Many yoga teachers struggle to keep up their personal yoga practice. Are you a yoga teacher and do you feel you’re too busy to take the time for your personal yoga practice?
Think about why you wanted to become a yoga teacher in the first place. You probably started to teach because of your own passion for yoga. Maybe even because of your first-hand experience of the balancing effects of yoga.
After finishing your yoga teacher training, your own yoga practice most likely has changed. Some of the classes that you enjoyed going to, might not be interesting anymore. Or, making a living as a yoga teacher, you might suddenly teach a lot of yoga classes, but not practice much yoga anymore.
Students are always curious about how it is possible to maintain a consistent personal yoga self-practice as a yoga teacher. Below are five questions that I frequently get asked by my students.
(At the end of this blog, I have compiled 5 short practices for yoga teachers. You can do these short self-practice sequences on days that you have only 20-30 minutes for your yoga practice.)
Some people assume that yoga teachers are doing yoga all day, practicing actively in every class they are teaching. This is a misconception. While teaching, it is not possible to practice with awareness of your own body and breath. Your job as a yoga teachers is to guide your students and not to practice for yourself. You might be demonstrating at times, but not all the time. You are observing your students and applying hands-on adjustments when required. Therefore, the holistic effects of yoga cannot be accomplished while teaching. Teaching yoga can not replace your own yoga self-practice.
Your own practice helps you to stay content and connected. And, it makes your teachings more authentic. You can use your own practice as an inspiration for your classes. Maintaining a regular self-practice contributes to transferring the experience of yoga in an authentic way. It is an ongoing process of self-development that you can share with your students.
For many yoga teachers, the daily practice during a 200-hour yoga teacher training is the start of a more regular practice. After the training, the trick is to make your personal practice a mandatory part of your day or week. If you set a fixed moment in your schedule, it is a lot easier to maintain your own practice. It becomes a new habit.
Furthermore, when you have completed your yoga teacher training, you are much more skilled in sequencing. This allows you to do your own home practice in a safe and comprehensive way. Based on what you have learned about the benefits of different asanas, you can also tune your practice to your own needs. You can deepen your practice and make progress at your own pace.
If you have never done a home practice before you became a yoga teacher, it can also be helpful to practice along with others. You can pair up with fellow teachers and dedicate some time every week to do yoga together. This can be more inspiring and powerful than only practicing by yourself. In addition, you can go to yoga classes of other teachers regularly. Being a teacher doesn’t mean you cannot ask for guidance anymore. On the contrary, you will always keep learning, and supporting each other as yoga teachers is a very effective way to do so.
It is not just the teaching that causes a lack of time for self-practice. As a yoga teacher, you have different roles to fulfill: entrepreneur, marketeer, administrator, as well as spouse, friend, perhaps parent, and so on. Like any other person, it is vital to think about a healthy balance between work and your private life. Firstly, in your work life, think about all the roles you are fulfilling, and which ones are really necessary. Maybe you can reduce the amount of work you are doing, or delegate certain tasks. Secondly, within your private life, continue to dedicate some time for yourself. Some of this personal time, can serve your personal yoga practice. You could think of it as self-care, which is necessary to maintain your health and well-being.
Another way to find a sense of balance is to change the expectations you have for yourself, including your yoga practice. It doesn’t have to be a 90-minute sequence – ask yourself how much you need. Can you be content with a little shorter practice, and one or two times a longer one?
Tip: Make sure that you practice for yourself on every day you teach. A thumb-rule can be to dedicate at least half an hour for self-practice on your yoga teaching days (see also below for a few short sequences).
Deepening your practice can be framed in different ways. Firstly, you can set goals for yourself to master more challenging asanas. Think of small steps you can take toward this goal. Include asanas and other exercises in your self-practice that help you to achieve your goals. This keeps you motivated to come back to the mat.
However, if you think of the bigger picture of yoga, it is not only about mastering challenging poses. What is your true aim in yoga? What is your personal intention? How does your practice suit that intention? It is important to break the pattern of achievement and include more inward focused practices. Seemingly simple exercises actually deepen your experience of yoga.
Regularity is also a very important principle to deepen your practice. You can structure your practice regarding the moment of your practice and the sequence of the asanas. Through regular practice, you will grow both physically and mentally. When you use more variation, the attention will be directed to the outward elements rather than inward. If you do like variation within your routine, make sure to use the basic structure of hatha yoga sequencing as a steady foundation.
When you are making a short sequence for yourself, make sure they remain balanced in terms of chakra stimulation as well as on a muscular level. Always include sun salutations, some inversions, poses to open the chest, forward bending postures to stretch the back and the hamstrings, one or two back bends, and finish with standing poses.
You can learn more about the basic ingredients of a yoga practice in our book Hatha Yoga for Teachers and Practitioners: A Comprehensive Guide to Holistic Sequencing, which teaches you a system to instantly create various practices.
Below you can find 5 short Hatha Yoga sequences based on the principles of holistic sequencing. Each practice takes between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the duration of holds and number of relaxation moments that you choose.
In short, even though it can be a challenge to keep up with your own practice, it is very important to do so as a yoga teacher. It will benefit both you and your students. Regular self-practice deepens your own experience of yoga, which will keep inspiring you in your teachings. Doing yoga together with fellow teachers, setting goals for yourself and doing short practices can help you to maintain your personal yoga practice.
Kalyani Hauswirth-Jain is a senior teacher & the Creative Director at the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams since 2013. She is a senior teacher at the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training as well as a variety of 50 hour courses like Yin Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga, for more than eight years now.
Starting off with physical challenges, Kalyani transformed her body, mastering many advanced asanas with her regular practice and discipline. By following a diligent self-practice, working with many different teachers, styles, and techniques, she gained a profound understanding of physiology and movement techniques. This, in combination with her extensive teaching experience, gave her an understanding of the importance of structure and sequencing for a holistic yoga asana practice. She has also co-authored the internationally acclaimed book Hatha Yoga for Teachers & Practitioners: A Comprehensive Guide to Holistic Sequencing.