Practise what you teach

For those in the profession of training others, it’s important to make time for your own practice. A yoga teacher shares some tips that could help you stay on track

“If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”

Though this quote is by the famous pianist Jan Paderewski, it is relevant to any area of expertise and even more if you’re a teacher. As a yoga trainer, I can share many conversations I’ve had with colleagues where we lament the loss of our own yoga practice. The irony is, we got into teaching yoga because we love to practise yoga. But as a full time teacher, finding the time and energy for your own practice can be a challenge. There’s also the cost of attending classes and finding the time to get to wherever our friends and mentors are teaching.

Despite all of that, it’s important that we make the time to practise, whether you teach yoga, pilates, martial arts or even if you’re a gym trainer. Here are five reasons why making time for self practice is a must:

Our teaching is fuelled by our practice. The connection we feel to our own body when we practise gives us clues and inspiration that we can use in our teaching. If we’re out of practice, it can be hard to articulate the benefits and sensations that yoga or your field of teaching brings.

It is a way for us to put ‘into practice’ that which we teach. Just as we teach the physical and mental benefits of yoga, we need to experience them as well. Things like total body relaxation, increased flexibility and strength are all things we need. Further, yoga is a great way to work off any stress absorbed from being in a role where you are of service to others.

Practising where you teach is a great way to build bonds with your students. If you practise in the yoga studio or the gym where you teach, it’s a great way to have some relaxed time with your students. On days that you’re not teaching, you have more time to be with your students as another student, practising and enjoying the time together.

Practising with a mentor is critical for your growth as a teacher. Taking classes with a senior teacher is an important part of your learning and growth. It allows you to learn new sequences, ways of expression and assisting techniques. I’ve also found that other teachers attend classes offered during the day, as many of us have evenings booked with teaching. You can network before or after class and use it as a time to grow friendships and business relationships.

Practising with a colleague builds support both ways. Choosing to attend a friend’s class is a great way to show support to a fellow teacher and can give you inspiration to learn something new.

We know it makes sense to practise regularly for these reasons and many others, but how do we find the time? Here are a few tips:

Always have a yoga mat and a set of training clothes in the car or in your bag. While most of us as full time teachers are always in yoga clothes, going from class to class, if we were to attend a class, we’d most likely have to change into dry clothes to step up to teach. Carry a set of clothes with you and get on the mat whenever you find 15 – 20 minutes to spare for your own practice, even if it is between classes.

Plan your personal practice schedule just as you plan your teaching schedule. We know our teaching schedule from week to week but many of us don’t take the time to plan our own practice schedule. If you can find a class or two you love, hard code those into your schedule and resolve to attend them, no matter what. Over time, this will naturally turn into time for your practice and your other tasks will be scheduled into other available time slots.

Make a calendar for continuing education activities. In the first quarter of the year, sit down with a calendar, a list of the teachers you love and your computer. Look at their websites and identify classes, workshops and trainings you’re interested in attending. If you can book some of these right away, do it. This will allow you to plan ahead for special events that will not only be a learning experience for you but will save you money and find coverage for your classes.

Attend the class after yours, at least once a week. One of the easiest ways to fit in a practice is to attend the class right after you teach your class. This can be a great way to economise as well, as most studios don’t charge teachers for attending a class as long as they teach there once or maybe a few times per week.

Find a buddy. Find a friend that shares your schedule for attending a class. See if he or she is willing to partner with you on a ‘yoga/exercise commitment’ for at least a month. Commit to one class per week together and tag on a lunch or a cup of tea after. You’ll both grow as teachers, friends and students. What a wonderful way to build in time for practice!

While it can be hard to fit in your own practice, you will feel great once you do. Just as we counsel our students on the benefits of creating new healthy habits, we’ll start to reap those rewards too, as soon as we take that first step.

This was first published in May 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Karen Fabian
Karen Fabian, founder of Bare Bones Yoga, is Baptiste Certified and an experienced Registered Yoga Teacher. The name, “Bare Bones Yoga” reflects her commitment and passion for providing people with the essentials to increase strength and flexibility as well as promote relaxation. She has a DVD sold on Amazon called “Keeping Yoga Simple.” She can be reached at karen@barebonesyoga.com.

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