probably feeling awakened and rejuvenated, I was left sitting on the floor feeling terribly discouraged, tears rolling out of my eyes, and my friend by my side patting me on the back telling me she thought I did wonderfully. I was more than nervous that first class, and to top it all off, I couldn’t get the microphone I was supposed to be using or the music to work properly. Let’s just say, I was rather flustered on top of being nervous as I began that morning’s class.
I teach in a gym, which is a rather different setting than yoga studios and the yoga environments where I had only ever taught. This means I get a wide range of skill levels, from those who have never set foot into a yoga class to those who are frequent doers of yoga. With the gym’s raucous rap music playing in the background (a downside of teaching at a gym particularly when you can’t get your own music to work on your first day) and a class full of blank faces staring back at me, I felt really uncomfortable teaching that first day. I found myself struggling to look past the giggling coming from a few of the beginners as they placed their bodies into unknown poses and was overly worried that the more advanced students were perceiving my class as not being challenging enough. By the end of my first class, I felt more stressed than when I started, the inverse of how my yoga classes make me feel now.
I know now that the occasional giggle is just a normal sign of beginner’s nervousness and that my students really aren’t judging me as much as I had initially believed. The occasional slip of my tongue is typically caught by me and me alone, not the class full of students I thought were judging my every word. I’ve also learned that each student has to make the experience for themselves, and whether a student really enjoys or loathes the class stems more from the attitude they bring to the class than my actual instructions. However, after I got past that first class and all the nervousness and judgment I was misconceiving, I’ve found that my students are truly more than warm and welcoming, and they are what really makes me love what I do as a yoga teacher.
It’s incredible to watch the transformation of my students and even myself from beginning to end of each class. I come in still a bit nervous, they come in a bit restless and/or stressed. By the end of the class, my students are typically all sporting a smile, and I can just see that release and sense of contentment within each and every one of them. I am left feeling completely uplifted and at peace. This is the beauty of yoga. It makes you feel good, inside and out. And it’s not just the students that get to walk out of class feeling refreshed. I walk out that door every time with them feeling inspired and enlivened.
As my first year comes to an end as a yoga teacher, I already can’t wait to get back to teaching and watching my students grow and transform within just that one hour I get to spend with them during class. I’ve gotten tremendous positive feedback from many different students throughout this year, but it is my students who should be recognized and deserve a thank you. While I see many new faces each class, I honor each and every one of the individuals who show up to practice with me. They are the warm souls I look forward to seeing, teaching, and practicing with each week, the ones who have truly made me fall in love with teaching yoga.