Spirit of Teaching Yoga

Teaching yoga is a significant undertaking. To embody the spirit of teaching yoga, one has to be dedicated to their own practice as a student and develop the craft of instruction.  You can read more about the characteristics that I think are important for teaching yoga but first a few words about what an authentic teacher is and is not (in my judgment).

Not all teachers are equally knowledgeable or emphasize the same points.  Some teachers will be much more impactful for you than others. An adept teacher will help you to see yourself in ways that you probably don’t perceive presently. You may begin to recognize when you become reactive, finally see the underlying emotions, and now have the tools to address the deeper issues.

A knowledgeable teacher can save you years of trial, error, and guesswork.

Yoga can be powerfully transformational. This process of transformation comes from both the student’s efforts, the depth of the teachings, and the guidance they receive from their teachers.  A student-teacher relationship is built upon mutual trust and respect. A teacher is not necessarily a personal friend though they can be friendly.  Their job is to hold space for yoga.

A teacher has positive regard for the student and guides them with patience and understanding. The sincere teacher does not try to convince the student, or make them “believers”. They are there to provide support, give direction when needed, and instruct by example.

They are there to provide support,
give direction when needed, and instruct by example.

Competent teachers point out the territory, they show the student(s) how to recognize and overcome troublesome friction in their lives and how to live more fully.  They offer practices to aid in the process. In my view, teachers are ineffective when they operate out of self-interest, do not maintain their own practice, or have personal insight into the things they teach.

When the teacher relies on platitudes to the students to gain favor, the relationship will lack depth, substance and potency.

African American woman lifts her hands overhead in a yoga pose.

From my perspective, a teacher is there to help students discover their own capabilities rather than to artificially laud on them.  On their best days, the teacher is an embodiment of and an empty conduit to transmit yoga.

Teachers translate and present complex, even bewildering teachings, in a way that the student can understand and grow into.  The student then gets to apply the methods and reflect on the teachings.

“In the beginning, an aspirant seeks some support from outside.
That support comes from a teacher.
When the aspirant starts meditating honestly,
then their own Self is revealed in the form of a guru or teacher.”

Baba Hari Dass