This blog was written prior to Maria Kirsten’s passing in April, 2021. She was a treasured member of our Bliss Baby Yoga community, and is dearly missed, particularly by her mentee, and friend, our Bliss Baby Yoga Operations Manager, Robyn Bell.
It can be a lonely road to travel as a new yoga teacher. And even lonelier if you’re teaching a niche yoga like feminine yoga.
Teacher training these days is very different from how it used to be in the ‘old days’. Then, it tended to be based on an apprenticeship model that involved a long term, one-on-one relationship between teacher trainer and the budding yoga teacher. Now, many keen yogis travel far from home to undertake a fairly short, intensive teacher training and then return to teach with their ‘training wheels’ on, with no senior teacher to guide them. Sometimes, especially if they’re in a rural or regional area, they may not even be part of a broader yoga community.
Many people are also undertaking online training, like our Bliss Baby Yoga training courses—designed as professional development courses for already trained teachers—and may lack follow up support to help them consolidate the specialised information they have learnt online.
That’s where mentoring comes in.
Why get a mentor?
It can be so important to your development as a yoga teacher, not to mention so much less lonely, to continue to work with a more senior yoga teacher for some time after you graduate from your training course—be it a face-to-face or online course.
And even if you’ve been teaching for a while already, you can enjoy many benefits from working with a mentor: to help you shift any blocks in your teaching or personal practice, to gain deeper insight and inspiration on how to keep growing as a yogi, and to feel supported as a yoga-teacher professional.
I trained as a yoga teacher 25 years ago and I feel blessed to have maintained a lasting professional and personal relationship with one of my original teacher trainers, Eve Grzybowski. When I was still a new teacher I learnt so much from attending Eve’s classes regularly, practising alongside her as part of a teachers’ practice group, and filling in for her private clients, equipped with her excellent therapeutic sequences.
A good mentor, like Eve, has a gift for telling you the things you need to hear, even when you don’t want to hear them. How’s that song go: you don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need..? And Eve always managed to do this with humour and gentleness, like all the best mentors do.
Eve suggests that working with a mentor is a non negotiable and not only grows you as a person but improves your offerings as a teacher. She says that anything you learn in your mentoring sessions will ‘undoubtedly be downloaded for your students, so whatever the fee is will be worth your money and time’.
The particular power of mentoring for women
Perhaps the greatest benefit I’ve received from my long relationship with Eve is the gift of inspiration. I strongly believe that every woman needs a positive female role model (as does every man, need a good male role model). Every woman needs a ‘wayshower’—a woman who has walked a similar path before her and this is what an older, wiser yogini can do for you.
Like a loving parent, Eve has always unconditionally supported me on the various paths I’ve chosen on my teaching journey. I’ve felt this support tangibly and it’s taught me a lot about generosity and how women can eschew competitiveness in favour of mutual support.
To experience this kind of support is invaluable for us as women as we tend to feel the burden of responsibility as a solitary one, and it’s so lovely to realise that we can share this responsibility with others. This is something I’m learning more and more as I mature as a teacher and a woman, and it’s been reflected in a recent collaboration with Eve co-teaching some workshops together.
Yoga teacher and Bliss Baby Yoga Operations Manager, Robyn Bell, has been in a mentoring relationship with older, more experienced teacher and Bliss Baby Yoga guest teacher Maria Kirsten for eight years now. And she also finds that one of the greatest benefits for her is that feeling of support.
‘I feel so supported having Maria as my valued and trusted mentor, not only in terms of knowledge, and having someone with valuable and extensive experience to contact when I feel uncertain about how to best look after a particular student, or how to handle a specific situation in a teaching setting, but supported in a much greater context,’ explains Robyn.
‘I feel like I have someone who has taken me under her wing, who is generous with her wisdom and extremely encouraging, who appreciates my enthusiasm and celebrates my growth and break-throughs as a teacher, and who wants to see me share yoga passionately and confidently with as many people as possible. She gives me a little nudge to step out of my comfort zone when I experience self doubt.’
Mentoring can also be particularly beneficial if you’re carving a new path in women’s yoga. Bliss Baby Yoga graduate and yoga teacher, Nikki, found immense comfort and support from even just one online mentoring session with Bliss Baby Yoga Senior Teacher, Star Despres. Nikki says that Star ‘held space’ for her to express her ‘fears and concerns’ about her teaching and says that Star offered her ‘some helpful tools to get over the hurdle.’
‘I went from feeling totally anxious and unable to see the way forward, to being strong and confident in my knowledge, clear on how I would like to teach moving forward, and excited to step into class to teach my upcoming Prenatal Yoga series,’ says Nikki.
How to get the most out of your mentor
When asked what she recommends mentees do to get the most out of their mentoring relationship Robyn says it’s important to be ‘proactive, curious, appreciative and organised’.
‘Come into your sessions knowing exactly what you’d like to know, with questions and discussion topics ready. This not only makes things easier for your mentor to cater your sessions to your individual needs, but it helps you to use your time together most effectively,’ suggests Robyn.
Robyn’s mentor Maria also confirms that learning is so much more effective when it ‘comes from you’ and your own questions. Maria says that when you are proactive in your own learning you are much more likely to absorb new-found knowledge. ‘You ask what you need to ask and you absorb it over time, you integrate it, and that way it isn’t just about being overloaded with information’. 
Eve has mentored many students over her 40 year teaching career and agrees that the value of a mentoring relationship lies in taking advantage of your mentor’s experience and wisdom by asking numerous questions:
‘A mentor is the person you go to with all your niggling questions. For instance, how do you sequence classes, or create themes or handle remedial students? How do you make time for your own yoga routine? How many classes should you teach? And, how do you make a living out of teaching yoga?’ — says Eve.
Robyn adds that the key to a successful mentoring relationship is consistency. She says the value lies in building an ‘ongoing relationship’ with your mentor, rather than a ‘one off’.
‘This gives you time to integrate new knowledge and skills, try out different techniques, language or ways of teaching in your classes, and then check back in to perhaps seek further advice, or possibly even ask for some feedback on a new sequence or cueing that you have worked on since your previous session,’ shares Robyn. ‘I feel like this ongoing relationship helps you to continuously develop and grow as a teacher.
Eve also concurs that consistency is important. ‘The best advice I might give a beginning teacher is simply: be constant in your yoga practice. It gives us the tools we need— integrity, faith, and commitment—to transition from training wheels to expert travellers on the teaching path’. 
 This quote is from an interview with Maria Kirsten on J.Brown’s Yoga Talks podcast. See: https://www.jbrownyoga.com/yoga-talks-podcast. Maria also spoke about her mentoring relationship with Robyn, and her own mentors, Libbie Nelson and Judy Krupp, on her podcast with Chara Caruthers, Live Like You Love Yourself.
 Eve Grzybowski has written an excellent blog on mentoring, ‘Having a Yoga Mentor is a Must’. Read it here: https://eveyoga.com/2014/09/30/yoga-mentor-is-a-must/
If you would like some support along your journey in teaching yoga for women from an experienced, senior teacher, check out our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Mentoring sessions and packages. Our team can offer support and guidance in a range of specialised fields of yoga including prenatal, postnatal, restorative, yoga for menstruation and menstrual imbalances, yoga for menopause, yoga for fertility, creating and holding safe space, feminine-centred business management, and more.
Ana Davis, Founder and Director of Bliss Baby Yoga, has a passion for a feminine approach to yoga, and supporting women with yoga through all ages and stages of their life. Ana is the author of the popular book, “Moving with the Moon – Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond”. Ana has collaborated with Bliss Baby Yoga fertility specialist yoga teacher Rosie Matheson to create our Online Level 1 Yoga for Fertility Teacher Training. She is also the lead trainer on our popular Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training Course and Online L1 & L2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training courses, and offers private mentoring and yoga sessions online, and online yoga classes.
Learn more about Eve Grzybowski via www.eveyoga.com
Learn more about Maria Kirsten via www.yogaforgrownups.com
Learn more about Robyn Bell via @kind_yoga
Further Reading related to this topic:
- Teaching Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Online – What You Need to Know by Nadine O’Mara
- Minimal Props with Maximum (Restorative) Benefit by Robyn Bell
- How Yoga Can Support Postnatal Mental Health (Including Three Simple Practices) by Maria Kirsten
- Knowledge is Key – Supporting Students with SIJ Pain and SPD during Pregnancy by Nadine O’Mara
- Cultivating Stability in the Sacro-iliac Joint by Maria Kirsten
- ‘Moving with the Moon’ review by Eve Grzybowski