This month marks the 10 year anniversary of the first yoga class I taught. I was fresh from my teacher training program and eager to share what I had learned. I would spend hours mapping out class plans, preparing for every possibility, double- and triple-checking that I had remembered to bring my music (on a CD!), my lavender oil, and the quote or reading I wanted to share to set the theme for the class. Every time I stepped through the door of the classroom I had to remind myself to breathe. I repeated over and over to myself that I was qualified to be here, I had knowledge to share, and this is something I wanted to do (even if I couldn't remember exactly why in the moment...).
At different points during those early classes I would nervously scan the faces of students to see how it was being received. This wasn't necessarily helpful. If I glimpsed a grimace, I would wonder whether the student was exploring his edge or passing judgment on a poor playlist selection. An audible sigh from the back of the room would cause me to question whether someone was enjoying a deep stretch or exasperated by the very idea of the pose. It wouldn't be until the end of a class, when someone would come tell me how much better they felt or thank me for helping them work through a challenge that I could breathe a sigh of relief.
But somehow, despite the early anxiety, I kept teaching - and learning. Over time, my perspective shifted: I stopped being worried about how my teaching was being perceived and started focusing on what I was offering. I discovered how to read the energy of the room - whether students were exhausted and in need of support and encouragement, or whether they were eager for a challenge that could help them channel their restlessness. I gained the confidence to set aside my carefully crafted class plan and instead respond to the individuals I saw in front of me. I became comfortable creating a signature style and voice rather than simply echo my own mentors. And when I finally learned how to trust myself, teaching became not just rewarding, but also fun!
No matter your profession or relationship it is important to observe and listen to your students/clients/friends/colleagues. It is wise to be well researched and prepared and follow the guidance of your mentors but there comes a point at which you also need to recognize what you bring to the table and trust that you know what you are doing. After a decade of teaching, I still create a plan for my classes. I still double-check my bag of teaching materials. But I have stopped holding my breath. And as a result, I am having a lot more fun.
Whether you are a brand new yoga teacher or veteran Hill staffer - first time parent or wise Great Aunt, you have a unique perspective, a valid voice, and something to contribute. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. Take a deep breath, step forward, and let your light shine!