So You Want to be a Yoga Teacher?

by Mar 23, 2010

Yoga is a lineage. What has this got to do with becoming a Yoga Teacher? The first step on this long journey, is to find a lineage, or method of presenting Yoga that you like and that resonates deeply with you. Yoga has always been passed from teacher to student and the teacher or method you choose will have everything to do with the teacher you become.

Once you have found the teacher and method that resonates, then you must dedicate yourself to that practice. There are no shortcuts in Yoga, so you need to learn patience. Yoga is surrender, so you need to surrender to the teacher, the method and the process. Your desire to teach should come from your passion for your own yoga practice, not because you think that being a yoga teacher sounds nice. When my Guru, Sri K Pattabhi Jois was asked what is the most important attribute a Yoga Teacher should have, he said “A strong daily Practice.” It is essential, if you intend to lead others through a process, that you have experienced it yourself. This requires years of practice, not just a few weeks at a Yoga Teacher Training course. A Yoga practice will gently, but steadily dismantle the ego. The tradition provides a safe framework for this. A teacher must be strong to provide support and guidance within that framework.

The tradition of Yoga says that your teacher will tell you when you are ready to teach. This is why it is important to choose the right teacher! Beneath all that we think we are and all that we think we need, is the breath. On the other side of the breath is the divine. To pass through the breath into the divine you must be one-pointed like the arrow. Firing a shotgun and hoping one pellet gets through won’t work. The method of throwing the net wide hinders the process. The less clutter in your mind the less you have to shed. Take one path, respect the method and respect your teacher. Choose a teacher who understands and respects the tradition that is Yoga. Let your teacher guide you towards the choice to teach.

Travel to India to study. India is the home of yoga, and to truly understand it you should travel to its source. Most Yoga Lineages will have a home somewhere in India where you can go and study. Make the commitment! A trip to India to study Yoga is a life changing experience that can only enhance your teaching.

If your passion to teach has survived this, and your teacher has said you are ready to teach, then it is best to find a supportive environment, like an existing school, in which to take the first step. If you cannot apprentice yourself to your teacher, or teach in the same school, then ask for their advice. They will have been through the same process and will be able to help you avoid some of the mistakes that they made. See if you can offer your time to help at a school in exchange for the chance to observe or help in classes. This is when the real learning begins. Every student that comes to you is a chance to learn. You will never know all there is to know about Yoga or teaching Yoga. That is the beauty of it! Respect your students and treat them with the compassion and love that your teacher gave to you, and you cannot go too far wrong. Have no expectations and be humble with respect to what you have to offer. Teach from the heart, not the head. Most important of all, enjoy.

My thanks to Kara-Leah and to Nick Potter for asking the question and getting me thinking about it. The thoughts are my own but would not exist where it not for my Guru, the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois. I humbly offer them in his memory.

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3 Comments

  1. KL - the Yoga Lunchbox

    Hey Mike,

    Very thoughtful article! So much wisdom. As one who has never been to India… it definitely makes me think about how to commit to that trip.

    Thanks for weighing in,
    Kara-Leah

  2. Nick

    Thank you for your reflections & inspiring words Mike. This is one of the most beautiful descriptions of yoga I’ve seen: “Beneath all that we think we are and all that we think we need, is the breath. On the other side of the breath is the divine.” Awesome 🙂

  3. Lisa Stokx

    Hi Mike, yes, this resonated with me too…you sure there’s not a book in there?

    ‘Beneath all that we think we are and all that we think we need, is the breath. On the other side of the breath is the divine. To pass through the breath into the divine you must be one-pointed like the arrow. Firing a shotgun and hoping one pellet gets through won’t work. The method of throwing the net wide hinders the process. The less clutter in your mind the less you have to shed.’

    Thank you so much for the opportunity you gave me to becoming a teacher. The path of the teacher is still of being the student. You gave me so much and for that I am eternally grateful. Now as a teacher I endeavour to constantly inspire and stay true to the truth,. You showed me how

    Namaste 🙂

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