Recently I attended a yoga class. It was a full house with about 20 students all ready to flow it out, energy high, and attention focused on the teacher in an evening vinyasa class. I had gotten there early, but not as early as my friend who got us a spot right up front, however the class was so well attended that our front row spots turned into second row spots as more and more students kept filling in the spaces.
As the teacher began to lead I noticed that she was somewhat difficult to hear, even in only the second row. This isn’t good for a teacher. I know that it can be intimidating to basically public speak in front of peers and older students, or even more advanced students than you, but it’s our job as yoga teachers to get up in front of students and guide. Even better if we get up and teach something, but at the very least we have to lead students through a yoga sequence. When we get up there to lead we must remember to speak loudly and confidently, use our teacher voices.
Confidently, there’s an adjective to remember. During my first training, I learned that leading a class with confidence is key, and I believe it. Now, I’m a shy gal, and I know (from my boyfriend who tells me) that I sometimes drop my voice while teaching. Luckily I grew up as a cheerleader in my teenage years and then became an ESL teacher, so I definitely have a classroom (or yoga studio) voice, but sometimes it peters out and I have to lift it right back up. Speaking loudly while teaching gives the students a reassurance that the teacher knows what they’re talking about, whether teaching English grammar or sun salutations. And I’d argue that it’s even more important to earn your students’ trust through confidence while teaching yoga because it’s important that your students trust you with the safety of their bodies. Yoga’s not inherently dangerous, but it can be, and it’s definitely far more dangerous than learning past participles.
Reasons for raising your voice above your general speaking voice go beyond eluding confidence, it also just makes sense. Imagine a studio full of 20 students or more, all staggered to the back of the room – how will the ones at the back hear you if you don’t speak up? Or if you’re fortunate enough to get a teaching gig outdoors, there’s bound to be some noise during your class. You’ll be able to tell if students are having trouble hearing you if you notice many of them craning their necks in downdog to take a peek at what the heck modification you and other students are in. Pay attention to your students signals that they’re sort of lost and adjust your teaching.
Now the title of this post is Speak Up, not shout, unless your style is to be militant like a Spinning teacher, in which case keep being true to yourself. Be mindful not to yell loudly to your front row students so that your back row students can hear you, find your happy medium. And if you’re defending a whisper of a voice because you want your class to be spiritual and calm, then that’s cool, just be aware if you’re effectively being heard or not.
On the flip side of having a relaxing environment in class, remember that you and your students reflect each other in terms of energy. Keep the energy from tanking way before Savasana by using your teacher’s voice and once you enter your cool down section then you can calm it down. And I’m sure that this goes without saying, but while guiding your students in and out of Savasana it’s a good idea to switch to your flowery yoga teacher’s voice.
It might take time to develop this teaching skill, but once you become aware of the issue you can begin to perfect your voice. Speak up and be heard, teachers.