The Reality of Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Teaching yoga. This has been a dream of mine for so long, and in April this year it finally came true after I qualified to teach. When people asked me what I did for a living, I could finally say, “I’m a yoga teacher!” Amaze!

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Looking after a baby and studying IS doable!

 

 

I hadn’t, however, given much thought on where and how I was going to teach once qualified. My mind had been so focused on passing the exams that the period after qualifying hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind. The time during which I was studying was made all the more time consuming due to looking after my son, who was around 8 months old at the time. Character building, though!

 

 

 

 

Luckily, a lovely girl with whom I trained recommended me to a yoga instructor friend of hers who needed cover. I started teaching corporate yoga classes in Central London a couple of weeks after qualifying. I was actually teaching! Another friend of mine, also an instructor, regularly needs cover, so I now teach beginners’ classes from time to time.

But this isn’t enough to pay the bills! Getting a permanent slot on a studio timetable is incredibly difficult-sometimes I feel that there are too many yoga teachers for the number of jobs available in Greater London. I look at studio timetables and think, “Hmmm, where would they even put me as a new teacher?!” Still, I put myself out there by assisting at studios and making myself known to teachers’ classes I go to. I have also recently qualified as a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher which will hopefully benefit from being quite niche-y.

I had hired a room at a studio to host a beginners’ yoga course but, due to my poor marketing skills, or perhaps a lack of demand for this in Chiswick where I live, there was not enough to make it a worthwhile venture.

I have a website, I have posted CVs to studios and health clubs; I was naive to think that this was enough to make jobs just fall into my lap! And with another baby on the way, sometimes I think that perhaps I should go back to doing a real job, as I have a family to support.

In hindsight, I would have stayed in my original job and just started teaching around my main job, at least so that I had a regular salary coming in. This is so obvious to me now, but at the time I was so desperate to leave my old job and follow my dream!

So, a few home truths about being a yoga teacher:

  1. This profession does not necessarily make you rich. I meant, I guess it could do if you are lucky enough to become a celebrity teacher, like Kino et al. Otherwise, don’t give up your day job if you already have one. Teach alongside your current job, otherwise the world becomes an incredibly scary and stressful place!
  2. Teaching is tiring. I’ve only ever taught a maximum of one class a day and even this exhausts me! An hour or so of pretty much constantly talking, modifying and assisting students, and creatively structuring a class can be mentally draining. However, teaching can also be exhilarating-just pace yourself and take time to relax!
  3. Teaching yoga can make your self-practice less of a priority-don’t let this happen to you. If I’m honest, I barely practice at home anymore. If I do manage to practice at home, I end up using the time instead to create new sequences for students, or cut it short to attend to my son. I go to external yoga classes in order to practice, which means I have lost my own meditative home practice, that which made me want to teach in the first place. Something I need to work on!
  4. Being a yoga teacher can be expensive. I know this sounds weird, but if you look at Yoga Teacher Trainings, both in the UK and abroad, they are rather pricey. For example, an 200 hour YTT in London costs up to £4500. Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training can cost around £600. A CPD in restorative teaching can cost up to £500. It is generally expected that yoga teachers keep their trainings up to date, but this can be costly.

Please don’t let my comments put  you off teaching, though! It is such a creative and rewarding profession, as is teaching anything that you enjoy doing yourself. It just pays to plan in advance, especially when it comes to finances. Don’t be disorganised with your head in the clouds like me.

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Despite not being the easiest career to get into, yoga teaching makes me feel like this!

 

Everything considered, I am going to keep promoting myself and continue to train with my favourite teachers, as I know that this is something that I love. And I am making a resolution right this minute to have at least a 15 minute self-practice every day. If I do end up deciding to go back to the ‘normal’ working world, I know that I would have given this my best shot!

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Omg, I taught my first yoga class!

I finally did it-last Monday evening I taught my first yoga class in Central London. I was extra nervous about getting it right as a fellow teacher trainee had recommended me to her friend who needed cover. She told me that the class was a beginner class and that they didn’t usually do flow-however, as my own practice is flow based, I felt that I wanted to make it at least a little bit Vinyasa-ry and teach them something new.

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I arrived mega early (55 minutes in fact) and went through the sequence in my head. The time flew by and before I knew it, I was teaching! It was so strange having people who had actually paid to come to the class, listening to me and literally doing everything that I told them to-talk about pressure!

Nobody’s perfect.

Then my worse nightmare happened-my Bluetooth speaker stopped. I knew that this would be a possibility but never really thought that it would happen. It kind of threw me and I started rushing the teaching. I could barely get off my mat which annoyed me as I hate it when teachers do this.

Eventually I calmed down and started walking around and instructing the poses as opposed to constantly demonstrating them. Well, I was calm until I realised that I was at the end of the whole sequence but still had 20 minutes left to teach-wtf?? How had that happened? The students were already on the floor, so I simply taught them a few more poses such as twists and Bridge, and then made sure that the Savasana was a little longer then planned. At least this way I had time to go round and give Savasana adjustments, something that I personally love to receive.

I made sure that I asked for feedback at the end of the class. I didn’t tell them that it was my first class, as didn’t feel that the students needed to know. Everyone was polite and said that they were very relaxed, but it was hard to tell if they really enjoyed it as people are generally so polite! I will just have to assume that they enjoyed it as they didn’t tell me otherwise-they seemed happy!

Things I have learned from teaching my first class:

Don’t rely on a playlist.

I knew my playlist off by heart and had been using the tracks as a cue on when to start the next section of the sequence-BIG mistake. Imagine my panicked brain when the music simply stopped working!

If your music does work, play it loud enough!

Loud enough so that it doesn’t sound like background music, especially during Savasana and energetic sections. I left the music, when working, playing quietly and it just felt weird.

 Don’t feel that you have to adjust anybody.

I love when a teacher deepens me into a pose, and felt the need to do this to everyone, but I don’t think that they really needed it. I felt that they were just happy to be in the pose. Unless it is an alignment issue, it’s okay to simply instruct.

 Prepare a back up plan.

If you end up teaching too quickly, have a few poses at the ready just in case you need to teach a bit extra. Conversely, if you find that you are running out of time, have in your mind beforehand which poses can be omitted to get the students safely to Savasana.

Keep an eye on the time!

Don’t do a Mel.

Don’t feel like you have to fill the silences.

I’m a talker. I could even hear myself constantly talking, trying to say everything I knew about each pose, but my nerves wouldn’t let me stop. Try not to say it if it isn’t relevant. If everyone is pressing their fingers into the mat in Downward Dog, you don’t need to remind them to do that.

Nerves, be gone!

The main thing, however, that I have learned is that it is normal to have nerves, and in a way this simply shows that you care. Looking back on every new challenge in my life, I was nervous but with experience, these pesky nerves dissipated. In fact, next time I will try to turn that nervous energy into excitement-apparently both emotions cause the same physical symptoms. Who knew?

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I’ll be back to let you know how my next class goes. Please share your experiences of teaching your first yoga class, or any kind of class for that matter!

I Passed!

I did my final practical exam in yoga teaching on Saturday-I wasn’t actually nervous beforehand, but more anxious to get it done so that I could teach in real life! I’d practiced the sequence many times on my husband (who is now mega-bendy) and various friends and neighbours, so I knew it like the back of my hand. I really enjoyed it and was told by the examiner that I would suit Power Yoga and Vinyasa Flow, which are both styles that I am planning to teach anyway.

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Where to start?

The hardest thing now is deciding on where and how to teach. Studios cost a lot and it can be difficult to break-even as a new teacher without an established following. Luckily, a friend recommended me during the course to a teacher whose classes I will now be covering in Holborn. So lucky! I will also be assisting at YogaWest, a boutique and calming studio in Acton. We need more dance and yoga studios in Acton, though! My dream would be to open such a studio, so watch this space…

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What next?

I will be studying to be a Barre Instructor and also specialising in Pre and Post-natal Yoga. I found that there were not enough of these classes when I was pregnant, and if there were, they were always at awkward times of the day or you had to commit to a course. I have a new-found respect for pregnant ladies and new mums-this motherhood thing is hard! Yoga has been my ‘thing’ that helps me unwind and feel like me. Cannot wait to start teaching a fun but relaxing mama’s yoga class!

Alfie and Mel-A Day In The Life

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Alfie on one of our many walks in the park

I’m always interested in how other mums or dads spend their day if they are alone with their baby, and if they find it as much as a struggle as me. From speaking to mums at the fitness class I attend at Frame Kings Cross, it seems that everyone else is having a pretty easy time of it compared to me. Perhaps this is true, or maybe some feel that they must appear in control? I’m definitely not one of those-I’ve stopped pretending that I am in control with a perfect life and have started telling others how hard I am finding it. It makes me feel a bit better to let it all out!

When my husband is away, I do find it tiring and suffer a lot of anxiety when looking after Alfie. Definitely something I need to work on!

A typical day would go like this (warning-this is a LONG post as it’s a long day):

0500 Alfie wakes up-I think because he is lonely. Manage to pat and shush him back to sleep. I go back to bed.

0600 Alfie wakes up again. Manage to get him back to sleep. I go back to bed.

0645 Alfie wakes up. I try to get him back to sleep so that he can get up closer to 7am, to no avail. I get him up and give him his bottle.

0745 I make a tea which goes cold as I have to get his breakfast of baby porridge ready.

0800 Feed Alfie porridge which he manages to get in my hair by flicking the spoon out his mouth. He is then sick in my hair whilst burping him.

0830  Quickly make smoothie for myself and gulp it down so that I can shower. Have to wash my sick hair which I rush as Alfie is crying at me from his chair in need of a nap.

0900 Manage to leave the flat with still-wet hair hoping that Alfie will nap in his buggy on way to my fitness class. He only manages ten minutes which makes him grumpy throughout the class. I’m freezing on the way there because of my wet hair! Get a takeaway coffee from Caravan in Granary Square. Would have loved to sit down but Alfie gets angry when we sit still.

1000 Start class at Frame. Put Alfie on the mat and he continuously (and impressively!) rolls across the floor. Repeatedly I put him back on the mat; repeatedly he rolls away, narrowly missing other mums. I only manage to do a few squats before I decide to put him in his buggy.

1030 Alfie starts crying. I sit down and feed him his next bottle. After burping him, he is sick down his and my trousers. I wipe it up, try to do some sit ups with him on my tummy, but I have just missed this section of the class.

1045 Do a few planks, but Alfie needs to be sat up in case he is sick again, so I leave and feed him his sweet potato in the reception area.

1140 After feeding, burping and changing Alfie, we rush outside but miss the bus. I walk/jog home with him in the buggy as he is getting whiny as needs his next nap. Get back home at 12pm and put him in cot. After a quick shower, I’m starving but also knackered, so quickly eat some toast and spinach out of the bag then go to bed.

1300 Alfie wakes up before I have fallen asleep. He won’t go back to sleep, so I get him up and do tummy time. He’s grumpy as he’s tired. I make another cup of tea but it goes cold again as I need to sit with Alfie to stop him from getting more irritable, and don’t want to scald him with it.

1400 I feed Alfie his bottle, burp, then we go for a walk. It’s raining, but I need some air and a change of scenery. After half an hour, he starts moaning so I take him home and put him in cot. He goes to sleep, so I try to study some Anatomy and Physiology for Yoga. Manage to have a cup of tea-yay!

1500 Alfie wakes up. He is in a playful mood so we do a bit of dancing to Amazing Radio. He then sits in his highchair at the table playing with his toys until he gets bored so I dance with him some more. I’m completely knackered at this point. He does a massive poo which goes up his top and on my arms. I change him, then have to have a quick shower to get rid of the poo whilst he sits in his chair. Third shower of the day.

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Calorie laden pancakes from Sunday-delish!

1600 I’m getting cabin fever again and running out of ways to entertain Alfie, so we go for another walk to look at the trees in the park. He is quite happy staring at them. We then get a coffee from Sunday, one of my favourite cafes if the friendly staff are working. Sometimes I’m unlucky and get the moody girl, but not today. I get some cake as am hungry, and eat as we walk back home.

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In the lift on the way for another walk….

1700 Alfie is moody but it is too close to bed time for his nap so I feed him his pureed mango and then wash and change him into his pjs. I practice saying ‘Mama’ with him, but he is more interested in blowing raspberries, which makes me laugh. He then keeps trying to grab and eat my feet, so I let him as he seems to be enjoying it! Tickles though.

1800 Feed Alfie his last bottle, read him a bedtime story. I feel something land on my foot and hope it is not what I think it is. It is. I look down to see a sloppy poo on my right foot. Luckily I have got my socks on, although I can feel it seeping through. I’m amazed that it’s missed my legs, seeing that Alfie is sitting on my lap. I wash and change him, then put him in his cot whilst I clean the carpet. I notice that there is indeed some poo on my arms which means another shower. I say goodnight to Alfie, turn out the lights and wait for him to fall asleep.

1920 Fourth shower today.

2000 Am really hungry but too tired to cook much so I have a random meal of oven chips, avocado and some pre-cooked chicken. I then have a look online to see how to get 6 month olds to nap more.

2130 Go to bed. Worry about why Alfie doesn’t like napping.

2300 Finally fall asleep.

Sleep is such a luxury…

I love Alfie so much and reading this through again, I do see that he is just a normal sociable baby! However, lack of sleep can make things feel ten times worse, which is something nobody could have prepared me for. Still, little Alfie is a legend.

Last trimester exercise! The end is in sight…

At my prenatal exercise class the other night, my teacher told me that the exercise I had been doing in my barre class were actually quite dangerous! I have always loved Barre and anything ballet based, so thought that I’d be okay to continue throughout my pregnancy. I have read many places that if you did a certain exercise before you became pregnant, you’re safe to continue it throughout! Obviously I was so wrong. So no more hip opening pliés and leg raises. However, here are a few of my favourite exercises that I am okay to do in my final month.

Yoga based stretches

I’ve really slowed down my yoga practice as is it has become a lot less dynamic.I do a couple of incredibly modified Sun Salutations to warm up, some side stretches, following with some yoga poses (including the ones mentioned here) and then I end with some pelvic floor work and some light twists.

I am generally unable to go straight into Downward Dog without first putting my knees on the mat. I still find it great for stretching out my calves which have become so tight with the extra weight.

FullSizeRender 5As you can see, it is a very short Downward Dog as I am really trying to get into the lower calf muscle, the soleus, as I feel that it is so tight it’s causing crazy heel pain! A complete self-diagnosis, but it really seems to help me. Also, I can see from this photo that my arms are not straight-I think it was because I was about to come down as there was a huge amount of uncomfortable moving around going on in my uterus!

 

Another favourite is the wide-legged squat, which I am also hoping to use during labour. I’ve always loved this pose anyway as my inner thighs get such a great stretch.

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A few other stretches I have been doing include a mini back stretch on my knees (also stretches my hip flexors as I do a lot of sitting at work) and a quadricep stretch, which again also stretches out the front of the hip.

I also use my green theraband (about £2 from eBay or Amazon), the green being of a high resistance, but you can find many different types online. I use this to perform a number of pilates based exercises to strengthen my back, chest and arms. I also use them to add resistance to my lunges.

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Using the theraband to perform arm raises-it’s a shoulder burner!

And of course I have to mention my block that I love to sit on when doing seated stretches else my big tummy gets in the way of forward folds! The block offers me extra height and helps the baby tip forward into the pelvis, especially now as he is head down, a good position for birth. I also find my strap (as seen in the photo below) great for stretching out my lower back.

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Sitting on my block and using the strap to create a slight twist and alleviate lower back pain.

Finally, if a bit random, a tip given to me by my Pilates instructor: use a rolling pin under your feet to create flexibility and improve tone. I have always had what I call ‘straight’ feet (not flat but not high arches either) and am trying to improve the arch. I roll the soles of my feet across the top of the rolling pin for 5 minutes for each foot every day. It really hurt at first (apparently that’s just the tight muscle fibres breaking down!) but now it feels like a really great massage.

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It is safer to do this on a mat so that you don’t slip! After doing this exercise for a month, I am able to point my toes without cramping and am getting less pain in the soles of my feet when I walk to work. Who knew a rolling pin could be incorporated so easily into an exercise regime? At least it’s getting some use seeing as I rarely use it for baking….

 

 

 

With only four weeks to go until my due date, it was actually a relief to be told that I needed to take it easier exercise-wise as I wanted to cut down anyway, but felt that it would be a lazy thing to do! I can’t wait to get back to my dynamic vinyasa flow self-practice, but am happy to slow down for the safety of myself and the baby.

At last-a dynamic prenatal yoga class

After attending prenatal classes at various studios in North London, I ended up not going to my weekly class due to the sheer boredom I normally experience there. I don’t use yoga to ‘connect with my baby’ or ‘see the light within’; I have always practiced purely for strength and flexibility which results in a more chilled out me. I understand that the purpose of prenatal yoga is to relax the student through breathing and gentle movement, but I am also aware that there are still many poses a pregnant student can practice.

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I decided to search online for a free yoga class and came across Do Yoga With Me , a website full of free yoga classes for all levels. The class I did this morning was an hour long intermediate prenatal class, Prenatal Power Flow. This class actually got me sweaty and my legs ached during the flow for once! The teacher is a little irritating (in my opinion) in that she talks a lot about the ‘miracle’ of birth and the ‘light growing inside of you’ but the flow was so dynamic I concentrated on my breathing instead.

At 22 weeks pregnant I am finding hard to keep up my running due to a lot of breathlessness, so am determined to practice a more dynamic yoga flow, so I will continue daily with this video as well as one relaxing class per weeks.

Next week I will be trying equipment pilates at Triyoga Camden!

Getting sweaty at a prenatal class Frame style

I love Frame. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Frame is a dance/fitness studio with locations including Shoreditch, Queens Park and recently opened (and my local) Kings Cross. Before becoming pregnant, I regularly attended ballet and Music Video classes at the Shoreditch studio. Now, at nearly 14 weeks, I’m only allowed (as advised by instructors) to take part in prenatal and Get Leggy classes.

Outside Frame Kings Cross
Outside Frame Kings Cross

Tonight’s Frame Bumps class was seriously hard, and I can thoroughly recommend it to non-pregnant people as well. We worked through a series of plies and lunges plus exercises with therabands and then a load of core work. I thought I was fit before this class but I was proven wrong!

A non-sweaty me in the studio before the class
A non-sweaty me in the studio before the class

Lisanne the instructor was encouraging with high energy that we all tried to match. Small muscles that are not worked in regular gym workouts were focused on making my arms incredibly shaky!

The waiting area inside Frame's Kings Cross venue
The waiting area inside Frame’s Kings Cross venue

I’m looking forward to Get Leggy with Susie on Monday morning, a mixture of ballet based moves and kickboxing to hopefully give me a bikini worthy bottom!

I love Frame for it’s quirky classes (80s Rave, Jane Fonda Tribute) and the passionate instructors. Frame is a breath of fresh air which, unlike some studios, don’t take themselves too seriously.