A funny thing happened to me when I taught my first yoga class ...
I was standing front and center in the yoga room, nervously cuing my students into a warrior pose and inwardly praying that my voice wasn’t shaking too much, when I noticed something. A man a couple mats away from me was in Warrior II, with his head turned to the side, and his gaze directed right at me. At first it made me uncomfortable and insecure. “Why does he keep looking at me?” I thought to myself. Then I figured it out – he was listening to me! He was waiting for ME to guide him into the next pose. DUH! Why else would he be there?
Quickly I figured out that these students were looking to me for guidance! Whoa - what a realization! Never before had I been in a position of ‘authority’ like that – but I liked it! Immediately, my confidence level increased. My voice became stronger; I stepped away from my mat and began weaving myself between the rows of students while guiding them through the next standing sequence.
During the last two years I have been teaching two to seven yoga classes per week. I’ve noticed a lot of internal and external changes since I began teaching, with the biggest shift being an increase in my confidence.
I’ve never been a meek or mild person; I have what some might call a ‘strong personality’. However, there are areas of my life where I’ve noticed my confidence level has improved since I began teaching. It is a lot easier to make decisions, and I rarely question a decision I made once I make it (something I used to do ALL the time). Teaching yoga has helped me learn how to think on my feet and stick with a decision once I make it.
For example, if I instruct my students to move into a balancing pose such as tree pose, it wouldn’t be productive to change my mind halfway through the pose and move them into a completely different pose, or spend the next two minutes questioning if that was the right pose for the sequence. I need to stick with the pose and then move on. The same is true for my life outside the yoga studio. If I spend excess time second guessing or regretting choices I made, whether it’s something as simple as if I should or should not order desert after dinner, or something larger such as whether or not to take on a new business opportunity, I now make a choice and stick with my decision.
When it comes to my communication I am also more confident.
While I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind, writing my thoughts out has always been a lot easier for me, rather than articulating them to another person verbally. As a result of teaching yoga, I’ve found I am more confident when asking for something I need or want. When I first started teaching, I would guide my students into poses using phrases such as “If you can, lift your right leg,” or I would use a lot of “ums” and “uhs.” Using that type of language creates a sense of unsureness, and an attitude of apprehension begins to echo in the class. It’s a lot easier in my teaching life, and in my life outside of the yoga studio, to simply state what I want, without prefacing it with hesitation. “Please take downward facing dog pose,” is a lot more effective than “Um, if you are able, come into downward dog.”
Learning to set boundaries . . .
I’ve become more assertive as well, and more willing to set healthy boundaries. From the beginning of serving as a yoga instructor, I realized it’s imperative to set boundaries with your class. One of the biggest things I struggled with when I first started teaching was students arriving late to class. As a new instructor, I didn’t want to turn anyone away, however it would throw me off if someone would walk into class five minutes late and disrupt the opening breathing exercise while shuffling their shoes off, unrolling their mat and turning their cell phone to silent, even if they were trying hard to be quiet. I would feel bad turning late students away, so I would allow students to come in late, which began to set a precedent and eventually caused frustration for myself and the students who were on time. Finally I realized that I couldn’t please everybody, and began to set boundaries. Now, I allow a student to be late once, and then after class I ask them gently to please make an effort to come on time next time, explaining that it’s beneficial not only to the class, but to them as a student as well, so they don’t miss important breathing exercises and warm up poses, resulting in a safe and healthy practice for everyone.
The need to please is something many of us struggle with!
This need to please everyone is something I’ve struggled with the majority of my life. Once I realized that I didn’t have to please everyone inside the studio, I began to transfer that attitude to outside of the studio too. I am now very aware of how much work I take on; if I know I have a busy week ahead at my day job, I will not pick up any extra classes to sub or take on additional freelance opportunities. Having taken on too much in the past has backfired on me, creating stress and causing me to not be as present, because I was constantly worrying about what I had to do next or if people were happy with the amount of work I was putting in. Learning to set boundaries has been one of the hardest lessons to learn, but also one of the most beneficial boosts to my confidence.
Learning to set boundaries has been one of the hardest lessons to learn, but also one of the most beneficial boosts to my confidence.
So what about you? What has helped you grow your confidence? It can be something yoga related, or anything you feel has helped you become a more confident individual. Please share your confidence building experience so that others may follow your lead. Namaste!
Jenna Zizzo is a graduate of the Advanced 600-Hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program offered at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) in Tempe, Arizona. The 600-hour YTT program is approved by Yoga Alliance, and is recognized by the US Department of Education as an approved educational program eligible for Title IV funding for those students who qualify.
Jenna structures her yoga classes with the intention of offering students the physical and mental side of yoga, hoping to help tap into the true purpose of yoga which is to still the mind. Join her Mondays, 7 to 8 am for Morning Blend or Wednesdays, 7 to 8:15 pm for Core and Restore at Funke Yoga in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona.