top mistakes yoga teachers make
Published: 05-11-2013 - Last Edited: 02-01-2022
Wondering what the common mistakes yoga teachers make?
As yoga teachers, we can get hung up on what we do in our own practices, rather than what the students in our classes actually need. On a recent trip, I popped into a yoga class and found I was unable to sink into my practice because the teacher kept correcting every move, even stopping the class to mini-workshop.
As a teacher, I’ve done this too. Sometimes you need to and sometimes it is unnecessary. If your cues are more dogmatic than a simple breakdown, you might overdo it. After all, yoga is about each student finding their own way through the practice.
1. Not introducing yourself at the beginning of class
It is important to build your relationships with new students and making them feel welcomed. Let them know your name, and ask if any of them have any particular injuries you should know about. This will create a safer and more approachable environment for your yoga students.
2. Forgetting to look at your students:
So many times the teacher stays on the mat or walks around the room without actually looking at the students during the practice. Make eye contact. Keep your focus and stay in the moment of your teaching by facing the students.
3. Not covering the entire room
Be engaged with ALL students and offer adjustments if welcomed, to people that are not only at the front of the class. Too often, teachers pay only attention to one or two corners of the room and tend to not cover the whole room. Depending on but that sometimes also made me take off on a stroll without really thinking where they are settled in, some students might feel left out. Keep moving (not in a circle, as it can get the student dizzy!) and do it with a purpose.
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4. Talking too much:
Try not to talk constantly just to fill the class. You’ll drastically improve your own awareness of the class, and you’ll also improve the student’s personal experience. A bit of quiet time can be very rejuvenating for your students.
5. Imposing alignment cues on your students:
Students need cues but don’t call cues that are unnecessary. Most poses have specific alignment points. But not all bodies are created equal. Again, look and see what alignment points need to be addressed. Give verbal cues, then a physical adjustment if needed.
6. Preaching Your Own Practice:
Practice what you preach, but don’t preach what you practice. Your own personal practice may not be appropriate for the style or level class you are teaching. Let the students have some freedom to explore and find their own practice. Your body and mind might not need the same as theirs.
7. Practicing while teaching
It’s ok to show a few poses however, rapidly focus on teaching and not getting your workout done during class. Some students are more visual so to show a posture might definitely help. Once you have demonstrated the asana, reconnect with your students, and continue to keep the attention on the whole room.
8. Give all your attention to 1 or 2 students only
Make sure you adapt your teaching to the entire class. Some students will be more advanced, some other very beginners. From standing poses to finishing poses, give modification to each level, so you don’t have to help 1 or 2 students in particular consistently. It is ok to give adjustment if needed, but remember that all students come to receive teaching and your attention. If you catch yourself spending too much time checking on one student, in particular, adjust and speak to the class in a more general way.
9. Being late
We all have schedules. It’s essential to arrive on time at your class and free your students on time as well. Also, be aware of the timing during your class, as a common mistake is to take a lot of time in the beginning and then realizing that class is almost over and rushing through the finishing poses or a Savasana. This could jeopard all the good sensations your students are experiencing. Plan ahead of time and, of course, keep track of time during the class
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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 a child’s pose to give yourself a moment to think!
13. I called someone by the wrong name
So this didn’t happen just once but was an ongoing 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.
14. I forgot to teach
Yup, just totally blank. I was on the schedule to teach and I forgot to put it on my calendar so when it came to the class time I was not there. The disappointment you feel for your students and studio owners run 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.
15. 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 upbeat music in savasana really laid the foundation for relaxing vibes. Just kidding.
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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!
16. 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 aside? Most students will help you out in times like this and you learn quickly to just laugh it off.
17. 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.
18. 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.
Connect more with your students and deepen your own practice and teaching. Let go of rules and regulations and start teaching from your heart.
You’ll not only breakthrough your own walls but you’ll also help your students break through theirs.
Take this 1-minute survey to see what stops you from being the confident teacher you aspire to be! And benefit from this FREE MASTERCLASS: Sequencing for Impact – How To Easily and Confidently Create Inspiring Yoga Classes Your Students Will Love with Marylene Henry from Zazyoga.com