Teachers. . .
Stop being nice.
Be kind, be gracious, be empathetic, be joyful, but stop being nice. “Nice” is a wishy-washy state born of insecurity. “Nice” makes your students uncomfortable. “Nice” has a selfish agenda. . . “nice” wants to be liked.
Your students and clients are not paying you money to shore up your ego; they are paying money to learn yoga.
But I’m going to preface this whole blog by saying it is a natural human desire to be liked. It goes deep into our biological survival mechanisms. If you’re reading this and see these traits in yourself (I see them in myself to this day) tell yourself “this is a natural human desire and it’s ok, but it does not need to control me.” Then dig into some work around it. Letting go of nice can transform your teaching, your class numbers, and your happiness in major ways.
The more you try to get your students to like you, the less likely you are to be an effective teacher. If you try to teach to what you think everyone in that class is looking for, you’ll not only drive yourself crazy, you’ll teach a class that has no real impact or focus. You also fall into the classic trap of making the class all about you rather than all about your students. The class becomes focused on your need to be liked rather than the student’s need for energetic balance, healing, and learning yoga.
Focus instead on teaching what needs to be taught. This requires your presence, awareness, and it requires you to take the reins of your class and teach. Teachers are often uncomfortable about being direct because of the prevalent “kumbaya” mentality that pervades much of the yoga world. Teachers mistake being “yogic” with being meek, passive, and non-assertive. Of course be kind, be generous, be caring, be involved, be compassionate, and be empathetic, but avoid letting your perceptions of what others think “yogic” means to control you. No one really knows what yogic means, and it means something different to everyone. To me, being spiritual or yogic to me means being exactly who you are. That authenticity is powerful, it resonates with people, and it makes you unique. No one can be you, but anyone can be a “yoga teacher.” In a world where teaching has become very competitive, your best asset is your own authenticity.
Also, if you’re worrying about what people think of you, everyone in the room has their hands on the wheel. Everyone’s energy and opinions are driving your words, asana choices, and pace. It will literally feel like a car with 30 people’s hands on the wheel trying to go in different directions. The experience of the class feels confusing and shaky because you are not in control of what is going on. Students become tense because they feel a vacuum left by your unwillingness to give clear instruction. When you take the reins of your class, say what needs to be said, connect with your presence, correct what needs correction, and teach what needs to be taught, you are back in the driver’s seat. Your students feel this shift. They will be able to relax and focus on their experience and healing in a much deeper way because they feel they can let go of control. They subconsciously know they can take their hands off the wheel.
Being a teacher means being uncomfortable sometimes. Being a teacher means your students are going to be uncomfortable sometimes. Being a teacher means sometimes students won’t like you or your class. But, when you are yourself, more people will gravitate to you that are in line with you are. People who aren’t in line will go somewhere else. Everyone wins. Students can find the right resonance for them in a teacher and you don’t have to do mental gymnastics trying to be nice you can just be yourself.
In a yoga class, many of the experiences that make it a good class are implicit and felt rather than overt and intellectual. It is a sense of the “Wa” (a Japanese word for the ambient harmony of a space or social group) of the room. It is the sense of our implicit emotional connections to one another. When we are around someone authentic, however they present that authenticity, we relax. We know they are walking their talk. So teachers do yourself an enormous favor, stop being nice. You’re beautiful and lovely as you are, you don’t need to be anything else. Try it out, watch what happens.