How can one become a great yoga instructor? As yoga schools and classes pop up around the world, it seems like many serious practitioners, at some point, decide to become a yoga teacher. At yoga studios, teacher training programs are popular with students, and some studios are developing certification programs. While it might be that there are many teachers, a great yoga instructor is much more rare. Here are three tips on how to go from being a competent instructor to being a great yoga instructor.
Monitor Your Motivation Level
People in yoga classes turn up for a variety of reasons. Some of them are looking to rehabilitate their bodies. Others are fitness buffs looking to work hard and round out their workout routines. Some come just to relax. In many cases, yoga students come seeking a spiritual connection or later enjoy a feeling of euphoria after the relaxation techniques. As a yoga teacher, you are the facilitator of all these important and meaningful experiences for your students.
However, even though you didn’t become a yoga teacher for the money, when your car payment is coming due, but you only have $11 in your checking account, it can be easy to forget the high-minded motivation to help people that you started with, and slip into a much more mundane intention.
If you want to be a great yoga instructor, you have to reassert your good heart before every class. Check in with yourself and ask, “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is, “Because it’s my job” or “Because I need money,” then your teaching won’t be coming from a pure-hearted place, and classes will suffer as a result. If one is a mechanical teacher, going through the motions of running a stale class, your students will feel that something is missing in your classes. That something is – the thrill is gone – and you might want to do some soul searching. Most yoga teachers love what they do. If you’re having doubts, you should take a break and think about why you decided to become a yoga teacher in the first place.
Be Happy for Your Students
Every yoga instructor has his or her own style. Within one studio, five instructors may provide students with five very different experiences. When a student says that they have a problem with this or that aspect of your teaching style, be happy to recommend a teacher who might be a better fit for him or her. Otherwise, you can easily get defensive, jealous of other instructors, or resentful of your students – none of which are qualities possessed by great yoga teachers. Paul once mentioned that if you have a room full of happy students and two of them approach you with complaints like, “this class is too hard” and “this class is too easy,” at the same time, just point them toward the teacher who will give them what they want. There is always a small minority who think the class is too hot or cold, when everyone is comfortable. You could make everyone uncomfortable or quietly usher them to the hot or cold room. Be happy that you don’t have to be with them for long on the yogic path.
On the other hand, it could be that you hear the same complaint about your teaching style over and over again from different sources. In this case, you may have to face the uncomfortable truth that you need to change how you are doing things. Without changing, how can you improve? Great yoga instructors listen to, and respond to, feedback.
When observing great yoga instructors, all of them continue to study and practice. Some teachers will be pinned down to the office with marketing, bookkeeping, and many more business duties. We cannot avoid the business aspects, if we reach a management position. What to do? You could avoid the business aspects, but you would do better to work with a team. Working with a team allows you the freedom and time to improve your craft.
Most people deal with self-esteem issues all the time. Some of us wake up in a state of self-doubt. As teachers, we know that yoga practice will help. Asana, meditation, pranayama, and other yogic techniques tend to help us feel better. Some people need additional help in the form of positive energy. The right crowd, activities, and information help us to be our best. In severe cases, professional counseling may be required. Only you know where you really are.
Dharana – Focus the Mind on on Solutions
For some teachers and students Dharana is just a Sanskrit word. The meaning and practical application of Dharana can be learned and practiced today and every day. Here’s an example of the practical application of focusing the mind. A great yoga instructor is past the stage of blaming everything in life on everyone else. To start each day, choose something to be grateful for and run with it. As simple as it sounds, a “to do” list helps us get things done. Among the many things I learned at Aura Wellness Center is that we have a choice to worry or focus on solutions. The concept of choice is not easy, if the mind defaults to worry. Focusing the mind is Dharana, which is one of the Eight Limbs described by Patanjali. My point is we should be putting Dharana to good use right here and right now.
Recognize and Accept the Value of Continuing Education
Most teachers realize the value of learning, but a few will never comply with continuing education. Yet, you can’t get away from education these days. Is there a job that does not change? If I worked the register at a self-serve gas station, my job and the surrounding technology would change. A great Yoga instructor knows he or she must know what’s going on in our field. Whether you learn in-person, online, or both, you want to be consistent. Viewing videos, blogs, or attending classes bring you into the world of yoga with the eyes of a student.
As the volume of classes is on the rise, we are reaching a point where continuing education separates those who have basic training from those who are at the top of their game. In this case, our game is teaching yoga and we had better take it seriously. Anything that looks risky or stupid, probably is; and should we expose our students to potential accidents for the fun of it? Drunk and/or stoned yoga classes are jacking our insurance rates for a reason. The insurance companies will find loopholes to avoid paying. In the long run, every accident due to negligence hurts every teacher. Do you think today’s news would miss the opportunity to publicize a yoga disaster? So, let’s look at the value you can gain by learning more and keeping our students safe.
Do you have your own tips for becoming a great yoga instructor? Please share them in the comments section.
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