Inspiring people

Namaste! The journey of a yoga teacher, with Claire Shaw

Yoga can take you anywhere in the world and release you from the 9-5 grind. But what does it really take to become established? 

Claire, aka @claire.cocao first qualified back in 2014 with YogaLondon, at the same time as finishing her final year in dance school. She’s been on a colourful journey to become the teacher she is today and we asked her to share her ebbs and flows.

“I’ve always had too much physical energy to sit behind a desk, unless it’s on my own terms! I loved the transformational effect yoga practice had on my life, so I wanted to share that with others.

“My first class was – and still is – a ‘pay what you can’ community class. Some of my students have attended since the beginning and it’s a beautiful class where I first started developing my teaching style. I found my second steady yoga gig with Brixton Yoga, by attending classes and chatting with the teacher.”

Newly qualified Claire introduced me to yoga back in Brixton in 2015. It was easy to lose myself after a tough day at work, pretending I was a spoon in an almost empty jar of peanut butter or prowling like a jungle cat.

“My students probably describe me as a very playful, highly descriptive teacher.”

“I want people to have fun and to feel accepted. I hope everyone can find something to relate to, for both on and off the mat. I use language to elevate the practice and break down poses into their composite parts so they’re easy to follow.”

But Claire explains that it’s not always been easy, and it takes time to find your confidence.

“To begin with it felt nerve-wracking, fun and stressful all at the same time. I tried my best to breathe and project confidence, pushing through the thoughts of ‘can I do this?’, ‘will I forget the sequence?’ and ‘will they like me?’.

“The hardest thing was developing belief in myself. Honing the practice of teaching takes time, and you have days when you feel that you’re an awful teacher and you don’t know anything, and then days where you feel on top of the world.

“Learning to be resilient to the ebbs and flows comes with accepting that not everyone will love your class. And that’s ok.”

“By spending time on self-inquiry and clarifying my own values and beliefs, it helped me learn to communicate clearly and confidently in front of a room of people.”

As a new teacher in London, Claire also found it challenging to get into studios.

“It takes a lot of patience, perseverance and confidence to put yourself out there. When I first started teaching I accepted every class because I was eager to start teaching. I was working every single day of the week for three months straight.

“I nearly burnt out completely, but I slowly began to cut down classes that were too far from home, or not financially beneficial and started making my weekends free (thanks to my husband who made me promise).

“Now my schedule varies from day to day as I teach private clients who often need different time slots depending on their week. I try to nap to refresh for evening classes and I make time for other aspects of the job such as class planning, admin, marketing and writing for my blog. It’s a busy lifestyle!”

Claire has built a supportive network by joining a group called Sunday School Yoga, a community of teachers in London focused on providing community, sharing and workshops around London.

“Your network is one of your most important assets as a yoga teacher in London.”

“Going to classes is also very useful as the studios and teachers get to know you and are more likely to ask you to teach or cover classes.

“It was through making friends in my community and developing a reputation as a fun, reliable and good teacher that I’ve broken into the world of yoga festivals and retreats.”

​So teaching in London is more about community than competition. And what better way to stay connected than on social?

“So far I’m not sure that social media has done much in generating work. But it does keep my students updated and I often get my regulars commenting on my photos.

“I will definitely keep working to cultivate my social media presence. By digging deeper to figure out why I teach, I’ve been able to think about what social media output fits my values. 

“I try to post colourful content which often contains postures that are not body-aesthetic driven. Thanks to a talented yoga photographer, Cecille, who is an avid yogi herself (photo credit), I have some incredible photos to share, plus sometimes I edit my own which is fun.”

Claire’s top five tips from beyond the mat:

  1. Use the power of self-enquiry to hone your own teaching style
  2. Have patience, perseverance and confidence to put yourself out there
  3. Practice local classes, talk to local teachers and get on their cover lists
  4. Make friends and join your local yoga community
  5. Remember to know your value.

To join Claire for one of her London yoga sessions or sign up for her next Cocoa-Yoga Workshop, check out her website and Insta. You won’t be disappointed!

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