No one was really paying attention, but in the yoga room, the teacher was looking down toward the floor often, and occasionally she’d be looking up toward the people in front of her. Sometimes, she’d take a quick glance at herself in the mirror. That’s when her hands would re-arrange the clothing around her waist. She would often touch her face, other times she would have one hand massage the other. Her voice was low in volume, sometimes coming up higher in pitch, but generally the students in the back of the room would struggle to hear her.
Your posture is critical to teaching the yoga class. No, not the yoga posture. The posture of the teacher. The stance of a person speaking says much about how she feels about what she is saying and how she wants the students to receive the instructions. A teacher looking down, dropping the chin, or one who glances around but rarely at the students, exudes nervousness, lack of confidence, and plenty of discomfort. Rather than saying, “Hey, listen to me, I have something important to tell you”, the teacher’s body language is saying: “Please don’t look. I’m nervous, and I’m not sure what I’m doing here.”
As a yoga teacher trainer, posture is something I work on with my teachers, because the posture is critical to delivery, as well as to setting the energy (mood).
Here are some helpful hints, which can help you become a more effective yoga teacher, during daily class situations.
An upright (up, right?) stance projects self-discipline and confidence; it says you are in control of yourself, know your material and that you are competently able to lead the class. Standing upright also communicates respect for your student group. We stand up for people who we respect, yes? So by standing up-right, you demonstrate that you appreciate your students’ presence. Avoid slouching, looking down, or leaning against the wall. All those poor postural habits not only demonstrate lack of confidence or lack of interest, but also impair your ability to project your voice properly (your voice should fill the room at all times).
Singers and public speakers learn to breathe from the diaphragm, so an upright stance is important to getting air in and exhaling it as speech. Taking full breaths can also have a calming effect, if needed. Teachers who are nervous sometimes sound out of breath—that’s because usually they are. Also, please remember that speaking beyond the exhale is strenuous to your “voice box” and unsustainable.
Look at the students.
Make eye contact with people whom you are speaking to. Not only do you want to see the students, you want them to see that you see them! Let them see your face, which should radiate with a smile, enthusiasm, gentleness, and approval.
Project your voice.
Actors on stage can be heard in the back rows of the audience. As professional yoga teachers, we need to be able to put energy into our voices. Please remember those three important considerations: the volume (loud!), melody (lots of melody!) and pauses (stop speaking frequently!).
Those simple pointers: stand tall, breathe well, look at your students and project your voice can dramatically improve how successful you feel as a teacher, and how much your students like to attend your yoga class. Good luck!