Dear yoga teachers, those thinking about becoming yoga teachers and those of you somewhere in between. You’re already good enough.
You’re strong enough, bendy enough, smart enough, spiritual enough and the way you look, well it’s just darn perfect. The way you do Down Dog is awesome. The bend in your knees, the way your arms sometimes shake - it’s perfection.
Your physical practice (let’s be honest), it doesn’t really matter all that much. Students will be impressed by your moves but I reckon you should give them more reasons to love you, choose you, to feel inspired by you, than your really rad and solid Crow pose.
Being a good yoga teacher, it goes way deeper than the flesh. Here are some of the most important things you’ve got to a) lock down or b) start exploring, in order to be the best yoga teacher you can be.
1. You Need To Be A Master Of Compassion
You must love yourself so that you can shine this love on the people who walk through the door to learn from you. Loving others means that you accept them as they are and that you want the best for them. It means you bolster them up and empower them to understand that they are actually their own best teacher. You’re just there to help them see this.
2. You Have To Have Your Own Practice
That doesn’t mean you have to rock two hours of intense Vinyasa daily. It means that everyday, you spend time dedicated to mindfulness and connection. It’s so important to use your own body, mind and soul as a laboratory so that you can understand how poses and practices feel and work. The more you dive into your own practice, the more insight you’ll be able to offer to your students. Yoga teaching comes from experience and practicing yoga isn’t just about being on the mat. Be kind, present and truthful out in your daily life. This is the deepest form of yoga.
3. You Must Continue To Learn
As a teacher, you’re always a student. Keep reading, keep practicing and suss out other teachers and workshops whenever you can. Don’t ever think you know it all. Embrace the beginner’s mind so that you can constantly be filled with new worlds of learning. There are thousands of years of yoga history behind you and other amazing yogis all around you. Learn something new everyday.
4. Don’t Indulge In Bagging Out Other Schools Of Yoga
We’ve all got our yoga passions and trust me, there are definitely some yoga offerings at the buffet that I don’t chow down on. It’s so important though to skip out on yoga gossip or putting down another type of practice that you don’t particularly like. Of course, you can still have an opinion but as a yogic soul, try highlighting all the pros of the blend you love instead of ripping apart the ones you don’t. You’re a role model and an ambassador of love. Take this seriously.
5. You Need To Let Go Of Competition
This applies to so many facets of yoga. Whether it’s with the insanely flexible yogi next to you, with yourself or with another yoga teacher who may have more students than you. You must recognise now just how detrimental competition is in a practice that teaches acceptance and love. An amazing yoga teacher values difference and working together. The yoga community becomes so much more generous and vibrant when yoga teachers treat themselves and one another with loving vibes. If you’re going to teach it, you have got to live it both on and off the mat.
6. You Must Harness The Skill Of Observation
You’ll learn this with time, especially when you make it your mandate to get off the mat and move around your students as you teach. It’s imperative that you see people and sense what’s going on with them. Is someone’s knee out of alignment, are they using their breath, could they use your help or a gentle reminder to take it easy? Remember - you’re not an instructor. You’re a teacher and there’s a difference in that.
7. You Have To Hold A Safe Space
With your words, your presence, the way you teach and all that you do - you must endeavour to create a space for students that feels uplifting and positive. You have to balance talking with silence, cues with self-discovery and playfulness with focus. While you teach, you want your students to feel free to explore and be themselves. You can offer them this gift by creating an atmosphere of empowerment, joy and connection.
8. Remember, This Is Yoga
You’re not an aerobics instructor, a drill sergeant or a fitness coach. Yoga is a wisdom tradition that spans thousands of years. It’s important to connect to the history of yoga and be a part of what makes this practice more than just physical. Offer your students balance and variety so that they can experience all of the magnificence that this practice has to offer.
Image Credit: Katya Nova