3.23.2010

Joining the yoga teacher sub circuit

I always knew in theory that teachers get subs. My friend Karen teaches high school, and unlike most of us, calling in sick requires getting someone to take over her classes. After a few go-rounds of the yoga teacher sub circuit, I finally get why she lives in fear of getting sick. Getting sick = finding a sub. At 6 a.m. While hacking up a lung.

I haven't been there yet. But try finding someone who wants to teach at 6:15 a.m. I don't even really want to get up. That's where yoga sub lists come into play.

The sub list is its own universe that I never even knew existed. The sub list is generally the first step to picking up a new studio. Sub a few classes for a few grateful staff teachers, and perhaps you'll pick up a coveted teaching slot. But the thing about yoga studios is there is no set way to get on a sub list. With the four studios I have approached to date, I have gotten four different answers. Let us count the ways.
  • One local studio put me on its sub list based on my current teaching gigs.
  • Another had me come in for an interview and "audition" by leading the director of yoga through 10 minutes of flow. I passed and made it on the list.
  • One of Seattle's biggest yoga studios advised me to take a class with the owner and talk to her afterward about getting on the master sub list.
  • The studio where I assist requires most teachers go through an extensive assisting program and multiple practice classes, where you teach an hourlong class to fellow teachers and assistants and sit down afterward for a half-hour of feedback. Sound scary? That's because it is.
    I had my first practice class this past Sunday. I am much more relaxed about teaching than when I started, but my brain played some crazy tricks on me on Sunday morning. The group of seven are people who have been supporting me through the entire teaching process, have heard me teach and were there to help. I knew that, in theory. But it was all I could do to keep the flow on track whenever my Mexico roomie Val would stop mid-flow and write down notes. At those moments, I was not quite overflowing with gratitude.

    But, of course, when we sat down in a circle and they gave me feedback, it was amazing. They lauded my lightness (yay!), my grounded presence and my flow. I moved well and had confidence. They loved my assists. My alignment cues worked. They asked for more fire, adding more modulation and energy in my voice. They cautioned me about "yoga teacher voice," a disembodied version of Nicole that descends when I'm on auto-pilot. (Guilty as charged.) They noticed I sometimes roamed the room instead of being present with the class. They advised I use the word "your" instead of "the" when talking about parts of the body, like your foot, or your shoulders. They noticed my filler words. "And then" is my yoga albatross. Really.

    A lot of feedback is small, simple things, but they translate big in class. Saying "the" instead of "your" distances me the teacher from the students, even if I am being authentic and real. "And then" is a verbal crutch. It is ridiculously hard for me to stop saying that dumb little phrase. Modulating my voice more shifts the energy of the class. One of my teachers says we are ultimately always responsible for the energy in class, not the students.

    So, there you go. Not all studios are so rigorous, but this process is also extremely helpful and gratifying. I've got another practice class with the studio owner, and if all goes well, I'll earn myself a spot on her studio's sub list. Keep your fingers crossed!

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    Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr