My Top 10 Tips for New Yoga Teachers

Over the many years that I've taken part in helping to train new yoga teachers and run mentor programs and run trainings of my own, I've come across some really common pieces of advice that I've shared with many of these students.

Top 10 Tips for New Yoga Teachers

10. Don't Bring Your Mobile Phone into the Studio

Don't Bring Your Phone Into The Studio

Unless you must use it, maybe for playing music from (and that can be out of the line-of-sight of your students), it's really not a great look to bring your mobile phone into the studio, even if it's a way of keeping time or something that you've got on your mat.


Unfortunately there's a strong connotation of a mobile phone being something that people are looking at and checking out. If you're scrolling through your mobile phone, even if you're looking for that sweet savasana track, and your students can see you on your phone, it's going to look like you have checked out and you're not paying attention to them.


See if you can find an alternative way to check the time... maybe a good old-fashioned floor clock or even a watch could be a better substitute.


9. Create for Yourself a Small Selection of Class Plans


If you are creating something really amazing every time you're going to teach a class in terms of your sequence and your theming and your content, you're probably going to find that for a long time becoming a teacher, you're going to be heavily reliant on your notes or heavily distracted by thinking into your memory about what you plan for that class.

Create Class Plans

My advice would be for you is to create 3-5 class plans that you can keep recycling.


One of those class plans might be focused on backbends or one might be focused on the concept of 'reconnecting to the Earth'.


You can then you can just keep recycling through those class plans until they become so automatic and well learned that you can step away from your notes and into the room, free to focus on what's going on in front of you.


After that, you can feel free to start free flowing and adlibbing with those class plans.


8. What to Do if You're Feeling Really Nervous?


My best piece of advice here is to find somewhere in the room where you can get out of the line-of-sight of your students.


One of the best places that you can do this is the first moment in the class when your students have come up to standing and their eyes are closed. If you've been feeling a bit overwhelmed "oh my goodness all of these people are suddenly looking at me" or they will when they open their eyes, take that time to slowly walk to the back of the room and stand behind the class and they'll be facing in the opposite direction.


This will give you a moment to catch your breath, settle your nerves, and then you can do some cues from there. Take a look down and look at their feet, maybe look at where their hands are pointing, look at what's going on in their bodies and see how their bodies shift and change as you give some cues, whilst at the same time giving yourself a breather from being out of the spotlight.



7. Keep it Simple


There's nothing more overwhelming than creating a really tricky class and then bringing it to the classroom and losing your place, or finding that your students can't keep up, or something that you thought would be really clever and nifty just doesn't work at all.


The students are not coming to your class to be impressed by your virtuoso or your choreographic skills. They're coming to do yoga.


Keep your class plan nice and simple, and then over time you can begin to add more layers and more thoroughly 'frilly bits' as you go along.


6. To Mirror or Not to Mirror?


When you're demonstrating, what do you choose to do? Do you mirror the room and therefore they might be using their right arm and you've got to use your left, or do you choose to use your right arm whilst they're using their right arm?


Mostly this is going to come down to your brain and your mouth and how well they can communicate with each other and the students.

To Mirror or Not to Mirror?

My advice to you is pick one or the other but if you're having a difficult time with that, just stick to the side that your brain is used to using. If you want the whole room to be raising their right arm up to the ceiling, then raise your right arm up to the ceiling as well, but remember to tell your students "I'm going to be using my right arm and you're going to use your right arm"... Because sometimes they're going to drop into autopilot mode and just remind them once again.


In postures that can get pretty complicated with rights and left arms and right and left legs, my advice to you would be; sit on the floor but face the side. That way you're on a profile view from your students so that you can keep using your body parts, but they can still see you and they can follow along, with their rights and their lefts as well.


5. Where Can You 'Tap Out' of Demonstrating?


It's not always easy to feel confident to step off the mat and walk through the room and only rely on your words. A lot of new teachers feel that they have to stay on the mat and demonstrate, otherwise they won't know what they have to say.


That's completely fine, but bear in mind that if you're going to demonstrate your whole class, that is a lot of energy. If you then teach a double or if you teach classes again that evening, that's a lot of energy as well.


You want to start looking for how you can bridge the gap between using your skill set of demonstrating, but also using your skillset of your words. You're going to have to try and find a couple of places in the class where you can begin to not demonstrate.


The two postures that I regularly advise for this is uttanasana (especially in your sun salutations). Often I would be standing in uttanasana facing the group, together we all take our arms up to the ceiling then we collectively start to forward fold.

As soon as you shift eye contact from the students and they begin to forward fold you are now out of their line-of-sight. This is where you can stand back up.


They're going to be in uttanasana and their faces are in their shins. They can't see you. There's no point for you to be uttanasana at the same time. Instead you can be standing and looking around the room, maybe picking up on some other cue that they need for you to hear.

Where Can You 'Tap Out' ?

The other posture I would recommend for you to 'tap-out' would be downward facing dog. For example, let's say that they were still in uttanasana, before stepping back into downward facing dog. If you step back into downward facing dog as well and you're cueing in that shape, your voice is headed in the complete opposite direction to all the students in the class.


They would be looking back between their legs at the back wall. You're probably looking back between your feet at the opposite wall and your voice and your sound is going everywhere else but toward their ears.


Perhaps use that time to soften your knees down to the floor, come into a little kneeling position, lift up your head and look at what's going on in the room. Use this as an opportunity to see what's happening and that will give you your information that you need for your next cues.

4. Try and Make Some Eye Contact with Your Students


If you're on your mat and demonstrating for your whole class, and let's say you've got your mat sideways and you're not even looking at your group of students, if you're simply doing your practice and cueing the whole class and you never look at the room, it's a very disconnected feeling for the students.

Remember To Make Eye Contact With Your Students

Start finding moments where you can connect to the room through eye contact. That might be places where you are not demonstrating but that might also be places where you simply do half of the shape and then turn your head back to actually look at your students.


Otherwise, it feels like the teacher that's simply demonstrating and not looking at the students is sort of indulging and not paying attention at all. If you're not looking at your students, there might be really important information that they're giving you, things that they haven't quite understood properly or half the students might be facing one way and the other, and if you're not looking at them, you don't know.


It can be a bit overwhelming to suddenly realise, "oh my goodness, I'm the one teaching" or "everyone's looking at me", but in those moments where you start to connect and look at your students, you're going to develop better skills in your language and your cueing because you'll be cueing to what you can see.


3. Pause with Your Students

If you invite your students to step back into downward facing dog, or come to the floor into child's pose, giving them a break such as "we're going to take five breaths here"... If you talk all the way through those five breaths, you've missed an opportunity.

Remember to Pause With Your Students

If you invite your students to take five breaths, that's also your invitation to stop and take five breaths as well.


This is a place where you can let whatever you've just said land in the room, giving both the students a chance to connect and feel their breath, and also a chance for you to settle your nerves to give some space in between your cues.


2. Say Less

Have you ever been in one of those classes where the teacher hasn't come up for breath at all? 🙋‍♀️ It's a lot of information to digest!


When you're teaching, try to remember that feeling you have when you're a student. We all need time to digest information and to catch up.


If you are a new teacher that's talking the whole time, that's great but there's probably about three classes worth of information that you've jammed into that.


Get comfortable with leaving more space in between your cues, giving your students much needed pockets of silence for them to integrate what you've just offered them.

1. Finish Your Class on Time


This one should go without saying but this would have to be the most important: finish your yoga class on time.

Finish Your Yoga Class On Time

When we finish our classes on time, we are honoring the time of our students and we are making sure that they feel safe to take time out of their day and drop into our class and not have to worry about chasing their tail when they leave because we've run over time.


So, what does this mean for you? Pay attention to the clock.


Whether you choose to wear a watch or put a timepiece on the floor somewhere. When you start to get close to the 10-15 minutes remaining mark, you should be heading down into the floor (you should probably be there already).


Leave at least eight minutes for your savasana and some kind of coming up to sit closing meditation/intention moment.


By the time all of that finishes, your students are going to be rolling up their mats and leaving the studio maybe like a minute or two over after the class finish time which means we're respecting their day and ultimately respecting them, which is so important.


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Karina Smith

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Prahran

Yin Yoga Teacher, Yin Yoga Teacher Training and Yin Yoga Educator

Servicing Prahran and surrounding suburbs including: Caulfield North, Richmond, South Yarra, St Kilda East, Toorak and Windsor.

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