10 steps to being a good yoga teacher

yoga teacher

By Jessica Humphries

1. Make your teaching about your students

Letting go of your attachment to ego is something that, although you aspire to, is easier said than done. Especially when you first start to teach – you’re craving approval and validation that you’re doing a good job. Sometimes, this can sidetrack you from the real reason you teach – the students.

As yoga teachers, we must be willing to look at ourselves objectively and without judgement – confronting the things that aren’t ‘perfect’, taking responsibility for them, and being prepared to love and accept ourselves exactly as we are in the moment, with the willingness to improve where we can. When we move from this place, we can begin to facilitate this same transformation within our students. Before each class you teach, take a moment to remember why you teach. It’s not for yoga stardom or to be validated by others; it’s because you’ve received so much from the practice that you want to share it with your students.

2. Teach who is in front of you

So often we come into a class with our notes and plan, and this is a great practice. Preparing classes allows you to explore creativity in the way that you sequence and creates a mental map to guide you in your teaching. However, you must also be prepared to throw the plan out the window. If you’ve prepared a strong vinyasa practice full of twists and a couple of pregnant beginner yogis rock up to class, it just won’t work. Likewise, if you’ve prepared a slow, gentle practice and a bunch of footballers turn up, you may need to throw in a few stronger poses to keep them engaged and throw the plan out the window. Being flexible in body and mind is a part of our job as teachers, and if we are teaching from a humble place, we will always look at those in front of us before rigidly attaching ourselves to our expectations.

3. Get a grip on A&P

Understanding anatomy and physiology is not the most fun aspect of teaching yoga for many of us. On the other hand, some yogis love to understand the practice from a scientific perspective. Either way, having a basic understanding of A&P will allow you to teach safely, create practices that flow sensibly and cue knowledgeably.

4. Learn to weave in the philosophies of yoga

This is probably one of the most challenging aspects of teaching yoga. Talking about the body is one thing, but bringing the ancient traditions of the yoga philosophies into your classes can leave you feeling like you’re a beginner again – there’s so much to learn. A good place to start is by sharing a yoga philosophy or story at the beginning of the practice and then weaving it throughout the class. You might start with something simple like explaining the philosophy of Ahimsa (non-violence) and reminding students to be kind to themselves throughout the class. Eventually, you’ll be telling engaging stories at the beginning of the practice, explaining how they apply to the philosophies of yoga and allowing people to gain a more holistic understanding of yoga by weaving anecdotes throughout the class. However – remember to leave space for silence, allowing students to digest the messages both physically and spiritually.

5. Be prepared to be vulnerable

The thought of speaking to your students before jumping into a practice can be confronting – you make yourself vulnerable when you speak publicly, especially about a topic that requires so much study to fully understand. But by spending a few minutes connecting with your students before a practice, you give them the space to trust you. You also show them that you’re a real human being, not someone to be envied or even necessarily admired. You, too, have challenges in life and are learning to live yoga both on and off the mat. By gaining this trust and allowing yourself to be real, your students will feel safer and more held throughout the class. And remember –  it’s about them, not you. Beginner’s tip – try setting your students up in child’s pose before you speak at first to gain confidence.

6. Don’t be too complicated

Although you may feel like you know nothing (often a side effect of learning!), you likely know a lot more than most of your students. When talking about the body and yogic philosophy, keep it simple – talking to the least experienced student in the room. And remember to leave space for your students to take it all in and start to understand how the philosophies of the practice apply to their day to day life. The same goes for your sequencing and cues – don’t forget the foundations of the practice in favour of a fancy sequence with a killer playlist that works perfectly with your flow – that’s not what your students will remember, and can often intimidate newer yogis.

7. Stay inspired

Keep up your own practice. Keep learning from other teachers. And never stop studying. It’s one of the best things about being a yoga teacher – you will never know everything so there’s no limits!

8. Do the business thing

At the end of the day, you have to pay the rent and feed yourself. If this is the path you’ve chosen to make a living, it will serve you well to learn the business side of things. If you haven’t done so already, you can sign up to our newsletter to receive a PDF file of our business tips for teachers.

9. Support other teachers

There’s no competition here. We’re all reaching for the same goal and want to inspire others through the practice of yoga. Everyone starts somewhere and has their own interpretation of this beautiful, ancient practice. Enjoy being a part of this incredible community and lift other teachers up instead of judging or competing.

10. Be willing to evolve as a yoga teacher and human being

Perhaps the most important aspect of being a good yoga teacher is being a good human being. When it comes down to it, that’s what the philosophies of yoga are all about – learning to understand that we are all one, there is no separation and how to be truly kind and humble. Keep practicing, keep learning and keep evolving not only in your practice but in your day to day life.