New Teachers: Nervous and No Confidence?
At the beginning of their teaching career, most of new yoga teachers struggle with unwanted nervousness and lack confidence.
That is bad news, because teaching yoga is a dream come true for many of us. Teaching certainly should not bring us anxiety, or any other negative feelings for that matter. If all this applies to you, then get comfortable for a moment, read carefully, and I will help you. Let’s look at “The Big Three” of Physiology, Tonality, and Mindset.
Do you know of Bruce Springsteen? In America, they call him “The Boss”. He has a 50-year-long music career and has been an absolute mega rock star. Tens of thousands of people attend the concerts of The Boss. Once, someone asked Mr. Springsteen if after all those years he still gets nervous before the show. He replied that yes, he does. Only he has learned to change nervousness into… excitement.
Science actually backs this up. We know that, physiologically, the body’s responses to nervousness and excitement are the same. Hormonally, the same activation takes place and we get the same same shaky hands and sweaty palms.
Therefore the first thing on your list is to mentally understand what happens with you when you’re nervous: it is the same, as if you were excited!
In my experience working with yoga teachers on what ways we can find ways to teach better classes, just the intellectual understanding of the above has been helpful to some, and some resolved their nervousness completely.
However, if that’s not helpful to you—there’s more we can do.
Please understand those two important points: 1. When we are nervous we speak at a faster pace than normal. 2. When we lack in confidence, we are automatically speaking quieter in volume.
This is unfortunate, because two things happen: speaking faster, we’re making ourselves more nervous, and by speaking quieter, we feel less confident. In addition, the same thing is experienced by viewers and listeners (in our case, the yoga students present in the yoga room)—they perceive our nervousness and lack of confidence instantly. Bad for business.
Of course, just reading this, you already know what to do to remedy the problem, yes? Speak slower and louder.
You will then see that the nervousness is gone and it’s been replaced with confidence. (You’ll still be able to speak quicker sometimes, when needed, don’t worry.) Slowing down the pacing and increasing the volume are just two wonderful possibilities at your disposal, which you can get started with right away.
As an important side note, please understand that in order for us to speak louder, we need to keep an upright spine and breathe better. That also is very helpful in creating confidence within and projecting confidence externally. Which is exactly what we want. So there.
Now, the last important thing for you to know: A change in the mindset. That may also work for you.
When we are nervous and lack confidence, the internal dialogue is not helpful. We’re teaching the class and thinking along those lines: “I’m not sure what I’m doing”, “I’m not good enough”, “I don’t want to feel so embarrassed”, etc. That internal chatter in the mind must stop.
We must breathe, and shift our mental process toward making conscious and ongoing decisions regarding action, words, and location. The mindset must change from internally busy to externally busy. Our attention must shift from ourselves toward what’s in front of us: the yoga students.
When I was a new teacher and was required to teach mock classes during my Hot Yoga teacher training, whenever I felt nervous, unsure, intimidated, or drawing up a “blank”, my teacher Jimmy Barkan would remind me to ask myself: “What are we doing right now?” The answer to that question during teaching my class would be, for example, Eagle pose, first set, right side. As soon as I had given myself the answer, my attention would shift from the internal chatter to the right external expression, getting on with the flow of the material smoothly, confidently, in an alert and awake, playful way. It worked like a charm each time and soon enough, it was no longer needed at all.