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Your Authentic Voice: Finding Your Voice as a Yoga Teacher

Do you feel as though you are aping your teachers? Or that you are doing a fake "yoga teacher voice"? It can take time to find your voice as a yoga teacher. The concept of Satya teaches us to speak our truth. After 16 years of teaching yoga, this is how I keep showing up and shining as myself (even when I don't feel shiny!)

200 hr Yoga Teacher Training Weston-super-Mare

Your teaching could be full of technical errors, but if it's driven by passion, inspiration, joy or compassion it will be a much more successful class than the technically perfect one. Here are some things to reflect upon, and practical tips to follow.

Let's start with a journaling topic: 

What is it about yoga that made you feel so passionate and inspired that you just have to tell the world about it? 

Reflect on what made you keep coming back to class. How did your yoga make you feel? What inspired you? Which part of the practice fascinated you? Your reflections will help you to reconnect with your own passion and drive as a yoga teacher

Vibing up your class prep

Do you want to be to be a teacher or an instructor? If the answer is the former, the chances are you want to communicate something more to your students than just a set of commands. Reflect or journal on the following questions.

What do you want to TEACH your students about each pose? 

What unique thing about each pose do you want your students to discover? Think about an "aha" or a "mmmmm" or a "really?" moment you have had that unlocked a part of the practice for you. Finally, how will you share that? Which brings us to the next topic... 

Creating original, meaningful cues for your students

You can look to your 200 hr Teacher Training Course manual for your baseline of functional cues. These are carefully chosen to create functional movement in the body and to support the approach you have trained in. Make sure the words you choose to say work conceptually and physically for you.

Think about what each cue is trying to achieve and feel it in your own body. 

Example: Warrior 1. Instead of "Left hip forward, right hip back" 

you could say : 

 "Ease your left hip towards the front of the room, creating more space across the lower back. Roll your right hip back, drawing the head of the femur bone snugly into the hip does that feel? Can you find a strong, steady comfortable seat in this pose? If not, play around with shortening the stance, or widening the feet apart until you can embody the essence of the warrior" 


"from the left half of your pelvis, reach into the left heel. Notice how that changes the pose. Now reach the right pelvic half to the heel. What happens now?"

You have the bare bones of instruction in your manual, now put some flesh on them. 

You don't have to do a speech for every instruction but if students understand why they are doing something and what you are hoping to achieve, then they will be able to follow you more easily and it will be meaningful rather than mechanical. 

Get on your mat, take a notebook with you, do the poses as if you've never done them before and feel what they actually do for you. Why do you love them? 

Don't say anything you are not 100% behind with all the fire of your conviction that yoga is the best thing in the entire world, THEN your students will fall in love with yoga too. 

Speak to all the layers within your students' perception - use different types of cues to shift their perspective and help them to develop interoception

Use aesthetic, somatic and kinaesthetic cues to ignite your students' imagination and create a whole tapestry of experience. Here are some examples

Aesthetic: "Place your feet so the toes of the right foot are facing forward and the left foot is turning out to about 1 or 2 o'clock."

Somatic: "Can you feel your diaphragm moving as you breathe? It contracts down into your belly as you inhale, and parachutes up under the diaphragm as you exhale"

Kinaesthetic: "As you root your feet into the ground, sense the rebound of energy that moves up the body, making you taller. "

Questions: "What adjustments can you make to create more space/ ease? What happens if you move your hip a little to the left?"

Suggestions: "If it feels ok for you, you may want to curl back and explore the backbend. If you like, you could pulse a little here and see how that feels in your body."

Every pose is an interactive story and you are the primary story teller. 

Teach what is happening in your own practice with the pose. What is coming online for you? it changes all the time as you learn and develop as a practitioner. There are an infinite number of ways to teach each pose. What is it today? 

Seeing the pose and the class itself as a story, a poem or a painting you are creating can help you to connect all the disparate parts of practice to create a whole. Be conscious of how each pose connects to the next, when you return to your theme if you're using one, how you will deliver the "punchline" (your peak pose) or maybe it's a twist 😊. Never include filler in your class, you will never need to.

Themes are a powerful way to help your students take their yoga off the mat.

Not everyone feels comfortable weaving a theme into their class, however if you feel inspired then go for it! A theme can transform an everyday class into an unforgettable class. It may not land with everyone, but if it inspires just one person (even if that's you 😊) it will be worth it.

Some example of themes that are relatively easily conveyed in a yoga class and very much appreciated by most, are:

✨ Ahimsa - practising non-harming in everything we do

✨ Balanced effort - are you trying too hard to make something happen?

✨ Seeking out the pleasant - find what feels good about this pose and do more of that

✨ Spring - opening/ Summer - abundance/ Autumn - turning in / Winter - nurturing yourself

If you like, you can weave enquiries into your teaching so students can embody the concepts. E.g. for the theme of Ahimsa:

"feel into the pose, does it feel kind to your body? what adjustments can you make to create ahimsa here? "

Avoid using too much peripheral language to be polite. Students, especially beginners, need you to be directive so they can follow easily. It's tiring sifting through a pile of extra words to find what you actually need to do. You can always say "please".  See the following example:

"(Please) move your left foot two inches to the left"


"Now I would like you to move your left foot two inches to the left if that's ok" 

Which cue was easier to follow?

Beginner's Mind - reconnect to wonder and imagine it's new for you

Anyone who has been in the role of teacher will know the feeling of interminable repetition of the same instructions.

While precisely noone feels effervescent joy at repeating "turn your left foot out and your right foot slightly in" for the 7000th time, it's possible to deliver these instructions with care and conviction on all 7000 of those occasions. There are two key truths to hold close to in order to do this:

👉 If you have a clear idea of what it is you are teaching about the practice you are leading, you can make the mundane instructions are the necessary scaffolding on which to hang the interesting, shiny stuff. Without the scaffolding, the other stuff falls on the floor

👉 Remember that you are not saying it for you, you are saying it for them. They need you to say it in order for them to find their way through the practice. Be interested in it vicariously through your students - it works!

Your students may have done each of the poses you are going to teach hundreds of times before. Teach your experience of the pose to bring it alive for them. Say each cue as if it's the most interesting thing you've ever heard and you just have to share it. If you sound bored and if you are reeling off old, tired instructions, your students will quickly switch off and you will lose your enthusiasm at a similar rate.

I hope I have helped you to find the voice to speak your truth as a yoga teacher. While you invite your voice into the world, there's nothing wrong with borrowing from other teachers - there are no new ideas in this world, just different dressing for them. Finding your own voice takes time and courage so be kind to yourself. Experiment, play and don't take it too seriously. Over time you will find out what lands well for you and what feels awkward.

Download a Free Masterclass on THE most important thing to know if you want to deepen you practice and your teaching.

The 5 koshas, or the 5 sheaths are 5 layers of our consciousness that inform our entire experience of the world. Click the button below to receive your free masterclass.

Morven Hamilton is a yoga teacher and teacher trainer living in Weston-super-Mare in the South West of England. She has been teaching yoga since 2008 and teaching on 200YTT programmes since 2011. Morven is the course leader of the Yoga by Nature 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Course and the Healing the Whole Person Yoga for Cancer teacher training course.


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