I can’t tell you how many students I’ve spoken to who have taken a teacher training who simply do not end up teaching yoga because they are so scared to make mistakes that they feel too vulnerable in the seat of a teacher.
When I speak to these folks, I always like to remind them that teaching yoga is a practice, just like your physical asana practice. One does not become a sensational yoga teacher without a ton of mistakes and mishaps along the way.
Here are a few mistakes I’ve made in my first few years of teaching yoga.
1. I touched someone who didn’t want to be touched
I started off class with a bang, I verbally offered hands-on adjustments and said for those who do not want any to simply raise their hand, and immediately in the left corner, a woman raised her hand. Mentally I thought this information entered my brain but when it came to our cool down section I gave her a deep pigeon adjustment, which is quite an intrusive and intense assist.
When in doubt, apologize! We all make mistakes (cliche, but true), but students will like you more if you admit it than if you don’t acknowledge your faux pas.
2. I knocked someone over
This was during one of the first yoga classes I ever taught. I went to give a woman an assist in a wide-legged forward fold. I leaned her way too far over and knocked her right off her mat. I was horribly mortified. I apologized after killing her vibe in class. Thankfully she was empathetic and ended up being totally cool about it.
3. I forgot my sequence
I always write my sequences out and have them at my mat in case I needed a cheat sheet. For some reason this day was different, in the middle of class my mind went blank. Absolute radio silence. I stumbled and fumbled with words, and then just made a bunch of stuff up on the fly. Most of my students didn’t even notice my blood-pumping anxiety in my voice and the rest of them didn’t care. And I lived to tell the tale.
It’s okay to make up your sequence as you go. Sometimes it’s actually better that way because, in the heat of the moment, you can choose poses and flows that meet the needs of the students standing in front of you, without worrying about whether or not you’ve stuck to the “script.”
And remember: when in doubt, drop them into child’s pose to give yourself a moment to think!
4. I called someone by the wrong name
So this didn’t happen just once but was an on going occurrence. I called someone the wrong name for a good month. I think he was just as awkward as I am that it took him a long time to finally correct me.
If you have a weakness like this–or discover it by finding yourself in an awkward situation like mine–don’t be afraid to say so. Students will respect you more for it.
5. I passed gas on my manager’s face
This one took the cake of embarrassment. There were two students on opposite ends of the room, one of them being a manager of the studio. While in savasana I squatted down to give her a neck and shoulder massage and farted, literally on her face. I mean there were very few people I could try to blame that on. I cried a little on my car ride home.
But ultimately, you have to learn to laugh it off. Life’s too short to worry about farts–everyone does them–so give yourself the time you need to get over your humiliation and let it go.
6. I forgot to teach
Yup, just totally blanked. I was on the schedule to teach and I forgot to put it on my calendar so when it came to class time I was not there. The disappointment you feel for your students and studio owners runs very deep in times like this.
See if you can find a way to make it up to the students, either in the form of a refund or a free class.
7. Just the worst playlist
I taught a class where I accidentally put a playlist on shuffle with a manager in the room. I was so panicked and worried that she would be pissed at me for changing the music in the middle of class I left it playing on its arbitrary loop. The loud up beat music in savasana really laid the foundation for relaxing vibes. Just kidding.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, take a deep breath, make a decision, and stick to it. If you decide to leave the playlist on shuffle, roll with it. But you could also change the music in the middle of class and risk the teacher being upset with you. It’s your class, and however, you decide to run it, own it!
8. Forgetting what side you’re on
This is something that happens to even the most seasoned yoga teachers. You teach the right side, go off on some tangent or demo and you forget. Did I do the right side? Are we on the left side? Did I just skip a side? Most students will help you out in times like this and you learn quickly to just laugh it off.
9. I taught way too fast
Have you ever been to a vinyasa class where you felt like you could just not keep up because the teacher was talking at lightning speed? Yup, when nerves and coffee mix I morph into the speed of light. I planned out an hour class and spoke so quickly I taught my whole class with still 10 minutes to spare.
Keep a few poses at the ready in your “teacher’s toolbox” for moments like this. Having a plan B (or C, or D…) lined up and ready should you need will help you fill those last ten minutes–without added stress.
10. I fell asleep during class
Yes, you read that right, I fell asleep during class. While teaching a 90-minute yin class, I laid at the top of my mat, putting me and my students in supta baddha konasana. For what I intended to be a 10-minute hold ended up being more of a 25-minute hold because I thought it was a good time to take a nap. Luckily no one really noticed and I simply just moved on with the next pose.
So there you have it, I have made loads of mistakes and fumbles, and probably will continue to make them. But I like to always remember that we do not become the best at something without failing about a million times.
Whether you are wanting to teach yoga or take up a new hobby, being bad at something is part of the process. So go out there and make a mess of things!