Teaching Yoga Is The Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had

Please don’t misunderstand the title of this post. I’m not trying to warn you, set a record straight, or even provide advice of any kind. This story is simply my attempt at authenticity, something cherished by yoga teachers the world over.

There is the practical business of yoga teaching. It can involve driving more than an Uber driver, creating sequences while filling studios and learning the entire hustle in those ways, but none of that is what I’m referring to. I am talking more about the difficulties of practicing yoga, as this is where everything starts. How could an ancient practice involving all aspects of the human condition be straightforward?

Let me clarify and say that I’ve had jobs. Many jobs. I’ve debated the merits in said jobs and learned about likes versus dislikes. Being a professional “yogi”, like anything else on my CV, has been something I’ve wanted to do well. And that’s where it is the biggest challenge, though challenging for everyone in different ways to be sure.

yoga class in child's pose

What it’s like to teach yoga will look different depending on the location and setting. Even thinking about small group teaching versus a big gym. Here is why I’d argue that all of these situations are the hardest thing EVER.

Walking into space means to feel the energy in the room. Within brief moments you will recognize one’s need for being challenged, another needs winding down. Our needs are in motion, and it is not easy to meet them all at a given time. There’s also a desire to avoid being offensive. As a student, I’ve found myself sensitive to something and even turned off or tuned out within a phrase, such as when a teacher tells the class “This pose should start to feel good right now”. What? How do you know how anything will feel in my body right now?   

When I talk about the more trying aspects about teaching being similar to those of studying yoga, what I mean is that for the last decade plus, my practice has been constant and constantly hard. My interests are always changing, though one thing I tend to struggle with is boredom. No matter how much love I hold for my relationship with yoga, I default into the negative spiral of monotony. “Ooh, a Warrior Pose with Eagle Arms this time,” my inner Debbie Downer will whisper. “Way to ‘mix it up’.” No wonder I feel like a stressed yoga teacher every time I wonder whether I’m boring any of my students!

There are lessons here, too. And I’m learning to trust, on a positive note, where my interests take me. I’ve allowed myself to go through phases: a little more power yoga here, a bit more Yin there. These days I’m most interested in the more meditative aspects of yoga. I enjoy brief moments where I feel “mindful enough” to notice a new thought, feeling, or sensation in an old and familiar position.

I’m often critical of myself when it comes to teaching students from my angle. An inner voice whispers, “You’re not giving them the fullest experience.” I’ve spoken/written about this Imposter Syndrome before, and find within the responses there that I’m not alone.

Hard as it may be, as any Chair Pose or sustained plank will show you: hard things are usually worthwhile. And in the end, we’re all stronger than we think.

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