Reminders for yoga teachers – how to go from good to great

“Do your practice, and all is coming” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Yet the more I practice and learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know. As we near the end of our 200-hour TTC, here are some reminders for teaching yoga that really resonated with me:

Our work is never done. Yoga is a lifelong journey, and areas where our expertise is lacking are potential areas for growth. Our personal responsibility, after an initial yoga teacher training, is to continue to deepen our understanding and practice of yoga and all aspects required of modern-day yoga teachers, including anatomy, physiology, philosophy, kinesiology and a whole lot more. As aspiring yoga teachers, it’s important to have a dedicated, consistent self-practice and to keep learning and undergoing training.

Authenticate your practice. At the start, we may teach by quoting the teachers we admire and copying the sequence of our favourite classes. As long as we keep practising, one day the practice will come not through us, but from us, as our personal practice would have led us to understand who we are, how yoga works, how yoga works on us, and more importantly, what we have to offer. When we have learnt something very well, the way we express it is different than the way we learnt it.

– Remember why we teach. We may have different motivations to teach, but we all want to share the benefits of the practice and our passion and respect for yoga with others.

On that note, stop teaching. Share your practice. One of our classmates shared an online blog tittled “Dear Yoga Teachers, please stop teaching yoga!” The blog goes on to describe that when we focus on teaching or educating another, we are actually declaring that “we know more than (the student)” and are superior to the student. Instead, we should let go of this self-imposed role of the teacher, and instead genuinely share our personal practice. One particular quote says: ‘As a teacher, share your practice, but please do not practice with your students. Help them to understand your practice. Watching you in your perfect pose is not helping them to understand what is happening in their body or mind.”  Which brings us to the next point..

It’s all about the student. The purpose of class is not about the teacher’s own practice or ego. It’s to be of service to others: to llead and safely support students in developing and exploring their own yoga journey without causing injury. At the same time, it’s also about helping students to feel good about themselves and their efforts whichever point they are in their journey. Encouragement and affirmation can go a long way … and yoga teachers can also cause great distress with their choice of words or tone. Publicly correcting a student without fostering embarrassment or instilling negative feelings of self-worth about their bodies or abilities can take years to develop such nuanced communication skills.

Connect with everyone in the class. A great teacher has the ability to make everyone in the class feel connected to them in some way, even those who are trying to remain inconspicuous. By being genuine, sincere and true to ourselves, our authentic personalities can shine through and create a beautiful and uplifting class.

Having compassion towards students and ourselves. For example, by remaining patient, calm and centered when students are late, unsure, uncoordinated or noisy. Or if a student chooses to rest, leave early or struggle with poses. Our roles are to allow for individual expression, not just hard work. Toward ourselves, we can laugh mistakes in teaching off. Demonstrating lightness towards ourselves will encourage our students to do the same. Being kind to ourselves on days when we feel our thoughts don’t come out as clearly as we’d like, or when we forget our sequences, or when our energy is low or negative.

– Sharing the light. Leading by example, and being a beacon of light for students can make the class a very inspiring place to be. Being a yoga teacher is a privilege and a great responsibility and our actions and energy can ripple out in many unseen ways to uplift and change lives.


Joanna Khoo
200hr weekend Jan – May 2014 

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