The intricacies of being a good yoga teacher

Thanks to my past experience as a part-time art teacher for small kids as well as conducting dance workshops, the concept of teaching isn’t exactly new to me. I’ve always enjoyed the experience of connecting with others through sharing something that I was passionate in to others, and hence teaching professions when it comes to various art forms always intrigued and excited me. That was why when my friend Mandy asked me to join the yoga teacher-training course with her, it honestly didn’t take me long at all to say yes.

After joining the course however, I then learnt about the level of intricacy and amount of keen observation/experience required to be a good and effective yoga teacher (which was incredibly different from any teaching experience I had). From the get go, we were exposed immediately to the concept of body identification, which allowed us to identify the student’s potential strengths and weaknesses. This would then guide how we can best support the student during the yoga class. For example, if a student has narrow, downward sloping shoulders but wide hips, the student could be strong at standing postures, but has probably weaker shoulder and arm strength that would make it difficult to support their body weight. Hence, we should pay attention and provide support for him/her when attempting inversions. If a student has uneven shoulders, it could reflect that one side of the body is stronger than the other, and hence we can provide support for the student when he/she is doing an asana on their weaker side.

In the first week of the course, I remember coming home each day honestly being boggled by the amount of details to note for each asana and the anatomical knowledge required to best guide others to use the right muscle in each gesture. I think the acute   judgement of what to look out for in each asana really comes with experience, and I gained a new found respect for all the yoga teachers for being able to pull off each class in such a seamless, satisfying and informational manner. Little did I know the amount much work has to be put in behind the scenes. I guess it’s like the saying, “the more you know, the less you know” – learning more about yoga each day has revealed to me the vast amount of knowledge that I was still unaware of and made me realise that there is always so so much more to learn :””)

Later in the course when we put our hands into lesson planning, we were then exposed to the various layers of the class that we should pay attention to in the class. From crafting the lesson in a way such that pacing, transitions and the asanas flowed well, to the communication skills required in order to convey clear instruction and connect with all students, as well as the right knowledge of what muscles/drishti/breath/directions come with each asana – the list goes on. There is also a need to be adaptable and student centred, providing modifications, adjusting the lesson plan according to the experience level of each student and how they are feeling in order to make it a comfortable and intentional experience for them. While it was undoubtedly challenging, I was glad to have had this learning opportunity to truly experience what it is like to helm an entire class and to also notice the different teaching styles of others.

What I really appreciate is that beyond the yoga profession, the things that I learnt from this course – from yoga philosophy, anatomy as well as the keen sense of detail when it comes to teaching – can be applied to my everyday life and inform my teaching method in other areas such as dance as well. While this one month intensive has definitely helped me to improve and expand my practice when it comes to asanas, I’ve also gained a new found appreciation and deeper understanding of the role of the teacher. As this course is slowly coming to an end, I am thankful for the growth that has come with this journey and am heartened to be able to grasp a little more about the art of teaching through the exchange of experiences and wisdom from the masters and all other classmates 😊