1.The ease of self-promotion
Having been a writer since before I can remember I am used to the art of self-promotion, if not very good at it. From the moment I suggested to one young couple that they join me for my morning yoga practice I recognised that I was at it again.
Yet this was something different. I started a free class in order to consolidate my teaching methods and gain some much needed practice, kind of like a self-imposed PGCE or TEFL (both of which I have done) but much more fun and less restrictive. By the very liberated nature of my own class I found that I was easily able to promote myself casually in conversation and soon my class began to fill despite it being earlier than other classes and on the beach. I used this to my advantage and invited people to get sandy, a quirk they loved.
By taking that step and inviting people to join me I began to find that self promotion wasn’t all that hard. A few quickly made flyers, with some creative wording, and the permission of a bar or two to post them up meant that I was in business; self-promotion was no longer a scary concept, just a fun experiment.
Following on I found that by teaching for free I gained massively in the confidence department. By offering classes to people I had already built a rapport with meant that I wasn’t afraid to teach them and so increased my skill gradually in a comfortable zone. This meant that when two Russian girls,who had been recently training in Rishikesh, asked to join I was a lot less nervous than I would have been had they turned up day one to a scheduled class in a school with a bigger reputation. There is a certain advantage to being a non-entity, no expectations.
As a person who in the past would blush at the slightest thing and get flustered speaking in front of large groups, teaching for free gave me incredible freedom. I realised that often the nerves portrayed in social situations were, for me, just reactions to the pressure of wanting to get it right, of being observed and feeling inadequate. Teaching for free came with no expectations, it was just an experiment and mentally I managed to become a much more confident teacher.
3. Combating resistance
People would quite often say to me that they couldn’t do yoga, they were too stiff or inflexible, they’d never done it, they didn’t like all that voodoo that went with it, this all led to some very interesting discussions. By offering a free class people were more inclined to listen to me and to agree to try a class, I therefore ended up teaching quite a high number of beginners, male and female, old and young. Some of these people would never have dreamed of doing yoga or had put it off for years and yes it helped that we were in Goa, and yes it helped that from the mats we could see the sea but I like to also think that people valued the chance to try yoga without expectations or fear of failure. Some even went on to complete their own teacher training course.
Many people out there have heard about yoga and have false misconceptions, super advanced poses on the top of cliffs or in the middle of train tracks
may look good but they give the wrong impression to your average Joe who can’t bend to put on his socks if the weather is a bit frosty. As I was asking nothing other than my students interest for one lesson I found that people were less frightened by the kind of acrobatics they thought yoga was and were more interested to experiment with me.
4. Knowledge gaps
No one is perfect when they begin to teach anything. In fact, most people realise how imperfect they are and what they could do to improve, that is the mark of a good teacher, one who recognises their gaps and attempts to fill them.
Everyday I would be faced with a new challenge as people tried out my class. Some personalities I found I clashed with or couldn’t teach the yoga they were hoping for. This led me to question and re-evaluate myself. Now, of course this happens whether you are teaching for free or not, the only thing I think teaching for free helps with is you are less attached to your lesson. You know its an experiment and that it may not work so you are happy to let it go when it doesn’t, I also found people were less afraid to give feedback as no-one is buying into a contract. Sometimes money can cloud expectations and judgement. People may not give truthful feedback because they have paid, or may expect more because they have paid. On the other hand you may over think your lesson and not recognise what is needed for your class if you are being paid, you may consider a rigid set of expectations more than what is actually needed.
5.How to love teaching
Finally, the biggest bonus to teaching for free for me was the fact I got the chance to love my teaching before it became a career or a job. Detaching the teaching from the income gave me a sense of what kind of teacher I wished to be and allowed me to play around with my own ethos.
I wouldn’t say you necessarily need to teach a free class, and in fact one french lady told me that I should never do anything for free, but I do feel like it helped to consolidate my resolve to teach yoga in some sense and in fact to create this blog.