“Remember: your students do not need you to be perfect, but they do need you to be real.”
Continue to Heal Yourself
The first part of the journey to finding your own voice is to look at your own fears about being seen and heard. The majority of people I meet have had some sort of wounding to their own voice and as a result have a very strong inner critic that silences their truth and authenticity. We may even have inherited this kind of silencing from our family and early conditioning. So begin to explore all that you have been taught about your own self expression. Examine the ways that your inner critic keeps you from expressing and then begin to shift the pattern. Are there places in your life where you DO feel safe enough to speak your truth? If so, strengthen those experiences and begin to practice speaking your truth in other areas and situations in your life. Although this may be challenging, it is a crucial step toward fully living and expressing your authentic voice, which in turn will help you to become a powerful communicator and teacher.
The most important tool for teaching
More than any other tool, the voice is crucial to becoming an effective and inspiring teacher. Throughout the yoga experience, yoga students are consciously releasing tension and engaging their sensitivity, becoming finely attuned to themselves and the world around them. As a result, there will be times when your voice and the words that you choose become very impactful. In fact, during certain moments of the class, every word you speak will be like dropping a pebble in a still pond – its effect reverberating into the students awareness. This is the responsibility and the gift of the teacher….to plant seeds of transformation and inspiration with our own authentic voice.
Your voice is an Instrument
While teaching, you can play with using the whole range of your voice for effect. Start by becoming aware of the part of your voice you usually use. Is it deep and low? Do you have a high and soft voice? Then start to use other tones and rhythms. If you want to inspire your students to a strong practice you can deepen and amplify your lower tones…if you want to create a soothing atmosphere, you can relax your voice and lengthen your rhythm…above all, do not be afraid to vary your tones, rhythms and resonance (where the different tones live in the body). Let your teaching voice be melodic. Imagine you are subtly singing your words rather than speaking them. Let your voice be an instrument that deeply communicates your passion and intent.
Words have power
Start to to become aware of the words that you use. Pay attention to what your soul wants to say and BE BOLD. Find the words and concepts that are meaningful to you and share them with your students. Fall in love with language and expand your vocabulary.
As you are teaching, take deep breaths and give your students time to integrate the information. Rather than simply repeating the words of your own teachers (which is normal at the beginning), offer some of your own personal experience with the practice and philosophies. Tell stories from your own journey – the struggles, joys and breakthroughs that you have made. You can absolutely find a way to be self revealing while also holding a container of safety.
Once you find your unique voice, you will inspire your students to begin to speak their truth as well. Remember, your students do not need you to be perfect but they do need you to be real.
Language of the Soul
When speaking prayers and invocations it is important to open yourself to inspiration. You can begin by planning the prayers and writing them out ahead of time, but it is always good to allow yourself to become a voice for the moment. You can practice this by doing automatic writing and journaling. Write poetry. Tap into the mytho- poetic realm and to play with language that is pleasurable to you. What words to you love and why? Can you expand your vocabulary and bring more poetry into your teaching and speaking? Can you join your own voice and experience with the universal themes that all spiritual beings explore? Can you be brave and even add sounds or melodies to your prayers? Let your teaching be a wonderful combination of prose and poetry. Language creates the world it describes…you can become a word musician and magician creating new worlds and inspiring deep change and awakening.
Sing Sing Sing!
The ancient art of singing our prayers is indigenous to all cultures on the planet. Kirtan (call and response chanting in Sanskrit and other languages) is having a rebirth all over the world. Embodied devotional practices can be playful, expressive, and participatory – and deep down, every person on the planet has a desire to sing! So let your devotion, your yoga and your teaching transform your voice into an instrument of grace and beauty! Explore the power of your own voice and your own song. Let what is inside be seen and heard and when you do, you will tap into the universal language which connects us all. The language of music and song is one of the most powerful forms of medicine and magic that we have available to us. We are all instruments of Grace…beautiful beyond compare!
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About Suzanne Sterling:
Suzanne Sterling is a dedicated musician, yogi, activist and social innovator who has been performing and teaching transformational workshops for over 20 years. She is co-founder of Off The Mat, Into the World and founder of Voice of Change which offers programs dedicated to inspiring others to find their unique voice and to use self expression as a tool for community building and conscious evolution.
Suzanne has been a featured artist/teacher at numerous festivals and conferences such as, Wanderlust, Omega, Esalen, Kripalu, Yoga Journal, Hanuman, Burning Man, Symbiosis, Ecstatic Dance, Bhaktifest, Boomfest, LIB, IONS, Bioneers, Earthdance (where she led the worlds largest Spiral Dance for 5000 people) and many more. She has been guest teacher in numerous Yoga Teacher Trainings and is part of the nationwide faculty for YogaWorks Teacher Trainings.
Since 2007 she has been training leaders of conscious activism through her co-founded (with Seane Corn and Hala Khouri) organization Off The Mat, Into the World. As director of the Seva Challenge Humanitarian Tours which have raised over $4 million since 2007, she has spent time in the US, India, Cambodia, Haiti, Ecuador and Africa working with communities in need and getting the yoga community involved in fund and awareness raising efforts across the globe.
For nearly 30 years, she has worked with the International Reclaiming Community, creating ritual and training teachers in eco feminist spirituality. Together with Ravyn Stanfield she created the Priestessing Apprenticeship in Sacred Leadership which for the last ten years has offered year long immersions into the art of creating ritual for the modern world. An award winning musician, she has released 5 solo albums and numerous DVD soundtracks.
Find out more at www.suzannesterling.com