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!

studywithalfs
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.

IMG_3409
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!

Advertisements

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.

FullSizeRender-10

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?

FullSizeRender-9

 

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.

FullSizeRender-6

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…

IMG_3279

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!

Yoga Teacher Training-Nearly There!

I’d meant to start documenting my experience with YMCA Fit’s Yoga Teacher Training from Day One but this kind of went by the wayside with a bout of the Flu and an excitable nine-month old at home. I really cannot believe I have managed to come this far with a new baby, having started studying the anatomy component when my son was only a few months old.

And trying to get a daily self-practice in like I did before: way harder when my son likes to roll underneath me when I’m attempting Sun Salutations.

IMG_2527
Just before deciding to ‘join in’ mummy’s yoga self-practice

But somehow, with the support of my gorgeous and selfless husband, plus the best parents ever, not to mention friends who have allowed me to practice on them, I did it! (Yes, I know I haven’t actually done my final exam yet, but I ‘m thinking positively).So with only a couple of weeks to go until my final practical exam, here is the lowdown on the teacher training so far…

AF1QipPL3qCKDjv5guDxKsw-NDzVFnPczF-9oauj4zeL=I-U-1

Friendly instructors

Both Jonathan and Annie were incredibly supportive. Jonathan made us laugh every single day, and was so engaging. He knows so much! Both were always to available to answer questions or emails. most importantly, they taught us so much and instilled in us a confidence that we could be the best teacher we could possibly be.

I even had the confidence to teach Headstand, something I had been too scared to do since falling over into our sofa at home. I’m always petrified that I’m going to break my fingers and then somehow die….hhmm.

 

AF1QipOx33y8T08y3JB7v_48izPZYO0WEP66dfWoI6VX=I-U-1Nice location

This London-based blended-learning course was held at OneKX near Kings Cross. The studio was clean with loads of equipment and a nice little vegetarian cafe downstairs. Also two minutes walk to one of my favourite coffee shops, Half Cup. Please go there if you can-the staff are so friendly (so rare in London) and I think that I love their coffee as much as Caravan. I know. Yogis shouldn’t drink coffee. I never said I was perfect…..

Now a bit about the rest…

The e-learning materials were fabulous, but I must say that the support via email or telephone was pretty much non-existent. I felt that once my payment had been accepted, then the YMCA were satisfied that they had done all they needed to. Many of my emails for help went unanswered; staff on the telephone were either rude or had a “couldn’t care less attitude”.

However, overall I would recommend this course. It fits in so well with my lifestyle right now, and I have actually looked forward to each session, which is unusual for me as it is usually rather hard for me to stay focused or engaged. I am pretty excited about our practical exam as I will finally be able to go out and teach for real!  YAY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I LOVE Child’s Pose

 

001-2
Now, THIS is yoga…and sleeeeeep

Wow, it’s HARD being a mum. I actually used to (inwardly) roll my eyes when I heard people at work go on about how little sleep they were getting, and how their baby was going this or doing that. I couldn’t relate, so generally switched off. In fact, I found the subject boring. Now, of course, I try not to bore other people with talk of sleepless nights, feeding routines and post-pregnancy tummies. Now I realise that those parents at work needed an outlet, and that the easiest way for them was to talk about their problems, even if the listener had no clue as to how they were feeling.

Using yoga as an outlet

So I only talk about baby stuff to those who may relate to what I am on about. Otherwise, my other outlet is through yoga. Whenever I have been going through hard times in the past, yoga has helped me focus on something else, and I have always felt better after my practice. The problem does not go away but I find that I am more equipped to deal with it after yoga. I’d like to share with others this way of helping ourselves deal with emotions. For this reason, I am embarking on a Yoga Teacher Training Course with the YMCA. I don’t exactly love the YMCA training so far, mainly because I called my tutor and he didn’t even know who I was/ask if I needed any help. He only seemed interested in taking my money for another course. Anyway, more on the course in another post. I am aware that the yoga teacher market is pretty much saturated within London, and that everyone knows someone who is training to become a yoga teacher. I would still like to give it a go though, hopefully without becoming a cliché! I am not suddenly going to call myself a Yogini and wear yoga clothing All. The. Time.

Unfortunately, procrastination is fun.

The YMCA blended learning consists of online theory covering Anatomy and Physiology. I’ve always found it difficult to motivate myself to study without being in an actual classroom. When needing to learn online, I find that Asos is much more fun, as is the Topshop Lookbook. And Instagram. And then there’s that Whatsapp message on my phone I need to reply to. What makes it even more difficult to sit down and study is needing to look after my six month old son. I try to read when he is napping, but as those with babies may know, sometimes naps can only last half an hour-just enough time to have a shower! My son just LOVES to catnap, just like a cat. I have, however, managed to complete some of the online work which I have been able to do when my husband is home. He is my saviour!

001-3
This is currently my version of  Wheel!

The hardest part has been getting back into my physical practice. My core has become significantly weakened since pregnancy and birth, as have my inner thighs, making poses difficult which I once used to find easy. These are poses such as Wheel and any plank variation. In a public class, I spend a lot of time in Child’s Pose, something I used to be embarassed about doing, but have no idea why.

 

 

 

fullsizerender-1
One day I will jump back into plank.

Sleep deprivation makes it difficult for me to actually get my yoga clothes on in the first place. Seeing as I am so incredibly tired anyway, I have resorted to waking up an hour before my son at 6am as that is the only time I seem able to practice. Actually, I have only done this once (this morning) but I will try to continue this. The practical side of the course doesn’t start until January, so I am hoping by that time that I can at least hold a Wheel without wanting to cry!

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.

FullSizeRender 4

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.

FullSizeRender
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.

FullSizeRender 6
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.

FullSizeRender 3

 

 

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.

Fitness during pregnancy

Before I became pregnant or even planned on become pregnant, I had always envisaged that I would eventually be one of those ‘fit’ pregnant people like those we see in magazines, who manage to stay toned and glowy throughout their pregnancy. At the minute, due to the exercise I am currently doing, I look like this…

IMG_1495

Going back seven months when I did become pregnant, these thoughts of having to stay fit were still there, but for the first five months I felt so nauseous and tired-it was as if I had a permanent hangover. I was also being told by every yoga and dance class instructor that I couldn’t join their classes until after three months of pregnancy; even now, I haven’t met one that will happily have me in their class at 7 months pregnant. These factors prevented me from exercising as much as I used to. I would occasionally go for a jog and did a modified yoga practice at home, but my jog turned into walking due to cramping, and I decided a prenatal yoga dvd may be safer. I did try a few prenatal yoga classes at Triyoga in Camden and Frame in Islington, but these were too slow and I felt were a waste of money and time for me. I also went to a trial class at Maternally Fit in Islington, but I found this class boring and beginner level, and the instructor uninspiring.

From my sixth month, I started to feel better and so have got into a stead fitness regime, as outlined below.

Prenatal Yoga

The DVD I am using at the moment is by Katy Appleton. A work colleague attended her teacher training so I thought I would give this one a go. There are three different levels one can choose; I follow the ‘Shine’ section as it is the most dynamic. It is not a vinyasa flow style but it does make feel like that it helps me maintain some of my strength and flexibility. There is also a section on hypnobirthing which is more like a savasana-although I wouldn’t recommend this as an alternative to a hypnobirthing workshop, it is very relaxing. I have always been quite particular about the voice that a yoga teacher uses, and have to admit that I find Katy’s voice a little irritating, especially when she elongates certain syllables (“sunnnnnn salutation”), or uses certain phrases like “…show your luminous gratitude for the gift of your baby”. I am no earth mother so cannot relate to such phrases, and have never seen being pregnant as a miracle. However, the DVD is good enough for me to ignore these minor points!

Swimming

I used to swim so much when I was at school and swam for my county, but then gave it up due to becoming bored (story of my life!). I had heard from so many people that swimming is one of the safest forms one can do when pregnant, so my husband and I have been going swimming once a week to Pancras Square Leisure Centre.

IMG_1481

I do 20 lengths of 25 metres each length which takes roughly about 20 minutes. When I first went, I overdid things by doing front crawl, constantly running out of breath but pushing myself anyway, and ending up with crazy cramping in my tummy. Now I just to breaststroke with rests when I feel like it. The weightless feeling in the water is amazing! I honestly don’t feel pregnant and heavy when in the water; when I get out the pool I can really feel the difference of how cumbersome my body feels without the water to support me. This is my favourite exercise at the minute.

Equipment Pilates

I have been seeing Kamil, a one-to-one pilates instructor at Triyoga Camden for about a month now. I wanted to work safely on my core strength, and as I know that pregnant women should avoid sit-ups and too much abdominal work, I wanted to see a professional about this. I took advantage of the Pilates Starter Pack for £190 which includes an initial assessment and three private sessions, saving £70 altogether. Sessions involve work on a reformer and other equipment and light weights to tone and strengthen my legs and arms whilst maintaining a strong core throughout the exercises. I have been continuing to do these every other day using my husband’s theraband instead of hand weights. Once my starter pack has run out, private sessions will cost £65, semi-private £40, and a small group £33. I really can’t afford the price of private sessions, so will look into group sessions either at Triyoga or elsewhere.

Walking!

Not the most fun thing to do in the world, but it’s pretty easy to fit into my day. I walk for half an hour twice a day to and from work instead of getting the bus up a stupidly big hill. I do get incredibly breathless, but I feel like I’m getting a good cardio workout! I try and walk everywhere now.

So, compared to my old pre-pregnancy routine of dancing, yoga and running, I have cut down dramatically, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is for the safety of the baby, and is only temporary! My husband and I do still like to dance around to 80s songs at home, so it’s not all ‘serious’ exercise!

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.

yogaphoto

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!