By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Teaching Yoga is an evolving process, regardless of how long we have been teaching. One of the ways that Yoga teachers grow, and learn, in their profession is by finding a mentor. A mentor teacher is usually someone with a few more years of experience; someone who excels at what they do; and someone wishing to enrich the teaching skills of a younger Yoga instructor.
Teaching Yoga requires a complex set of skills, knowledge, and methods that are best learned through practice. The best Yoga teachers improve, and progress, as they gain experience in the studio or ashram. A mentor teacher can provide valuable advice and knowledge to less experienced instructors, and a place for the new Yoga teacher to voice frustrations and concerns.
Find a mentor that you admire. Usually, you can spot mentor-worthy Yoga teachers by the way they run their class, the way their students feel about them, or by the way they make you feel when interacting with them. Approach a potential mentor by letting them know how you admire their teaching methods, and how you aspire to be able to teach in a manner that is similar to theirs. Ask if they would be interested in mentoring you, as you begin your journey as a Yoga instructor.
Evolving While Teaching Yoga
You might begin by asking to observe their class. Focus your observation on one thing at a time. One class you might hone-in on is how your mentor interacts with students, and during another, you might consider the cues given for each pose. Take notes as you observe, noting methods or comments you liked, and any questions you have for your mentor. Spend time after class discussing ideas. Have an open mind, and try to absorb all the advice you can. Although you won’t use all the ideas your mentor gives you, eventually, you will assimilate all of these skills with your own Yoga practice.
You can also ask your mentor to watch you, in action, while teaching. Ask him or her to note anything that didn’t quite work, or any concerns they see in your practice. Be willing to take criticism and advice – knowing that it will help you become a better teacher in the long run.
If you approach a skilled Yoga instructor about being a mentor, and they are not interested, just find another. It is important for the mentor-student relationship to be a willing relationship on both parts. The mentor must be willing to spend extra time with you – to nurture your growing skills as a Yoga teacher.
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