Advantages of yoga instruction from a mentorBy Kathryn Boland

In the first post of this series, I described some advantages of mentorship as a yoga instructor, and/or offering your services as a mentor to another budding instructor. Some of you dearest readers might have wondered how you can offer time, energy, and mental space to that endeavor – given how you already likely juggle several important and demanding things such as your existing yoga teaching and practice life, family and other social life, other jobs, perhaps even higher education and/or service work – and oh yes, taking care of yourself, remember that one? Below I offer some ideas for incorporating mentorship into what you already likely do as an instructor and practitioner.

1)    If you are a young and “green” (so to speak) teacher, seek the guidance of more experienced teachers through taking their classes and asking any questions afterwards. After almost every yoga class that I have ever taken, instructors have said some variation of “I’ll be sticking around for a little while, so if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, and I’ll be happy to talk for a bit.” As you begin to develop stronger relationships with certain teachers through becoming a regular student of theirs, ask if they might benefit from you “assisting” their classes. If you’ve been a diligently practicing student, they will likely have noticed – and appreciated – your practice skills, knowledge, and dependability. Most teachers are more than glad to have an extra demonstrator or pair of hands to make physical modifications, I’ll warrant.

2)    It can help to connect in an atmosphere apart from the studio, with casual atmospheres helping some to be more genuine and open (dropping that sometimes artificial “yoga teacher uniform” that some of us don, for instance). If you are like one of those budding young students above, ask if that senior and respected teacher might be available to catch a cup of tea with you after a class of theirs that you might regularly attend. Even if he or she only has a half-hour to offer, what you might learn in that half-hour could be invaluable to your own instructor knowledge and development.

3)    If you are among a group of teachers in a private studio or other yoga-offering institution (such a gym/fitness center), to obtain similar advantages you could organize a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly similar meeting over tea – or perhaps a potluck, with rotating host responsibilities (according to everyone’s availabilities and interests). In my experience, people are more than happy to come and share their views in a welcoming and collaborative atmosphere (and the incentives of food and drink never hurt). What your “team” of teachers could envision together then could be indispensable for what you all could then offer your students, as well as yourselves as instructors.

4)    If you are an experienced teacher, and have the time and willingness, seek out any young students whom you might observe with those knowingly curious glances, good rapport with others in the yoga community, and rapidly strengthening asana practices – those and other signals of true instructor potential. The methods in which you can connect with and guide them are as described. I believe that all of us instructors have observed that our students can sometimes teach us more than we could ever teach them. Consistently acting in the even closer mentor-mentee relationship could only enhance that effect for mentors.

5)    If you might be interested in a certain population or style of yoga (such as the elderly, or Kundalini Yoga), seek out local offerings such as classes and experienced teachers in those areas (connecting with them as described above). If those do not exist in your locality, LinkedIn and similar professional networking sites can help you to connect with specific professionals knowledgeable and experienced in particular areas – and yoga is no exception. For instance, through LinkedIn I have connected with both Diana Ross, E-RYT (who specializes in yoga for breast cancer patients and survivors), and instructor John Groberg (creator of SpiralUp Yoga, a system of daily practice for those who find it difficult to maintain a consistent practice). I chose to connect with them because of my interest in their work and their populations of focus. They graciously offered their knowledge and well-wishes to me as a developing instructor, from which I gained concrete know-how and confidence.

As I see it, and which I have observed from direct experience, those small efforts can be more than well worth it. As fellow teachers, I would love to hear your suggestions pertaining to, challenges with, and other thoughts related to “supervision”/mentorship in yoga instruction – so please feel free to post your advantages in the responses below.  Thank you for reading and sharing, and let’s keep the invaluable discussion going – for ourselves and for those whom we serve with our instruction! Namaste!

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