overcoming the fear of teaching yoga

tips on teaching your first yoga class

I’m sitting at a local tea shop, Zen Zoo enjoying my green boba tea as my cell phone rings. I glance down and notice it is Sacred Movement Yoga (the hottest yoga studio in Los Angeles at the time) calling. An invisible knot leaps from my belly to my throat as i press the green key to answer.

“This is Jason”, I say.

“Hi, this is Jenny at Sacred Movement. Saul just called and asked for you to sub his Sunday 10:30am class tomorrow. He has a last minute conflict. Can you come in?”, asks Jenny.

I had been diligently working towards this moment teaching small classes at tiny studios, in the Universal Studios’ gym and at the beach while assisting Saul David Raye from the beginning of Sacred Movement for well over the past year. My first chance to step up to the next level has come! My heart then jack-hammers through my rib cage so strongly my breath rapidly evaporates.s

Anxiousness and excitement pulse through me as one. 

“I can do this.”

“Awesome, it’s about time. If so-and-so can do it, so can I!”

“Oh my God, what if I blow it?” 

“What should I teach?” 

“Will anyone come?”

“How can I be remotely as good as this great asana teacher, Saul?”, I repeat inside.

The doubts and fears dance with such a sharp edge with my excitement and joy for this opportunity. I catch this and attempt to eliminate the fears through any conscious or unconscious means possible. 

By Sunday morning 10 minutes before the doors to the Sun Room open, nothing has helped. I stand in a corner as the people pile in to take class. I scan each person as they step up to sign the board for class. I watch closely to discern the disappointment or indifference in each face as they notice that it is me subbing the class. I secretly yearn that someone will smile with excitement to have me teaching, yet expect the opposite.

From my seat, I didn’t see many truthful smiles as people said hello or patted me on the back with encouragement. 

Mostly, I saw the minds of many calculating, “Should I stay or should I go? I like Jason”¦ as Saul’s assistant, but for my yoga teacher?”

The sun room doors open. Many sweat-drenched students walk out smiling with satisfaction from their strenuous class. 

I’m up! The 80+ people for Saul’s class rush in for their spot on the spiraling wood floor. 

I hesitate outside the doors clamoring for some sort of grounding, faith and confidence in myself. 

A screaming thought rushes in, “If you don’t pull it together right now Jason, you’re going to blow it and that’s it. You may never get the chance to teach here again!”

I scramble to deepen my breath, root my feet and discover some kind of trust in myself. It’s not working. SH**!

I stumble towards the door when I hear a voice from within, “What is your intention Jason?”

That’s it! 

What is my intention is the key to this class. What am I intending to offer every divine being inside the Sun Room? What traits do I choose to live by in every moment in my life including this one right now? 

I quickly remember and mumble what I call my Umbrella Intention, “I choose to be of service to myself and all beings for the highest spiritual good of all involved in all moments of life.” 

I realize that my core intention is to be of service. Which then means this class is not about me and what I can get, it’s not about what others will think about me, nor how many people are in the room. Since this is the case, I must follow through and teach from this place”¦ from the purity of service!

It was as though a huge knitting needle had just punctured the soaring hot air balloon of fear within me. The basket and failing balloon rapidly crashed to earth. A bit jostled, yet my breath returned and the anxiousness diminished. I was still a bit nervous and shaky from the flight of unending fear and the crash back to my reality and purpose of service. Yet now, I could breathe speak and teach with intention.

That class a decade plus ago still chimes quite clearly within me. It wasn’t a great class – many improvements and growth were sure to come in the years to follow. And yes, some people never returned to a class of mine after that day”¦ and, some did.

Ultimately, none of this mattered. What matters then and now is the conscious intention I choose to bring into every class I teach (and every moment in life). As long as i remember and strive to live by the purity of my Umbrella Intention, all that unfolds in life is divinely there to support me in experiencing and being love, joy and peace”¦ truly, remembering who I Am.

Too, I invite you before your next class, your next meeting, your next day to ask, “What are the three qualities in life I most admire in people and really would like to live and be myself?” 

Once you have these, declare to strive to live these traits in each moment whether life or your state is up or down. See this Umbrella Intention as your north star. You continue to travel towards this star. Sometimes you fall off track, yet you use this north star to guide you back on track. 

With this support, likely the nerves, doubts, imbalances hovering within you will recede to the background. In the foreground will be your Umbrella Intention and the TRUE YOU!

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