Have you ever taken a yoga class when you could just tell that the teacher was not into it? Or have you been that teacher? A passionless teacher can’t inspire students. Fortunately, there is a remedy, and that is to get on your own yoga mat and meditation cushion. As the yogini Dana Trixie Flynn puts it, “Just as a concert musician must practice their instrument, a yoga teacher must practice on their mat.”
This doesn’t mean going to a workshop or retreat only once in a while — though that can be nice — and coming back inspired and enthusiastic. This is about continual refueling. It means getting on your yoga mat consistently, at home, in a class, or at a practice for teachers and advanced students.
This may seem obvious, but the majority of teachers we’ve polled complain that their single biggest challenge as a teacher is keeping up their own practice. If this is a problem for you, here are some ideas to get you rolling. If you’re practicing consistently already, you can skim this section, but you might consider helping to uplift the whole teaching community by organizing group practices that help others stay motivated too.
Establish — and Maintain — Your Home Practice
Having a practice of your own can be not only empowering but often incredibly creative and innovative. If you don’t continue to practice regularly in addition to teaching, your only source of inspiration for your teaching is the stale memory of a regular practice. Do whatever it takes to get yourself on your mat five to seven days a week, even if only for a short time. Put on your favorite music first thing in the morning, and get on your mat and just experiment with movement.
Vow to practice at least ten minutes a day, five to seven days a week. By committing to only ten minutes, you avoid putting pressure on yourself, and you’re more likely to stick to the resolution. If you start small, you will find yourself craving more time on the mat.
Create a dedicated space in your home for your practice (perhaps, like many yogis, you did this during the pandemic). This will encourage you to practice at home more often. It doesn’t have to be anything special — and you certainly don’t want to put so much thought into it that the planning process prevents you from rolling out your mat! But when you put just enough energy into a space, it can become magnetic, drawing you onto the mat.
Other tips for practicing consistently and keeping your practice interesting include the following:
- Go straight from your bed to the mat in the morning
- Queue up new music to listen to while practicing
- Attempt a new pose and do a warm-up that gets you there
- Practice someplace new — in a different room, outside, or even in a hot tub
- Lay out your mat in an unavoidable space
- Set a goal for the week, such as a certain number of days on the mat, a certain pose, or more time in a pose
- Keep an asana and meditation journal to stay accountable to yourself
- Write down any inspiring sequences you’ve done in other teachers’ classes or practices, and work on them again
Amy Ippoliti teaches on YogaInternational.com and has been a presenter at the Omega Institute, Esalen, and Kripalu, as well as the Telluride Yoga Festival and Hanuman Festival. She is a pioneer of advanced yoga education and has written for numerous publications. Taro Smith, PhD, is a health and wellness entrepreneur who has directed digital yoga and meditation content strategy for a variety of digital platforms, including Yoga International, Gaia, and Glo. Together, Ippoliti and Smith cofounded Vesselify (formerly 90 Monkeys), an online resource for yoga professionals. They live in Boulder, Colorado. Visit them online at http://www.AmyIppoliti.com.
Excerpted from the book The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga. Copyright © 2016 by Amy Ippoliti and Taro Smith, PhD. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com