What To Do If You Panic While Teaching Yoga

What To Do If You Panic While Teaching Yoga

What To Do If You Panic While Teaching Yoga

The First Time I Lost My Place While Teaching Yoga

New yoga teachers often wonder what to do if you panic while teaching yoga, or if your mind draws a total blank. I remember the first time this happened to me. It was the early 2000's, and there was no MindBody or WellnessLiving or other scheduling software that yoga studios and students used to be on the same page. In today's world, when a substitute teacher is going to be teaching, students usually know before they arrive because they can see it on their app. During this time, there was no app and there was no notice.

Students arrived to my vinyasa class expecting their beloved teacher, and instead they found me. I was grateful for the opportunity and eager to sub a yoga class at my favorite studio, hoping that this was the beginning of me getting my foot in the door and maybe getting a class on the weekly schedule. As the students began to saunter into the practice space, I felt many mixed reactions. Some were very warm and welcoming. Others offered encouragement and almost empathized with me. Then there were those who didn't even try to hide the disappointment. One woman even asked where her normal teacher was and said she wouldn't have come if she'd known that her teacher wouldn't be there... ouch.

Always a student before a teacher, I was prepared for this. I know what it's like to love your yoga teacher and how disappointing it can be when you're expecting one experience and get another. When it was time for the class to begin, I introduced myself, set the temperature and the lights and we began. I led the students through the first round of sun salutations, no problem. I felt the energy in the room beginning to shift as everyone started to come into their bodies and into their practice. I then led them through the second round of sun salutations, Surya Namaskar B. After the fifth and final round, they ended in downward facing dog for 5 breaths, and that's when it happened. I realized somewhere around the third breath that I had no idea what was coming next. I drew a complete blank and started to panic. Right in the middle of teaching a yoga class, I forgot what came next in my own sequence that I'd spent hours laboring over.

I wish the story took a positive turn from here. I wish I could say that I handled it with grace, recovered quickly and kept moving, but that's not what happened. The fifth breath in downward facing dog passed, and they probably got to breath 8. They began looking at me to make sure I was still breathing because I'd gone radio silent. After a few awkward "um" noises, I asked the students to walk towards the top of their mat. I had them do a few ill-placed half sun salutations and then landed them in a forward fold for way too long.

I got my game plan together, remembered the gist of what I was going to do and improvised from there. It wasn't the end of the world, and everything turned out ok in my external environment, but internally I was shaken up for the entire class. Once the class concluded, I felt really bad about myself and it took awhile before I felt comfortable while teaching.

What to do if You Panic While Teaching Yoga

As a yoga teacher, it's not uncommon to experience moments where your mind goes blank and you struggle to remember what to say or do next in your class. This can be a frustrating and challenging experience, but there are a number of strategies you can use to stay calm, present, and engaged with your students. Here are some tips for what to do if your mind goes blank while teaching yoga:

  1. Take a Deep Breath: If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious while you're teaching your yoga class, take a few deep breaths to help calm your mind and body. Focus on your breath and let go of any distractions or worries.

  2. Pause and Regroup: If you forget what to say or do next as you're teaching yoga, take a moment to pause and regroup. It's okay to take a brief break or to acknowledge that you need a moment to collect your thoughts.

  3. Use Your Props: If you find yourself struggling to remember a specific pose or sequence, use your props to help guide you. For example, if you're teaching a class and can't remember the name of a specific pose, you can use your mat or your hands to help demonstrate the pose.

  4. Simplify Your Cues: If you're struggling to remember a complex yoga sequence or set of cues for a yoga sequence or yoga pose, simplify your instructions and focus on the basics. This can help you stay present and engaged with your students, and can help you avoid getting stuck in your own head and drawing a blank.

  5. Practice Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help you stay present and engaged with your students, even if you're feeling distracted or overwhelmed. Focus on your breath and stay present in the moment, rather than getting caught up in your thoughts or worries.

  6. Use Humor: If you find yourself struggling to remember what to say or do next, use humor to help lighten the mood and put your students at ease. A lighthearted comment or joke can help you connect with your students and can help you stay present and engaged in the moment.

  7. Embrace Imperfection: Remember that it's okay to make mistakes and to forget things from time to time. Embrace imperfection and focus on the connection you're making with your students, rather than striving for perfection or getting caught up in your own performance.

  8. Practice Ahead of Time: If you're struggling to remember a specific sequence or set of cues, practice ahead of time to help solidify the information in your mind. Practice the sequence or set of cues multiple times, and take notes to help guide you if needed.

  9. Keep It Simple: If you're struggling to remember a complex set of cues or a sequence, keep it simple and focus on the basics. Emphasize alignment and breath, and simplify your instructions to help your students stay present and engaged.

  10. Get Support: If you're struggling with anxiety or panic while teaching yoga, don't hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional or a trusted colleague. Talking about your experiences can help you gain clarity and perspective, and can help you develop strategies to manage your symptoms.

Remember that forgetting things while teaching yoga is a normal experience, and that it's okay to make mistakes or to feel overwhelmed from time to time. By staying present, focusing on your breath, and using these strategies, you can stay calm, centered, and engaged with your students, even when your mind goes blank.

Tips to Remember Your Yoga Sequence While Teaching Yoga

As yoga teachers, we all want to avoid forgetting what we're teaching.  Nobody wants to have to figure out what to do if you panic while teaching yoga.  We're all unique and I realize that what works for me may not work for you, but I can share what has helped me to stay with what I'm teaching.

Be Prepared to Teach Your Yoga Class

The first thing I do is prepare.  I've been teaching yoga for over 20 years, but I still prepare before teaching.  Sure, I've tried to wing it, and it usually works out ok, but I notice my students have a better experience when I'm more prepared.  It doesn't take me hours to write sequences anymore, but I do try to write down what I'm going to teach and I go over the sequence on my mat.  When I'm on my way to my yoga class, I usually review the sequence mentally and think of anything that might make it more meaningful or special.  

Create New Sequences to Teach in Your Yoga Class

We all have our favorite yoga sequences that we like to teach.  They're always in our back pocket, and they come out frequently.  Students who take our classes often are probably familiar with them, and there's something nice for students about knowing what to expect.  Repeating a sequence has a lot of benefits.  Having said that, it's important not to rely solely on old sequences and to constantly create new sequences.  

Often times our teaching reflects our personal yoga practice, and that is constantly in flux.  We want to keep our yoga classes interesting for our students and we don't want our sequences, or our energy as teachers, to become stale.  To avoid this and to help stay engaged, it is helpful for me to always think of new ways to teach.  I may be teaching the same set of postures, but I try to always add in something new and different, or to come into the postures in new ways or take a new arm variation in a familiar standing posture.  There are many ways to keep our sequences fresh.  Creating forces us to to be present in the moment, which brings me to my next tip. 

Stay Present While Teaching Yoga

It sounds like a no brainer to say we should stay present while teaching yoga, but it's really easy to become distracted.  I try to shift my mindspace about 30 minutes or an hour before I start teaching.  I like to visualize myself laying down all of my personal concerns and picking up my mat.  I have a special mat that I only use when I'm teaching, and I visualize myself rolling my yoga teaching mat out.  I may not even be demonstrating many poses while teaching, but I still roll my mat out and have it in case I need it.  I start my class there, and I end my class there.  Through visualization and meditation, I've connected this special mat to my teaching mindset.   It helps me stay present.

When I get this teaching mat, I let go of all my thoughts about my own personal to do lists, what's for dinner, emails I need to send or calls I need to make.  I don't think about what is happening after the class I'm teaching, and I don't think about what has happened before I started teaching this class.  When I get out my mat to teach, I'm present in the moment, in the room with my students.

Sometimes We Forget What We're Teaching While Teaching Yoga.... It's Ok

Sometimes we forget what we're teaching while teaching yoga, despite our best efforts.  It's ok, it happens.  Our students accept that we're human and are imperfect.  If it happens to you while you're teaching yoga and you feel yourself beginning to panic, just smile, breathe and know that you have a wealth of information about the practice of yoga and many valuable things to teach.  Do what comes instinctively and trust yourself.