Understanding alignment, breath and asanas is all well and good but it doesn’t guarantee great yoga teaching. Here are the real defining features of a good teacher.
Teaching is one of the most reward careers out there. A good yoga teacher can help motivate one to health and healing, or even facilitate life changes. But what makes a great yoga teacher? It goes without saying we must all understand alignment, breath and asanas, but this doesn’t necessarily make a great yoga teacher.
Here is my top 8 skills that are displayed by all great teachers:
- A deep desire to help people heal and grow.
- A long history of regular yoga practice. If we haven’t experienced it ourselves, it is difficult to teach it.
- A sense of humour. Humour relaxes us, cuts through our ego, and changes us energetically. If a student is straining trying to achieve in a pose, a friendly sense of humour can completely reset the energy and bring us back to the present moment.
- Experience. There is no replacement for experience. A survey of senior yoga teachers in the USA asked the question "how long does it take to become a good yoga teacher?" and unanimously the answer was "10 years".
- A sensitivity to people's energy. This sounds a bit new age but it really isn’t. As a yoga teacher you need to be able to read what someone is going through in class. Are they suffering a lot of self-doubt or too much challenge? This will allow you to suggest that they back off. Are they bored and coasting in their safe place? Then a good adjustment or motivation will reignite their interest. If we can learn to feel and notice what our students are going through, we can tailor our instruction to bring them to the best place for them that day.
- A nice voice. I'm sorry, but however great your alignment or anatomy knowledge is, if you sound like an Oompa Loompa on speed it will be tough to listen to. Work on your teaching voice and elocution.
- Lack of ego. Many teachers unfortunately feel that teaching is all about them, being in charge, looking good and being a star. Nothing can be further from the truth. The teacher is there to serve the class, to respond to it, and to do whatever it takes to elevate everyone to a transformative place. The less it is about you, the more it frees you to observe, respond to and serve the students.
- A healthy irreverence. It’s very easy to get a bit serious and holier-than-though, to expound on yoga, veganism or enlightenment in Sanskrit but this doesn’t necessarily help the general public who have struggled into our classes with a bad back and who feel out of place as it is. Being able to communicate with compassion, with an understanding of how difficult the beginning of any yoga practice can be, will make our students feel welcome, safe and understood