What Makes a Real and Authentic Yoga Teacher?

Silvia Mordini
What Makes a Real and Authentic Yoga Teacher?

A recent NY Post article calls out some of the worst case scenarios in how humans teach yoga. On the one hand, we could simply disregard the article for being snarky and provocative. But on the other hand, there was some truth there too.

Too often, and more and more over the last twenty years, yoga teachers with great intentions are parroting misinformation about the practice to students.

This mimicry stage might at first be necessary for initial growth, but soon after, individuation must take place whereby the teacher actually knows why they are saying the things they say.

Here's the Truth

  1. Not all yoga teachers are the same.
  2. Not all yoga schools are created equally, even if they are Yoga Alliance approved.
  3. Not all Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teachers have the foundational knowledge to be leading others in a practice that is physical, emotional and spiritual (whether you want it to be or not).

We can only teach what we know and that takes time and practice. We do the profession of sharing the sacred study of yoga a disservice when we show up to "play the role" of yoga teacher — no different than accepting an acting role and playing a character.

Instead, we must challenge ourselves to become an authentic yoga teacher, fully embodied in what we teach, before we use our students as guinea pigs and test out asana, energetics, or spiritual teachings on them.

Yoga is not a closed, one-size-fits-all recipe to follow.

There is so much more intelligence to this ancient practice.

Teaching minimally requires emotional maturity, self-inquiry, inner mastery of one's shadow self, fundamental integrity in line with the Yamas and Niyamas, foundational guidelines offered in the Yoga Sutras, and knowledge of how to practice the yoga poses safely and uniquely for your body.

We have a shared responsibility to elevate the profession of yoga whereby we all meet this minimum standard.

I founded my yoga school, Alchemy of Yoga, over ten years ago. It took me five years to develop the training program. At the time, my specialty in the corporate world was Training and Development, so adult learning was not new to me.

With a highly organized approach to education, we take great pride in having offered sacred learning in a comprehensive and methodical way to over 20 graduating classes. Look around, there are many other conscientious yoga schools with this kind of depth of experience.

On Standards for Teacher Training Programs

I asked California-based veteran Teacher Trainer and international yoga leader, Emily Perry, about what a teacher training program should highlight. She said, "A yoga teacher training program should graduate qualified and knowledgeable teachers that understand:

  • the role of a yoga teacher, and the importance of the container we create for students to feel safe
  • the path of practice as the place from which we share and offer yoga
  • the heart of the teachings: what are these fundamental practices asking of us?
  • alignment and form as a path to aligning the heart, mind and energy body with our intention and deeper meanings for practice. "How can we align with what we are called to bring forth in the world?"

How do we push substance over style in today's competitive, social media-driven environment, and how is that influencing the *37 million Americans who are practicing yoga in 2016? (*data according to Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance)

We do this together with every teacher taking responsibility for yoga as a profession. As a collective, we stay invested in continuing yoga education, and not just starting and stopping at 200 hours.

Consumer Education:

  • How do we best educate the consumer to be discriminating and well-informed about yoga?
  • How do we encourage the avid yoga consumer choose great teacher training programs?
  • How do aspiring yoga teachers choose great programs? What advice do we give them?

This is a conversation I would very much love to have. If you have your own suggestions on we can promote and support exceptional Yoga Teacher Training programs,  please comment below — I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Image credit: Prana del Mar