As someone who has been a public speaker for nearly 18 years I know how hard it can be to engage an audience. It’s even harder when the audience has to be an active participant, which students have to be in a yoga class. Unfortunately, in most teacher training courses, yogis spend the majority of their time learning anatomy, and postures. Few teacher training programs actually take the time to enforce a strict dialogue, or work with instructors to develop one. This makes it hard on a new teacher, who maybe passionate about her practice. Teachers are left to figure out how to deliver dialogue on their own to captivate students.
So how does one go about getting started?
Practice Your Delivery
The best advice I’ve heard seasoned veteran instructors give to newly minted yoga teachers is practice, practice, practice! The only way one’s dialogue will improve is by continually delivering it. One instructor in NYC told me that early in her teaching career she would take any opportunity that was available to teach. She began by just teaching her friends because she knew it was a safe environment, and she felt comfortable with criticism from them because they cared. The she took any opportunity to substitute teach. It took her a few years before she developed a core set of followers.
When I last chatted with Victoria Klein she said she too was very afraid when she began teaching. It was easier for her to have a conversation one-on-one, but a full class was daunting. Her trick was to take it just one class at a time. She also came to the realization that most beginning students are more focused on their postures than any verbal slip-ups a teacher makes.
Even the simple task of greeting students at the door and getting to know them before a class begins can put a new teacher at ease. Once you know your students the class becomes a sea of familiar faces that you’re talking to.
Dialogue that Inspires
Mastering eloquent delivery alone isn’t sufficient. Teachers that set themselves apart are the ones who inspire! Attend anyone of Cynthia Wehr’s Bikram Yoga classes or Rusty Wells inSan Francisco, and this is what their students will tell you. Of course these are teachers who have been teaching for 10+ years! They have the ability to transform a normal dialogue into something that pushes you just a little harder. Just when you think your muscles cannot move another inch, their words will make you stretch farther.
What makes their dialogue rich and inspirational are the small positive reinforcements they say in the hardest postures, and the tiny stories they tell of challenges they’ve overcome during their practice. All of these add to the richness of their dialogue and connect with students.
Communication is the Key to Lasting Connection
There are teachers who come up with their own style of yoga, and have a certain mystique about them. However, in talking to many fellow practitioners most grow to love the teacher who has simple but effective communication skills. Yoga is after a simple practice. Your mind, your body, and your mat.
Working to make your dialogue solid, adding elements of inspiration, and finally checking up on students before and after class create a last impression and build an everlasting bond.
Poornima Vijayashanker graduated from Duke University with a double degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science. After graduating she headed out to Silicon Valley, where she first worked for Synopsys as an R&D Engineer, and started working towards a Masters in CS at Stanford. She left her Masters to join Mint.com in 2006 as the third employee, and stayed until its Intuit Acquisition in late 2009. In January 2010 she left Mint.com to start BizeeBee.com, and is currently its CEO and Founder. Aside from being a coder, entrepreneur, speaker, and mentor to junior engineers, Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com, is an avid traveler, foodie, and a competitive Bikram yogini.
BizeeBeehelps businesses that offer memberships increase renewals, and manage their relationship with their members. Its mission is to deliver simple solutions to small business owners like fitness studios to help them grow and become sustainable businesses.