The very word “audition” conjures up the image of nervous and leotard-clad showgirls warming for A Chorus Line while singing, “Got I hope I get it/ I hope I get it/ Please God I need this job.” But whether we call it a “practical interview” or “Karmic Casting,” the yoga audition is becoming a mortifying necessity as the marketplace becomes saturated with skilled teachers. So while we may cringe at the process, let’s look at the bright side and take heart in the growing popularity of our cherished practice.
The worst advice you’ll get
Ask a studio owner or manager for advice on the yoga audition, and here are some of the pearls of auditioning wisdom that you’ll hear:
- “Just be yourself.”
- “Don’t be nervous. Just show us who you are.”
- “Have fun.”
As a veteran of the stage, I can assure you that this advice is absolutely useless because:
- It’s impossible to do.
- When you can’t do it (because of point #1) you will feel as if there is something wrong with you, which will make you feel more nervous, incompetent and freaked out.
So let’s just be candid.
You will not feel relaxed. You will not feel like “yourself”. You will not feel comfortable.
You will feel nervous. You will feel giddy. You may even feel nauseous or slightly ill.
Here’s the truth: you are undergoing this icky audition process because you want to be a yoga teacher. And when you want something badly, you will feel nervous when you put yourself on the line. You are invested. You care. Not feeling nervous would be inhuman – or indicate that you didn’t really want the gig. So let’s let go of that sweet little fantasy of “just relax” and get real about what you actually can control.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Every audition is different in its specifications, but usually you’ll know which poses you are going to teach.
- Your alignment points
- Breath work
- Transition cuing
- Use of imagery
- Use of effective language
- Thematic moment
- Practice early (as in, a week before the audition) so that your unconscious has a chance to cement all your work into your body and mind.
- Practice on your friends until you can get them in and out of the pose in your sleep.
- Practice it until you can do it easefully.
- Practice teaching the pose in several ways.
- Don’t script yourself. Give yourself room to improvise.
- Everything you can about the studio
- Who will be in the room, who else will be there (how many participants)
- The audition format.
- Know as much as you can so that you can have a good picture in your mind of what to expect.
- If you can, go to the audition location prior to your appointment so that you can get a feel for the space. The audition will be different from your expectations, but familiarize yourself as much as possible.
Also find out what kind of teacher is the studio looking for?
While we want to “be ourselves” (more on that later), it’s good to be clear what the tone of the studio is so that you can play in their parameters. For example, auditioning for a gym is different than auditioning for a traditional shala, and how you teach should adjust accordingly. An obvious example: if you’re auditioning for a gym, you’ll want to limit your use of Sanskrit, philosophy, and enthusiastic use of the harmonium.
As part of your preparation, visualize your teaching before you go to sleep at night. Visualize it going just as you wish.
Whenever a fear-based thought comes to your head, practice pratipaksah bhavanam and cultivate the opposite thought. Replace it with a positive thought, such as, “I am going to rock this audition.” “I am going to be calm, steady, and kind.” Choose a phrase that resonates with you. Remember: this is a practice. You will naturally have fearful thoughts occasionally and it’s not a big deal. But when you find it happening, deliberately replace them with a positive mantra.
“Don’t be a crazy hippie,” as my friend Chris Brandt likes to say. Studio owners want to work with responsible, punctual, friendly, safe teachers who play well with others and understand professional standards. This is not the ideal time to burn incense and perform 15 minutes of Vedic chanting (unless that really defines you as a teacher and is appropriate for the studio, in which case, rock on with your Veda chanting self).
- Arrive at least 10 minutes early.
- Be nice to the people who work there. Especially the desk staff, as they will relay their impressions to the owners. (Since you’re a yoga teacher, being kind should go without saying. But. Just saying.)
- Dress professionally.
- Your audition starts as soon as you enter the building. Be your best from the moment you arrive.
How to control your nerves
Your thorough preparation will help you to control your nerves, because you will have confidence in what you are doing. However, adrenaline is normal. To take the edge off of this natural response:
- Breathe. Use your pranayama. Controlled breathing regulates your nervous system. Lengthen your exhale to control your breath and the crazy butterflies will calm down.
- Slow Down. When we are nervous, most of us turn into speed machines. You have time. Breathe and think before you speak.
- Feel your feet. Stay connected to the earth.
- Power Pose for 2 minutes to reduce your cortisol and increase your testosterone. (See this amazing Amy Cuddy video).
What they want. What you want.
Okay, so here’s the trick. They want to see “you.” They want you to seem relaxed and confident and yourself. (Hence, their terrible advice.) But we generally only allow ourselves to be relaxed when we are, well, relaxed. Which you won’t be.
So, before you go to this audition, do a little research on YOU. Ask your regular students, “What’s my best quality as a teacher?” Find out why they come to your class. If you aren’t teaching yet, then as your 200-hour classmates what they perceive as your strengths. Also, do a little self-reflection: why do you teach yoga? What do you want to bring to the classroom? What makes you excited about sharing your passion with others? And how does this manifest tangibly in your teaching?
When you prepare for the audition, brainstorm and practice different ways that you can create opportunities to share your strength or your passion with your students. How can you reveal your strength and unique passion through your teaching? Keep your larger mission in mind during the audition. Remembering your larger purpose will help to anchor you in a broader and more meaningful context than the audition.
Easy Brownie Points.
Naturally do your research, but I’d wager these actions will be appropriate for most studios you’ll audition for:
- Make eye contact
- Stand up straight
- Be audible
- Match your vocal tone to what you’re teaching
- Keep it simple
- Plan how you want to walk around in the space so you’re not stuck pacing at the front of the room like a caged tiger. No wandering.
- Plan a time to give a verbal or hands on assist to a student (they want to know that you can see your students; work an opportunity to display that into your actual teaching plan so you make sure it happens)
- Don’t sit down or squat, unless you’re teaching the beginning or end of the class
- Be kind, not casual.
- Plan one simple and short thematic moment (if you like theming)
And hey, if fun just starts to happen, then go with it. 🙂