No One Was Paying Attention

The yoga room was full of people. No one was really paying attention, but the teacher was looking down toward the floor often and only occasionally would she look up toward the persons in front of her.

Occasionally, 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, and yet other times she would stroke her arm. Her voice was low in volume, sometimes coming up higher in pitch. The students in the back of the room would always struggle to hear her.

Are you a teacher? 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 doing. A teacher gazing down toward the floor, dropping the chin, or the 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 is saying: “Please don’t look. I’m nervous, and I’m not sure what I’m doing here.”

The posture is critical to delivery, as well as to setting the mood. Keeping that in mind, here are some hints, which can help you become a more effective yoga teacher in daily class situations:

Stand tall.
An upright stance projects self-discipline and confidence; it says you are in control of yourself, know your material and that you are able to lead the class in a competent way. Standing upright also communicates respect for your student group. We stand up from the table for the people who we respect when they enter the room. Consequently, 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. (I wrote a book about that.)

Breathe well.
Singers and public speakers learn to breathe from the diaphragm, so an upright stance is important in order to get air in and exhale that air as speech. Taking full breaths can also have a calming effect. If yoga teachers, when nervous, sound out of breath—that’s because they are. Remember that speaking beyond the exhale is strenuous to your “voice box” and therefore unsustainable.

Project your voice.
Actors on stage can be heard in the back rows of the audience. Professional yoga teachers need to be able to put energy into their voices. Please remember those three important considerations: the volume (loud!), melody (lots of melody) and pauses (stop speaking, frequently).

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 gentle smile of enthusiasm and approval.

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.

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