10 Lessons I've Learned in My First Year as a Yoga Instructor

Jenna Longoria
10 Lessons I've Learned in My First Year as a Yoga Instructor

When I completed my 200RYT, I skipped away with a light heart, ready to share with others what I had learned during my training, and eager to get some hands-on experience.

When I look back at this moment, it brings a massive grin to my face for two reasons: one, because it was the beginning of a glorious journey, and two, because I now know some of the fearful, awkward, and funny moments I would run into in my first year.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my first year as a yoga instructor.

1. Lighten up.

When I first began teaching, I had the tendency to take things too seriously. So much so that part of my fun-loving personality was overshadowed.

I finally learned that one can respect the practice and enjoy a good laugh at the same time. In every class, I aim to make my students laugh at least once, and I might even manage to get them to crack a smile in Boat Pose.

2. Go with the flow.

I used to arrive to class with meticulously designed classes, and I kept my notes close by at all times for fear of freezing. I realize now that I was in a dependent relationship with them.

My big wakeup call happened when my first pregnant student walked into class unexpectedly, giving me no choice but to ditch my plans cold turkey. I’m glad this happened, because it taught me to embrace flexibility in my classes, and to look at my notes as a rough guide. It also taught me to face my fears.

3. Leave your mat every once in a while.

This was very hard for me at first. Actually, I found it impossible. It probably wasn’t until my sixth month of teaching that I wandered off my mat and into “the unknown.”

It’s good to mix it up in life with your interests, activities, and routines not only because it allows you to better observe your students and give hands-on adjustments, but also because it allows you to gain a different perspective in general.

4. Don’t take it personally.

I’ve had students come and go, I’ve had some stay, and I’ve had some students stay for a while and then stop coming. At first, I took this to heart, torturing myself with thoughts of what I could have done wrong.

Now I know not to take it personally and that sometimes two people’s energies just don’t gel well. It’s not that one or the other is “bad,” it’s just that the two together don’t serve each other.

5. Don’t be a copycat.

I love getting inspiration from amazing teachers like Kathryn Budig and Elena Brower as much as anyone, but use their classes as inspirations, instead of replicating them step by step.

It’s important to find your own voice instead of regurgitating another’s. In the long run, your students are showing up to be guided by you—not by a famous yoga personality.

6. Never pretend to know more than you do, and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know.

If a student asks you something you don’t know, don’t pretend to know the answer. Just because you’ve completed a course doesn’t mean you’re expected to know everything.

Instead of pretending, just admit you don’t know. Tell your students that you will do some research and get back to them with the answer. They will appreciate and respect your honesty.

7. A good playlist can complement the class, but is not necessary.

I vividly recall the playlist I carefully and lovingly created for my first class, as I was caught up with the idea of having a “perfect playlist” to accompany the flow. With time, the music started to take a back seat.

Today, if I do play music, it’s at a very low volume to ensure it doesn’t play a central role in class, as my intention is for my students to hear and connect with the sound of their breath.

8. Try not to be a perfectionist.

Instead of focusing on the perfect alignment, first work on helping your students achieve a balanced ujjayi breath. If you can do this, you’re awesome. Talking your students through a perfect Triangle Pose means little if they aren’t breathing.

9. Don’t feel guilty for making money.

It’s okay to make a living doing what you love. You provide a much-needed service to your community, and in return you are being compensated for the energy you lovingly share. No shame in that.

If you’re good at what you do, you believe in it, and you’re passionate about it, you deserve to be rewarded emotionally AND financially—it’s karmic balance.

10. Remember your intentions.

Why do you teach yoga? What does yoga mean to you? Write this down and come back to it whenever you feel discouraged or lost to remind you why you practice and teach.

Are you a yoga teacher? What were some of your realizations in your first year or two of teaching?

Image Credit: Jenna Longoria