Yoga is an extremely popular practice, therefore the good news is you can find a yoga class almost anywhere! However, finding a competent and skilled yoga teacher should not be taken for granted. Of course, what makes a good yoga teacher is to a degree subjective, but there are also some key elements to look out for. This article will be useful for students who are new to yoga and looking to find a great yoga teacher. It will also be useful for yoga teachers for are looking to improve their teaching skills and ability.
Skills of a good yoga teacher
- Anatomy knowledge: It is very important that a yoga instructor has a good level of anatomy knowledge. A yoga instructor should be able to guide and lead a student into asanas and poses with care and safety, so that injuries are avoided. They should be able to offer the student a good understanding of their anatomy within the poses they are teaching. Ideally the yoga instructor should know about the body and be able to carefully lead a class so that the student can focus on their yoga practice without worrying about their body getting injured.
- Good communication skills: Yoga classes rely on the yoga teacher giving verbal instructions. A yoga teacher should have a good command of their own voice - assertive but soft, welcoming but sure! They should be able to hold a space for students to practice safely and comfortably. Often yoga communication also comes from the adjusting of students. This involves communication through touch, and to do that requires the yoga teacher to be aware of the student, their energy and their body.
- Ability to demonstrate clearly: It is useful for students to have a visual idea of what yoga asanas or poses look like. The yoga teacher should be able to demonstrate in a way which physically shows the student how they should enter a pose. They should also be able to explain clearly what and how they are doing, as they are doing it.
- Awareness of yoga beyond asana practice: Yoga is not only about asana practice. It is important that a yoga teacher shares this with the student, otherwise they are simply using yoga as a form of exercise and colonising a discourse which does not belong to the West.
- Ability to see when a student needs adjusting: The yoga teacher's job is to help you practice safely therefore a yoga teacher needs an eye for alignment. It is important to be able to see when a student is out of alignment and then it's about how the teacher can help bring that student into alignment. This helps the student to practice safely and prevent injuries from the practice.
- Ability to work with breath: As the most important part of the practice, it is important that a yoga teacher can manage the students' breath in how they teach the class. Knowledge of how to breathe through the practice and sharing that with the student is essential. Having a good breath count is also a must.
- Ability to listen: a yoga teacher should be able to work intuitively. Even though you might plan a class in advance, depending on the students who attend, the energy they bring and their ability, sometimes a plan needs to be changed in order to serve those in the room. This ability to listen deeply to the needs of students is important.
Personal qualities of good yoga teacher
- Empathy. A yoga teacher should be able to understand their students. With experience of both teaching and personal yoga practice, the yoga teacher develops the ability to have empathy for students. To understand what they are feeling and experiencing as they move through the practice.
- Assertiveness. It is easy to think that a yoga teacher just goes with the flow and has a soft, kind energy. But, yoga requires an assertiveness in what is being taught and how it is being taught. The yoga teacher holds an expertise in what they are teaching and this should be acknowledged.
- Presence. A yoga teacher must have presence. It is what makes students feel comfortable and safe in their classes. It's also what allows the student to have fun and let go into the practice. Presence creates atmosphere and atmosphere is what determines how the student feels in a class. Yoga teaching is delicate because it requires a sensitive and calm yet assertive tone. It is a balance in leading and guiding students to let go and be comfortable within the yoga class.
- Ability to answer questions. A yoga teacher should be open and able to answer any questions a student might have about the class, or a specific asana. They should be able to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and experience that they have from working in yoga snd studying this tradition.
- Open to questions. Slightly different from being able to answer questions is the ability to be open to questions. This means that the teacher is willing to take time to talk and interact with students, to get a sense of what the students needs are how they are experiencing their classes.
What every yoga teacher should know?
To teach yoga you should have a passion for yoga. That is when you will be able to share your love of this form with others and be an authentic teacher. Be inspired by other great yoga teachers, but don't try to become them. You are a unique person with your own set of skills which students will love when you share that as yourself rather than as someone you think you should be. Be dedicated to your own personal yoga practice and practice what you teach! Do not try to teach things which you don't know about, or that are not part of your practice. You do not have the skills or knowledge to share that with others - focus on the things which you do have the ability to share.
How can I be a better yoga teacher?
- Dedicate yourself to personal practice
- Know what you are teaching and know it well
- Learn from other teachers
- Know that you are constantly in a process of learning
- Ask students for feedback about your teaching and try to take that feedback on board
How do yoga teachers stand out?
Yoga teachers stand out by being themselves, teaching the things that they are passionate and knowledgable about and through giving off a good energy to students.