In my years of teaching, I've picked up a few practices that have helped me grow as an instructor. (And, by 'picked up' I mean made a bunch of questionable choices that I've had the good fortune of learning from.) Below are some of the most valuable tips I've gained along the way...
1) Look At Your Students
I'm serious. Watch how your students move and be willing to look them in the eye. This bit of feedback was one of the best pieces of teaching advice I've ever received. You need to teach to what you SEE (both physically and energetically) not what you 'know'. Watch your students and cue accordingly, instead of going by scripted cues.
2) Come With A Plan
Every time you show up to teach you should have an idea of what you're going to teach and how you are going to theme with it. For some of us, this means writing our classes out and for others this means home practice and reflection. No matter what it means for you though, be prepared. The only way to get somewhere is to know where you are going. Getting to Savasana is no exception!
3) Be Willing To Change Plans
If you are practicing tips 1 and 2 correctly, you'll soon notice that sometimes plans have to change! Look at your students and ask them how they are doing! If the majority of your class is having a low emotional energy day, it might not be the time for handstands. (Or, it might be the perfect time for handstands, depending upon your students :D.) You cannot be so tied to your plans that you do not respond to what's in front of you. That's not yoga.
4) Take Classes
Socrates once said that the only thing he knew was that he didn't really ‘know’ anything. That is a beginner's mindset. And, a beginner's mindset is precisely what we need to cultivate to be a good teacher. Remember, learning is part of the practice. And, you do not know everything. (It's okay! None of us do…) One of the best things you can do as a teacher is remain a student. Be willing to be inspired and practice humility.
5) Develop A Home Practice
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change". Unrolling yourself and not having *a clue* where to take your practice will not hurt you.; in fact, affording yourself time and space to play will invigorate your love of yoga and your own self-acceptance! Break the rules. Notice what feels good in your body. Practice more. If you've already embodied your flow, your teaching will be authentic. Teaching is place where we should make it personal.
6) Ask For And Receive Feedback
You can walk around teaching from your 'I know exactly what I'm doing' bubble, OR you can grow. Be willing to not have to be 'right' and instead learn! Receive what people have to share. Ask questions. Leave your ego at the door and listen to the other perspectives. Do not take feedback as a personal critique; instead, be personally grateful for the opportunity to blossom. Repeat for life.
7) Leave Your Stuff At The Door
You are not teaching in lieu of therapy. Ever. When you show up to teach remember that it is not about you. As teachers, we show up to facilitate experience. This means that we hold space. Everybody in your class will have a unique story and need. I tell classes all the time: "My goal is that students leave feeling better and more like themselves." Be there to honor your students' needs by taking your agenda out of it.
8) Know Your Students (By Name Please!)
One of the things that makes yoga studios special is community. People practice at studios to be seen, heard, and touched. And, for many students, these simple pleasures are a BIG deal. In a world of technology and feigned connection, seeing and acknowledging your students is sometimes the best type of yoga you can share. Simply, you are not a DVD; you have to give a shit.
9) Share Your Human-ness
The best instructors are always themselves. Your students do not need you to be perfect; your students need you to be real. (That 'perfection' stuff is all part of your ego anyways…) And, the more that you can show up as you during a class, the more you will empower your students to do the same. Yoga is not about mystery and secrecy. Yoga is about presence and connection. Share where and who you are and watch what happens!