Writing has become an integral part of being a yoga teacher – we’re not just in the classroom anymore, we’re online, on social media and in print. Whether it be your blog, an Instagram post, or an article for a magazine – people want to read about yoga!
When I first started teaching yoga, I pretty much just repeated things I had heard my own yoga teachers say. I didn’t feel ready or brave enough to share my own thoughts, so I stuck with what felt comfortable and familiar.
The very first time I said something that was really my own, true and authentic and original, I got so flushed and nervous that when I did speak, it was so quiet and fast that I doubt anyone even heard it!
Fast forward to now, well over a decade later, and I don’t have to search for my teaching voice anymore. It just is.
Finding your voice in writing is much the same. For some people, it comes naturally. For others, it takes time and practice. It’s well worth it, though—your writing voice is one of the most powerful tools to help you build a steady, committed, and engaged community.
To find yours, let’s start with this all-important question:
What is “voice,” anyway?
Ah, grasshopper, you have stumbled on the age-old question that befuddles writers everywhere. Voice is tricky to define. My favorite way to think of it is this: voice is how you say what you want to say. It has nothing to do with what topic you choose, and everything to do with how you convey it. It includes what words you use, how you string together sentences, your sentence length, the tone of your writing…but isn’t limited to those things.
Basically, your voice reflects your unique take on the world. A writing voice can be irreverent, somber, inspirational, vulnerable, wry, formal, confiding, hilarious….or it can also be all of these things at different times. After all, as Walt Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”
To get you started, here are some tips that will help you find your writing voice. And if, like me in my first years of teaching, you’re also looking for your teaching voice, these will help with that, too.
1. Embrace your quirkiness, seriousness, sense of humor, etc. The more YOU you allow yourself to be, the more your writing will (surprise!) have your unique voice.
If you’re funny, be funny when you write. If you’re poetic, be poetic. If you’re serious, do that. The way to find your tribe—and hopefully have more fun doing it—is to be who you are, to shine the light that is actually yours so the people who need you can find you. And if this takes some time to figure out, don’t worry. Most of us have to work a bit to find our authentic voice.
When I first started my business of editing and writing for the yoga community, I thought I’d mostly be correcting grammar and writing website copy. What I quickly discovered, though, was that almost every teacher who came to me needed me to help them get their voice into their writing—and this includes the big name teachers who built their following partly on their remarkable teaching voices.
Most of us when we write tend to think we have to sound a certain way—more intellectual, more formal, more “spiritual.” In fact, the reverse is often true. The more we allow our true selves to show through in our writing, the more we will connect with the right people. So buck convention. Play. And embrace all the things that make you who you are.
2. List three adjectives that describe your sensibilities.
Here are a few words to get you going: compassionate, brash, sweet, snarky, understanding, vulnerable, poetic, wise, kind, quiet, adventuresome, extroverted. Be as honest as possible choosing words that actually describe you, as opposed to traits you wish you had. For example, I tend to be inspirational with a side of goofball and righteousness. I wish I were witty and super funny, but I’m just not—and when I try to be, my writing never comes out right.
It’s also fun to ask some close friends to describe you in three words. You might be surprised at what they say!
Whatever attributes you list, keep those in mind when you write and let them come out in your writing.
3. Imagine a specific, ideal reader and write for that person.
You might choose a student or a friend as your ideal reader—or just make up the kind of person you want to reach. But be as specific as possible.
For example: My ideal reader is my best friend Zoe who is 34, loves pop culture, has an MBA, is sarcastic but the kindest person I know, takes yoga three times a week, and wants to do a teacher training. She also hates texting and is on a quest to make the perfect chai tea.
Once you have this, write to that person, and only them. Your voice will start to come out.
One caveat to this: if you start to find yourself editing what you really want to write so as not to offend your ideal reader, set them aside and just write what you want to write.
4. Ask your regular yoga students to tell you their favorite things you say in class.
If you’ve been teaching long enough to have regulars, this is a great tool for finding your voice. Ask five to ten students to tell you their favorite things you’ve ever said in class, and then take the words or phrases they use and sprinkle them liberally through your writing.
This works because the things that our students remember are often the very things that most reflect who we are and that we say repeatedly—which is part of our voice.
5. Pay attention to what you love, to what moves you, to what quickens your heart, your anger, or your sense of justice.
Truly, one of the strongest ways to find your writing voice is to notice what grabs your attention and what doesn’t. We are each drawn to different things in this world. What are yours? Which aspects of yoga call to you? What headlines catch your eye? What do you obsess on, read about, take classes in, practice? Not only are these possible topics to write about; they are clues to deep interests that will, when followed, help you find your voice.
Most of all, just keep writing. It’s a practice. Like yoga, like meditation, like anything—the more you do it, the more natural it becomes and the more you learn.
About the Author
Lori Snyder, E-RYT, is a yoga teacher, former studio owner, writer, and editor. She is the founder of Yoga:edit, which helps yoga teachers write their books, blog posts, and teacher training manuals, and her favorite work is helping good people write good things.