Am I A Yoga Teacher Fraud?

Yoga in the park

The other day I was working on yoga school homework — writing my teaching bio (the sort of thing that might someday go on one of these pages) — and I had this fleeting, but intense moment of panic:

Me, a yoga teacher? In your dreams! Who would ever buy that?

See, the thing is:

  • I haven’t been formally practicing yoga for very long (a year-and-a-half to be exact, plus the semester-long class I took in college).
  • I walked into It’s All Yoga 50 pounds heavier and with exponentially less confidence and self-awareness.
  • I’m firmly established as part of the IAY community as a student, not a teacher. 
  • I still get nervous when teaching groups.
  • I don’t look like a stereotypical yoga teacher.

(Basically, my inner gremlins decided to have themselves a field day.)

I want to be a yoga teacher. 

When I started this whole yoga teacher training adventure, I did not expect to like teaching. Sure, I knew that I would love immersing myself in the study of yoga philosophy and learning about how to safely contort my body into various new shapes. But teaching — I never anticipated that I would enjoy that part.

Yet somewhere around the middle of April, something shifted. I stopped thinking about teaching and I started doing it. I jumped into the deep end and discovered that I could swim. And yes, teaching is still utterly nerve-wracking, but it’s scary in that “you’re glad you did it and feel pretty awesome afterwards”  kind of way.

Recently I even found myself admitting to a several friends: I would like to teach yoga.

Oh wait, that feeling like a fraud thing…

Despite my desire to teach, as I was writing my bio, my gremlins would tell me things like “your buddies from the yoga studio are going to read this and think — who does she think she is, an actual yoga teacher?” Or that “the IAY teachers are going to have a ball laughing at your bio — they know you’re not an actual teacher.

I started to wonder whether I was a fraud. Whether the answer was to run away — to go start fresh at some other studio where they don’t know my back-story, where they don’t know that I’m still a yoga-newbie, where I could create this “fabulous yoga teacher persona” right off the bat.

Tempting.

It comes from within.

At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear to me that the only person I have to convince that I’m a “real” yoga teacher is myself. If I own that role — if I confidently present myself as the person leading class today (and that confidence is supported by a reasonable amount of skill) — if i believe that I am worthy … I cannot be a fraud. If I’m pretending to be something I’m not, we’ve got a problem.

And the thing is, there will always be a list of stories that I can tell myself about why I am not worthy of this role, but it doesn’t take much to turn those stories around and look at them from an entirely different perspective. For example:

  • Whether you’ve done Downward Facing Dog 400 times or 4,000 times, it’s always going to be different. There is something new to discover each time, so in a sense, we’re all always beginners.
  • I am living proof that yoga can be a transformational practice.
  • I’ve gotten to know so many awesome people through the studio. I know their names and they know mine. If they see my name on the schedule, that might actually be incentive for them to show up.
  • Nervousness is excitement without breath. If I remember to breathe and savor the moment, I will be good.
  • I don’t look like the stereotypical yogi, but part of IAY’s culture is that yoga is for every body. How nice of me to demonstrate that fact!

And from that vantage point, it seems like I have a whole lot to offer.

10 comments

  1. We all have doubt starting something new and fresh right. I have been doing yoga for the past year, and I would LOVE to be a yoga teacher. The feeling I get right after a yoga class is amazing and the fact you are training to spread and teach that amazing feeling is amazing in itself. I wish you so much luck and the fact you are questioning yourself is only going to make you a better teacher of yoga. I wish you the best. :) !!!! xx

  2. PS: I say amazing a lot ha

  3. I can not wait to take your class because you are a fabulous teach. Teach for 4 days or 4 years, be it, want it, see it!! I believe in you.

  4. Robert Webster · · Reply

    Everyone has to start at the beginning! What an incredible journey you have had since I first met you at IAY and I can say I knew you when…You will be fantastic and I will love taking your class.

  5. What a wonderfully honest and thoughtful piece. Thanks so much, Beka. And welcome to the international society of self-doubting teachers! It has more members than you think . . . .

  6. The bane of almost every woman I know–we never think we’re good enough even when we are. You keep going!

  7. Bekah, I know nothing about yoga, I’m a little too far away to attend one of your classes, but I admire the journey you are undertaking. To do anything satisfactorily there are three things that you need: knowledge, skill and attitude.

    You are attending school to deal with the first, you are leading classes to develop the second and you seem to be acquiring the third by the bucketful. As the Aussies say, ‘Good on ya, girl’. Go for it!

  8. Your classes are wonderful because you are so authentic and can identify with your people. I’m looking forward to taking more!

    1. Awe, thank you Patty! I really appreciate this comment … and right back at you! xo

  9. Firstly I’d like to say that I appreciate you honesty. I don’t think, you’re a fraud per se, but people should look at this post so that they know what they’re getting into with yoga. Yoga teachers are not anymore special than their students or anyone else. These teachers are no more enlightened, spiritually connected, or skilled. However they will take your money on the premise that this is the case. My advice is to save your money. Get a run, a lift, and a few minutes (not hours) of stretching and you’ll be in better physical condition than any of these yoga instructors.

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