As a teacher, I’ve had to learn a lot through trial and error. Trial and error will happen for anyone starting to teach, but I do wish I’d known a few more ins and outs when I jumped in. Here are some of the biggest things I’ve learned as a Kundalini Yoga teacher, that I wish I’d known from Day One:
1. There is No Perfect Class
Let the energy of the people in the room and the energy of the planet move and shift what needs to happen. Do your best and prepare, but allow the class to become what it needs to be. Go with the flow. There are great classes, but no perfect ones. That’s perfect, too.
2. There are No Perfect Teachers
Don’t put anyone, including yourself, up on a pedestal. Your teachers, no matter how amazing, are points of light along the Golden Chain. This is a powerful spot to be in and very sacred, but ultimately it is the Golden Chain, the Guru Dev, and the energy of the teachings that moves you. But if you worship them, they will disappoint you. They are human; don’t forget. So are you. Just because you are a teacher doesn’t mean you are can be a perfect teacher. You can only be a perfect you.
3. Get Good Music
Stay fresh and current with your music. The right song can uplift and inspire your students. Familiarize yourself with the singers in the Kundalini Yoga genre. Become aware of as many musicians and music as you can find space in your iPod for. So much is available on SpiritVoyage.com for you to browse and listen to as a preview, so that you know what is out there. Know different versions of mantras with different feelings so that you are always ready with the right energy for a kriya or meditation. Make it your business to know the music! Your students will thank you for it.
4. Watch Your Flow
The space between postures in kriyas is important. How you explain to your students moving from one position to the next? Guide them comfortably and clearly. Keep your voice flowing nicely and avoid uncomfortable gaps that might result from not being familiar with the kriya. If you get flustered, just relax. Take a breath and slowly explain what you want your students to do. If you prep your classes carefully, don’t forget to prep transitions.
In the beginning, I would often not leave enough time for a layout. The more experience you have as a teacher, the better you understand how long teaching a kriya or meditation will really take, how long you will talk, and what you will need to create time and space for. Giving your students a layout is so important to allow them to integrate the energetic and physical changes that are taking place in them after a kriya. Make sure you leave the time! If you are teaching an especially physically challenging kriya, consider giving a longer layout for deep relaxation and integration. My CD Journey into Stillness can support savasana and the track “Guided Meditation for Deep Relaxation” is a great tool to not only play in class but also to learn how to lead a proper savasana.
6. Never Underestimate Your Students
I’ve seen a woman in her 80’s who could barely walk keep her arms up smoothly in a crushing meditation. I never thought she’d be able to do it, but her Soul knew better. Give people to opportunity to surprise you. Don’t be afraid to teach the challenging kriyas and meditations. Going the to limit can be incredibly powerful.
7. Never Underestimate Yourself
Don’t allow yourself to fall into self-talk like, “I’m not as good as that teacher.” Everyone started somewhere and even Yogi Bhajan had a teacher. Stay a student and keep learning and allow yourself to believe that the Golden Chain will support you. I’ve often found that while teaching I can do much more than I can while I’m on my own. I’ve found that poses that are nearly impossible for me to do outside of class for flexibility reason will become easy to demonstrate while teaching. That’s the Golden Chain.
8. Talk It Out
If you’re very new, talk out a kriya with yourself while prepping. Describe to yourself how to do each exercise and how to come into the next posture. Practice getting the words out and you’ll find it easier to teach. This gets better and easier the more you do it, but when you’re first starting, it’s so comforting to know you’ve already talked it through.
9. Be Comfortable with Silence
Sometimes you don’t need to talk at all. Become comfortable with the stillness in your classroom. During a meditation, a “keep up” here or there might be just the thing, but feel out the room. Sometimes a meditation is so powerful and the students so deep you don’t want to disrupt their experience.
10. Hard is Good. So is Gentle.
The measure of a class is not how difficult it was. Although pushing yourself to the edge is amazing, so too is subtlety. Don’t push too hard just to test people and don’t be afraid to push to let people test themselves. Meditations are effective when they are difficult, and they are also effective when they are easy. You are just working out different parts of the body and psyche.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
Take teaching seriously, but don’t take it too seriously. Enjoy every minute of it and your students will, too!