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12 Tips for New Yoga Teachers from Clara Roberts-Oss

clara roberts oss one down dog

Clara Roberts-Oss, international yoga teacher extraordinaire, is coming to ODD for an entire weekend of trainings! Friday’s session is open to all levels and will explore chakras and mantras. Saturday’s session is geared specifically toward advanced practitioners and teachers focusing on advanced poses. Sunday’s sessions is for teachers only and will dive into backbends and inversions.

Interested in furthering your practice and/or teaching skills? Sign up before they sell out – only 10 spaces left!


Clara has had years of experience as a teacher and yogi. Over the years she’s learned a lot! She’s graciously shared with us 12 tips for new yoga teachers.

1) Keep it simple. 
Keep everything you do while you teach as simple as possible, your sequence, your language, your music. You are learning a new language, learn the nouns, verbs and such before you jump into conversational yoga. You will appear more confident with your students and they are more likely to trust you.

1a) Speak Slowly.
Speak even slower than you think you should. New teachers are excited about sharing what they’ve learned and that excitement tends to make them nervous and that nervousness tends to speed up the cuing, the breathing and soon enough people are moving so quickly there’s no way they can be breathing with integration. Breathe with your students, speak painfully slow—usually that makes you speak normally, versus very quickly. Schylar Grant offered using a metronome at home to practice speaking slowly. Carolyn Budgell recommends recording your voice and listening to it. I recommend taping your foot quietly or using the beats in the song to give you a sense of timing. The important thing is, be conscious of your speaking speed, it is a large part of what creates the Bhavana (mood) of the class.

2) Have patience and compassion towards yourself. 
The first few years are hard. You are going to make mistakes and people are going to give you attitude. Try not to be hard on yourself or your students. Learn from your mistakes and trust in the process and know that it gets easier.

3) Get off your mat as soon as possible. 
As a new teacher, it’s fine to practice the sequence with your students but ween yourself off the mat as soon as possible. You are more useful to your students if you’re watching them. This is why I encourage new teachers to have simple sequences, so that they don’t need to be doing it with the class in order to remember it. Elaborate sequences may seem cool but does it ultimately serve the students if their teachers are paying more attention to remembering the sequence than watching them?

4) Own the space.
Be loving yet hold your ground. This is your classroom, be confident in the choices you make with lighting, temperature, music. This one was especially hard for me to learn. I started teaching very young. Older women liked to give me hard time by complaining about the music, the temperature and talking in class. They were some of my greatest teachers. They taught me how to stand my ground, believe in my choices as a teacher or change them if need be. Which leads me to…

5) Your students can be your greatest teachers.
Observe who triggers you in class. They are usually either echoing something about yourself that you don’t like or are not proud of. For me, those women where echoing my own feelings of self worth. Who was I to teach people? What did I have to offer? Observe what arises with those students and silently thank them for the lesson. Try and stay compassionate towards them and yourself while in the room. Then work with the triggers by meditating or talking to a therapist/friend about it.

6) Develop a consistent home practice.
This is going to feed you, especially during times of stagnation in your teaching. Your home practice is not a time when you’re developing your class sequences, I like to think of it as my upkeep. I do the poses and pranayama that my body really needs for the day. It doesn’t look like a vinyasa practice, it’s more therapeutic. It changes daily depending upon what I need and how I’m doing.

7) If you do nothing else in your own time, MEDITATE.
This was a game changer for me. I was initiated into a few years back into Neelakantha Meditation practice and had to pledge to sit 20 min every day for a year and it hooked me. This will feed you as a human and a teacher on many levels. You will be able to access compassion, strength and remain grounded in most situations. Please start today! Start by sitting for just 10 min daily and begin to increase it when you feel ready.

8) Practice the sequence in your own body prior to teaching it.
You should know how the sequence feels before you share it. If you make it up on the spot, you are more likely to forget it. I tell new teachers to teach the same sequence for a week or two so that they can focus on watching their students instead of remembering the sequence.

9) Practice different styles of Yoga
There is so much to be learned from different lineages of Yoga. It’s important to experience other ways of moving and to remember what it’s like being new at something. I find it helps me understand my students more. Two of my most influential teachers, Shiva Rea and Constantine Darling, incorporate different lineages into their teaching, giving me as the practitioner, a richer experience.

10) Create a Teacher’s Practice.
This was another game changer for me. When I moved to Vancouver eight years ago, I was invited to a teacher’s practice. I had never seen that before. We sat around in a circle and co-taught (round robin style). We picked a peak pose and created the flow together. It was an informal space where we asked each other questions, gave each other feedback on our asanas and execution. I grew as a teacher like I never had prior. It also builds a stronger kula/community amongst teachers which fed our student kula exponentially. Invite any and all teachers, no matter what style or what studio they’re from, there is always something to learn.

11) Don’t stop being a student.
Take other people’s classes. Attend teacher trainings. Continue to learn. We are students first and foremost. I look at teaching as a way of sharing things that excite me. Continue to feed yourself so you can continue to share.

and my last one for today….

12) Don’t take yourself too seriously.
As my father says so beautifully, We are all bozos on this bus. I try to think of myself as a facilitator. I am here to facilitate my students journey into themselves. I try and create a space that is safe for them to explore their inner landscapes. Teaching is not about me, it’s about them. It’s an important one to remember. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how cool your sequence is, whether a ton of people told you how great you are or if your playlist worked. Instead ask yourself, did people leave feeling more connected to themselves, more quiet, more introspective? To me that’s the sign of a good class. And if it didn’t happen, so be it. I’ll try again next time.

Clara Roberts-Oss One Down Dog Yoga Silverlake Workshop

Get to know Clara Roberts-Oss

Clara Roberts-Oss One Down Dog Yoga Silverlake Workshop

Clara Roberts-Oss, international yoga teacher extraordinaire, is coming to ODD for an entire weekend of trainings! Friday’s session is open to all levels and will explore chakras and mantras. Saturday’s session is geared specifically toward advanced practitioners and teachers focusing on advanced poses. Sunday’s sessions is for teachers only and will dive into backbends and inversions.

Interested in furthering your practice and/or teaching skills? Sign up before they sell out – only 10 spaces left!


*This interview was originally conducted by Krys Hansen on Practise Wellness.*

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How long have you practiced yoga, and how did you start?

I studied dance in school but didn’t appreciate the competitive nature of the dance community. I’ve always felt that dance was my way of communing with the Divine. A good friend found the Jivamukti Yoga studio in NYC and thought I would love it, which I did. It was all the aspects of dance that I loved minus the competition. That was 13 years ago.

Share three lessons yoga has taught you.

Just three? The practice has taught me so much!

Be kind to yourself. Let go of judgements because it doesn’t serve or make it any easier.
Less is more. This has been a big one for me. On a physical level, learning to move from my energetic body versus my physical body has been transformational. Exert less energy and all of a sudden you’re more grounded, feel less fatigued and the practice is much more meditative. Off the mat, when you exert less you are able to observe more. You’re able to step back and see the bigger picture easier–so that means being less reactive and more responsive. It’s been a game changer! Mind you, it’s always a work in progress.
Stay inspired. Do things on/off the mat that truly uplift you because guess what? It’s all yoga. All things can give you a deeper connection to the yourself and Self, if your intention is clear. I used to think it was just what happened when I was on my mat but not anymore.

How often do you practise?

Asana? Four times a week depending upon how much I’m teaching. If I have a full schedule (16-20 classes a week) then I practice asana less, to conserve energy. I do more pranayama and meditation to even it out. I try to do something daily to connect to myself and Self.

Do you meditate?

Yup! One of my favorite things to do. Gets me grounded and clear.

What do you find most challenging about yoga or meditation?

Making the time when I’m traveling. It’s harder to maintain the routine when you’re in transit.

Your favourite yoga pose and why.

Ooooh, this changes every 3-6 months. Right now, it would be halasana/ plough. It’s been great for taking my awareness inside. My back body has also been asking for a lot more opening lately.

Name one book that changed your perspective.

Hmmm… again a tough one. There have been so many. What I’m rereading right now and LOVING is Paths to God by Ram Das. It’s his lectures on the Gita at the Naropa Centre. A ton of gems in there. The other book that comes to mind is, Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier. I found this to be the most comprehensive book on Tantra. After reading it, I was able to go back to the other books on Tantra and have a better grasp of them.

Best piece of advice?

Stay open, let go of preconceived notions of yourself, what the practice is suppose to be about and life, in general. The surprises and the ‘ah has’ come when you let go of expectations. The hard part, it’s easier said then done.