Starting Out: 10 Steps to Begin Your Journey After Teacher Training

When it comes to teaching yoga, we are always students … we have to be, in order to delve deeper into our personal practice and encourage others to do the same. If you are just embarking on a path post-teacher training, here are 10 points to ponder from Shannon LaSpina, RYT 200 that can help you find the equanimity you need to succeed.

The room is heated, incense burning, and class starts in five minutes.  So where is everyone?  With all the time and effort instructors take to become knowledgeable in their craft, we hope that classes will be filled every night, and that first timers will be back again.  We as instructors must be ambitious but not unrealistic.  Classes may be empty, people may not be back, but what are we doing to fight the fitness instructor blues?  It’s not a concept we want to accept, but it’s one that we have to.  Once we own the fact that classes will not be full overnight we can begin to change what we are doing about it.

  1. Patience– It’s simple, you have to wait.  I remember watching Tae Kwon Do classes each night I had class until someone showed, sometimes I’d watch the entire Tae Kwon Do class.  We can be ashamed that our class was empty or know that we need to show up regardless.  If we as instructors don’t motivate ourselves to wait, what will make our students motivated to come to class.
  2. Realistic– Being a certified instructor won’t guarantee that you’ll get hired let alone fill a class. Starting a new class doesn’t mean people will definitely show up.  We need to be honest with ourselves as fitness instructors, the road to build your cliental will be hard, but wasn’t becoming an instructor in the first place the same thing.  We can’t expect to be awesome right away, good things take time.
  3. Social Media- Whether you’re tech savvy or not, it’s time to be.  In a world where my 2 year old niece knows how to close an ad to direct her back to her PBS video app, we need to stay on top of social media.  I don’t know how many times Som, a friend and great mentor, has asked me “Did you post about it?  Did you make a page? Make a video.”  People are hooked to their social news, updates, and articles.  We need to get our feet wet and put ourselves in the mix.  Get over the fact that technology isn’t for you, it is for everyone else.  It’s time to get a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else is out there.  These tools will help us market the skills we have to offer people.  They may be searching for you right now!
  4. Stay Connected– People saw your post and are showing up at class.  But for how long?  Did they come and go?  Did you find out why?  They signed a waiver and left their contact information right?  As much as our communication is via the internet, people still want that relationship with you.  My father’s been a hairstylist for over 30 years, and I think he knows at least one thing about each client that sits in his chair.  Building the relationship with each student means more to them than you think.  Ask questions about them, and don’t pretend to be interested, BE interested.  Going to a fitness class for the first, second or even thirtieth time can be a very vulnerable experience.  We need to let them know that we are there for them just as an instructor was for us.  Email them, call them!   Even if they didn’t have good experience, you’ll know why, and I’m pretty sure they’ll thank you.  Just because a relationship doesn’t last for them, doesn’t mean it won’t last for someone they talked to about you (and your class).
  5. Be Present– Having a student or students in your class is what you wanted right?  “But they have no clue what they are doing!”  Admit that fact that you have said this!!  These people are here to learn, so teach them!  Be focused and present.  Not just physically but mentally! Notice where they are in their practice and you will find your way as a teacher.  Students need our support and guidance.  If you’re not going to be in class, neither will your students.
  6. Confidence– Fake it till you make it!  Do you remember having a substitute in school?  Students can smell the fresh meat!  You need to hold yourself to a high standard to teach your classes.  Be clear with your cues and instruction so they feel confident!  Fitness facilities and small groups are outlets for people to find that inner power to make them feel better.  Show them you have the ability to help them get to that goal.
  7. Find Humility– Being a confident instructor can by some translate into cockiness by others.  Have a clear perspective of how you teach and how you want your students to view who you are as their teacher.  Not caring about what people think is one thing, but showing them how you care is another.  Use terminology that is helpful, not big words from your anatomy textbook.  No one wants to go workout and feel lost, they want to feel educated and empowered.
  8. Research– You want to be a yoga instructor.  You never want to teach another form of fitness.  Okay, but we need to continue to have education in the fitness world.  How can you relate to someone coming to your class if you haven’t tried it?  Take a workshop!  I can’t do a pull up to save my life and I have been practicing yoga for almost seven years.  I took an awesome bodyweight workshop with Pat Flynn, Somnath Sikdar and Lisa Parsons at the Dragon Gym in Exton, PA this summer that changed the way I did a plank in my yoga practice.  By opening our own doors in other styles of training we as teachers will be able to use confidence when guiding our students.
  9. Change– Okay we’ve done these 8 steps and nothing has changed.  You are getting one person in class and no consistency.  Make a change!  Transitioning into something else is scary.  I made a decision to change my system with my students, and it was terrifying!  I thought for sure people will hate me; no one will come to class!  When I took the time to be honest with my students about why I made changes, I had someone say “Thank you”.  They needed a commitment.  Sometimes we make changes and hope that it will please everyone.  It won’t.  You will piss people off.  You will lose some people.  Maybe those students weren’t the ones to be with you all along.
  10. No exceptions– This step is one that sucks too!  I can’t lie about it!  A friend has told me many times, “Why? Just say no.  It’s okay to say no.”  We never want to turn someone away because our program doesn’t work well for them, the price is too high, or my schedule doesn’t work.  Stand on your two feet (with confidence and humility) and say no.  If you are the teacher you want to be, your students will come back to your class.  In a week, a month or even a year, they’ll be back.

We need to be the teacher we want to be because we made an effort to become that way.  We can’t define ourselves by the number of students in attendance in our classes, but by the quality of knowledge and performance we let them walk away with.

Shannon LaSpina, RYT 200, has been practicing yoga since 2007. After practicing for the first time on the mat, Shannon had found a new way to center herself and create balance in her life. Yoga has become an essential part of Shannon’s life that she wanted to share with others. Joining the teacher training at power yoga works was one of the most rewarding experiences she has had. Shannon received her 200 hour certification shortly after starting the teacher training as she was eager to get into the studio and train others. When she is not practicing or teaching yoga, Shannon is in the classroom teaching middle school students about the visual arts. Spending quality time with her husband and dog, as well as her family, are also essential to her life. Read more from Shannon at yogishannon.com

My Area Yoga is an online directory, calendar, blog, and information hub for the wellness and yoga community. Currently offering service in the northeast, as well as Chicago. Our mission is to be the most comprehensive online resource for the local communities.

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