Find out what it's really like to teach Yoga from FG founder Michele Pernetta
I have been teaching for 28 years and the journey teaching takes you on is as fascinating and rewarding as the one practising yoga takes you on. Every teacher has their own individual teaching experience based on their style of teaching, how long they have been teaching, the style they teach and who they teach. But one thing we all share, is that sometimes a “magic” happens. And that magic is experienced by everyone in the room.
Being a relatively inexperienced teacher is hard. You are thrilled and terrified in equal measure. You're trying to remember the instructions, safety protocols, modifications. You are making moment to moment decisions about what and whom to correct. All the while trying to be clear, inspiring and compassionate. It’s intense mentally and emotionally.
It's also easy to feel rejected, ignored, disliked (you aren’t! People are inherently kind, but yoga is hard and they are mainly just navigating that.) Your own insecurities can get magnified. If you demo people think you’re showing off. If you don’t they think you can’t. You worry you went too fast. Or too slow. Or that you missed stuff out. You will be acutely aware of things you don’t know.
You learn to surrender all of it and you move on. You’re here to serve. Care. Help. You learn to take your attention off yourself and onto others.
You go through so many emotions in just an hour - rejection, appreciation, gratitude, self criticism, frustration and elation.
The senior teacher has a different experience. I am happy to report that eventually all of the “skills” part of teaching becomes second nature. It’s all just “there.” You no longer have a single thought when you are teaching. It is instinct and sensitivity alone. You have no idea what you are going to do or say next. It just happens. It is very responsive and immediate. You feel what your students are feeling. They carry you on their wave.
In my experience I find that the “work” has become to orchestrate the energies of each individual and support them, while being sensitive to their signals and their own process. You give the technical instructions, correct misalignments and inspire and instruct, of course. But yoga is more than that. You are connecting to each person's inner world. I often find myself doing the pose through their body so to speak, feeling what they are feeling. Someone is struggling, another is about to give up, another going too far. Several are in a dance with you directly responding to every word you say. You direct people to the breath, their own sensations, their feeling being.
The separation between yourself and the students becomes thin as if you were experiencing exactly what they are experiencing. It’s a sort of sci-fi style altered reality where you live for 90 minutes through the bodies, eyes and feelings of a group of strangers. It’s wild!
Like sunlight on a pond, yoga shows up everything that is swimming beneath the surface. And each person is being shone on. Whatever is not needed is brought to the surface and purified.
All the messiness, the falls, the body’s complaints, the stiffness, discomfort, the wobbles, the doubts. Everything that arises in the yoga shala is necessary and perfect. The people who have taken the time and paid the dime to join you to share their suffering, sweat and joy are the shrine to which you have given your life. At some point in the class something great and pure and visceral arises and joins everyone together. A roaring silence of power and bliss. The suffering forgotten, the pose forgotten. All washed clean in the indescribable moments that make it all worthwhile.
I have realised that you can not “teach” yoga. The instructor simply facilitates people dropping into their natural, mindless state of union. The “work” of the facilitator is to not interfere with that process.
I am certain that being a yoga teacher is as transformational as practising yoga. It places you in a crucible- a fire of intensity where both teacher and students emerge transformed.
About the Author
Michele Pernetta is a Yoga Alliance Senior Teacher with 28 years' teaching experience. A Certified Ashtanga Vinyasa Teacher a former Bikram Senior teacher, a Black Belt Martial Artist, Michele brought Hot Yoga to the UK in 1994. Fierce Grace is Michele’s ground-breaking yoga system which can be found in studios around the world. It has been praised as the “Modern Evolution of Yoga” and “The Number 1 Way To Get Fit.”
Michele is the course leader of the Fierce Grace Teacher Training course. If this article has inspired you then find out more here about Yoga Teacher Training at FG including course dates.