Teaching Yoga by Example: Compassion

yoga and compassionBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

Why is compassion such an important aspect of teaching? During the course of your Yoga teaching training program, you are probably immersed in a great deal of information about correct alignment principals during the practice of the postures, the intricacies of human anatomy and learning the classical Sanskrit names of the asanas. What you may not be so closely connected to is the profound importance of compassion and teaching the finer aspects of how to incorporate the teachings of Yoga into your students’ daily lives “off the mat.”

As your own personal Yoga practice begins to deepen, you will find that the transformative richness of the practice lies not only in the beneficial effects of the physical postures and breathing techniques, but also in the integration of the principals of a Yogic way of living into daily life. When you experience the power of Yoga to transform your own life from the inside out, you will naturally want to share this wisdom and experience with your own students.

One way to share the benefits of a regular Yoga practice with your students is to embody the peace, lightness and vibrancy that are cultivated in your own body and mind with your students during the course of your classes. Imagine, for example, that a new student is struggling to simply touch her toes in Standing Forward Fold, and the teacher approaches her and impatiently insists that she hurriedly touches her toes, because the class is ready to move onto the next posture!

There are an unending amount of negative scenarios that we could all come up with that would exemplify negative, demoralizing and critical behavior on the part of a Yoga teacher. Clearly, this kind of behavior would not be conducive to cultivating the positive inner qualities of Yoga that are spoken of so highly in the ancient Yogic texts, such as Narada’s Bhakti Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. Some of these highly esteemed inner qualities that are nurtured by a regular practice are patience, courage and compassion.

The word “compassion” has a many different meanings that can essentially be encapsulated by terms such as mercy, charity, sensitivity, love, and tenderness. Take a moment to imagine again that the aforementioned impatient Yoga instructor took a deep breath and remembered to be compassionate with her struggling, beginning student, as she attempted to touch her toes in Standing Forward Fold. Instead of impatiently insisting that the student touch her toes, regardless of the degree of flexibility in her hamstrings, imagine that the teacher took a deep breath and approached her student in a compassionate, gentle manner.


In this instance, the Yoga teacher through a soft touch and a quiet encouraging word might exemplify a compassionate, gentle manner or two to her student to simple breath deeply, exhale fully, and allow her body to soften and relax into the forward fold. In this way, instead of creating more tension and stiffness in the back of the legs in reaction to her teacher’s impatience, the student will be able to release tension and move more deeply into the posture than she would otherwise be able to do.

In this way, the next time this particular student is faced with a challenging situation, she will remember to breath deeply and treat herself with patience and compassion, which truly reflects the beauty and alchemical potential of a regular Yoga practice. When the lessons of Yoga “on the mat” begin to be woven into our daily lives “off the mat,” the potential of Yoga to truly uplift and inspire us becomes quite apparent. As a certified Yoga teacher, you will have the opportunity to effect long lasting positive change in your community, one student at a time.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

See our testimonials to find out what our graduates have to say about our selection of online teacher certification courses.

Please feel free to share our posts with your friends, colleagues, and favorite social media networks.

Related Posts

Nurturing Independence with Yoga: Practicing Compassion

Teaching Yoga: Compassion for Students

Value of Compassion in Correcting Yoga Students

Yoga Poses to Cultivate Compassion during the Holidays

Vicious Circles / Virtuous Circles

6 thoughts on “Teaching Yoga by Example: Compassion”

Leave a Comment

Your Cart