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No yoga teacher is perfect. We are human, after all. That said, it is helpful to recognize the most common mistakes made by instructors today so you don’t make them too. Especially if you are a new yoga teacher and want to avoid as many pitfalls as you can.
These all-too-common yoga mistakes can be split into two general categories. The first involves those made when working directly with yoga students. The second consists of yoga mistakes relating to your business.
When you lead a yoga class, your students rely on you to teach them the postures and breathing that are a part of this practice. Your teaching methods must inspire trust, ensuring that they have the best yoga journey possible. Which mistakes can derail these effects?
Not being clear and concise when cueing. It might seem like offering in-depth explanations of a yoga posture is best. However, keeping it simple is often more effective. Be short and concise when providing cues so as not to overwhelm your students. Use simple words that are easy to understand. And if you give the Sanskrit names for the poses, provide the English version first. This keeps the student from getting confused. For instance, tell them that they will now do child’s pose or Balasana.
Not providing cues for each type of learner. Some people are visual, meaning that they learn best by watching. Others are auditory and learn most effectively through verbal cues. The third category of learners are kinesthetic and gain the most from movement-related cues. If you generally only provide cues in one or even two of these categories, you will lose students who learn in other ways. Instead, strive to include cues from all three categories. For instance, when teaching students Downward Dog, show them what it looks like while verbally explaining proper alignment and how to move into position.
Not doing enough repetition. One of the benefits of being an instructor is that you get to design your classes. You can get creative with your sequences, background music, lighting, and more. While it’s fun to experiment a bit, research shows that repetition spaced over time helps promote learning (1). So, don’t be afraid to keep some of the poses the same from time to time. If you typically start with Sun Salutation A, for example, don’t switch to Sun Salutation B. Let your students get more proficient before switching things up.
Not offering pose modifications within your yoga program. A typical class includes both beginning and advanced practitioners. If you don’t cater to each, your yoga session will be either too easy or too hard and they won’t want to come back. When teaching students, provide ways to modify the poses to their individual fitness levels. Modifications may also be necessary based on past or current injury. For instance, when teaching yoga beginners how to do chair pose, placing a rolled yoga mat under their heels helps if their Achilles is tight. More advanced students can sink lower to strengthen their quads and hip flexors even more.
Not reminding students to listen to their body. As a yoga teacher, you can get so caught up in proper alignment and breathing that you forget that not every student is at the same level. The last thing you want is to have a beginner hurt themselves because they want to do a pose the same as more advanced practitioners. This can be avoided by reinforcing mindfulness and listening to their body. Encourage them to stop if something doesn’t feel right or if they experience pain.
Not giving students the opportunity to enjoy the experience. If you spend all of your time giving cues and providing instruction, you don’t allow your students to enjoy the yoga experience. When teaching yoga, incorporate periods of silence. This gives each student the opportunity to practice with complete mindfulness. It enables them to learn to pay attention to themselves versus focusing solely on you, the teacher.
There are also a few mistakes that some instructors make when it comes to creating or running their yoga business. Here are a few to consider.
Not creating a business plan. Writing a business plan takes time. But it is time well spent because it gives you a clearer vision of where you are and where you are going. It tells you your budget and how many classes you need to teach to earn the income you want. It also reminds you of why you decided to become a studio owner or online instructor and what direction you want your business to go.
Not developing a marketing campaign. If you want to become a sought-after yoga teacher, you need to market your business. Develop a strategy for optimizing your yoga website with keywords people use when searching for you. This helps sites like Google and Bing give you a higher rank. Also lay out a plan for your social media marketing. Decide which platforms you will create business pages on, how often you will post, and what you will post about.
Not carrying yoga teacher insurance. Carrying liability insurance is a must with yoga teaching. Even if you give the best direction, your student could experience an injury. If they decide to sue you, having insurance can be the difference between paying huge attorney bills and having your defense covered. Should they win, your insurance will cover that as well, up to a certain amount. Along the same lines, have each new student sign a liability waiver before taking your class. This offers some protection as well.
Taking the time to plan your yoga class can help you avoid many of the mistakes when working directly with students. Practice your sequences in advance to ensure that students can transition easily from one pose to the next. Also practice giving multiple types of cues so you can communicate more effectively with students of all learning styles.
One effective way to catch your in-class mistakes is to tape yourself during a practice or actual exercise session. Pay attention to your verbal and non-verbal cues and look for areas where you can improve. You may not realize what you’re doing, but if you see it on video, it’s difficult to ignore.
Regarding business-related mistakes, taking the time necessary to write out a business plan and create a marketing campaign can help you grow your yoga practice faster. It ensures that you continue to take steps forward toward creating the business you want. Purchasing an insurance policy helps you protect this investment.
There are a few additional actions you can take to become a more proficient yoga teacher. These include:
Regularly asking your students for feedback. Getting students’ input tells you what changes you can make to become a better teacher. It isn’t always easy to listen to this feedback, but it is critical if you want to learn and grow. Ask them how they feel about your instruction on both postures and breathing. Inquire how you can help them achieve a higher level of mindfulness or better adjust their body.
Constantly updating your yoga practice. Staying up to date on the latest trends helps you create a yoga class that keeps students engaged. It also ensures that you are using the most current teaching practices to effectively reach your students.
Educating your students about the benefits of yoga. Some people sign up for a yoga class because they know that it will help them improve strength, increase flexibility, and reduce stress. Others have no idea about the benefits this practice offers. Part of providing a good student experience is helping them realize why they should continue to practice yoga. When they understand its value, it increases the likelihood that they will stick around long term.
Telling students a little bit about you. The more your students get to know you as a person, the more they’ll connect with you. If you do a particular yoga style, tell them why. Let them see you as a person and not just a yoga instructor. Certainly, you don’t want to overshare. But giving little tidbits of information is a great way to strengthen the teacher-student relationship.
Want to learn more about how to become a successful yoga teacher? The ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers Yoga Alliance approved 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. In this class, you will learn how yoga came about and the philosophies of this teaching. It also provides a foundation in anatomy and body structure, especially as it relates to various poses. From there, the course goes into effective teaching techniques for helping students learn breath and body awareness. It also shares tips for how to structure your business and help it grow. With this certification, you will be the best yoga instructor you can be, providing for a successful yoga journey for you and your students alike.
Kang, S. H. (2016). Spaced repetition promotes efficient and effective learning. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1), 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/2372732215624708