What does it take to be a Yoga teacher?

by | Jul 4, 2024 | Ashtanga Yoga, Health & Wellbeing, News, Wisdom

Teaching Yoga can be most rewarding and fullfilling! There is nothing better than witnessing students’ progress on their Yoga journey and putting a smile on their faces. But what does it take to be a good Yoga teacher?

Considering this question, we already come across the first hindrance in being able to teach yoga well. Interestingly, it is ‘the wrong understanding of oneself’ or ‘Asmita’, as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; one of the Kleshas – mental afflictions – which every human mind experiences. This Klesha describes the ‘ego’ in a yogic sense. By stating ‘I am a Yoga teacher’ we tend to identify with a role we have in life, rather than recognising that we are far more than this. Therefore, rather than saying ‘I am a Yoga Teacher’ – where the expression ‘I am’ reduces our being to solely the role of teaching Yoga – I prefer when asked what I do to respond with: ‘I teach yoga’.

We don’t pursue a yogic path because we want to embark on a new career. Teaching Yoga requires passion, deep inquiry, and a willingness to deal with mental and emotional discomfort; we need endurance and an endless bucket of patience. Other qualities needed that come to mind are discipline, reliability, consistency, responsibility, kindness, compassion, and an open heart. If you would like to make a living from teaching yoga, you would also have to add entrepreneurial skills to this long list.

There is no ‘hiding’ when teaching yoga. Our students immediately pick up on our moods and intentions. Students put themselves into a vulnerable place when attending a yoga class. They need encouragement, support, praise, and our ‘skilful means’ to assist them in creating the desired change and growth. Judgement has no place here. When teaching yoga we have to understand that everyone’s behaviour – as challenging as it may be – has its ‘reasons and conditions’ – as the Buddhist teachings purvey. We have to display understanding and love without any expectations of the students‘ performance on any given day.

When teaching Ashtanga Yoga, we have to be particularly mindful of the many hands-on adjustments we are giving. Each of them should be gentle and caring, as well as firm. The adjustments shall never be an expression of disapproval, or the bad mood we might be in. Touch is so honest! When teaching we always have to be aware of this and mustn’t underestimate how much a student can sense our intention, and also wether we are truly present or not.

Once we enter the classroom, we have to leave our personal story behind and be fully present. That of course is not always easy and requires skill and discipline. Our spiritual practice teaches us how to handle this best. It all comes down to ‘practicing what you preach.’

When teaching yoga our energy field or aura mingles immediately with that of the students, so they can draw on our skills, wisdom and maturity and feel the needed support. For this reason our energy field always has to be as pure, full and strong as it can possibly be. For that, daily practice is an absolute necessity.

On days when we ourselves may feel more delicate, it is good to be honest about it. We don’t have to share our feelings. After all it is the students’ issues which we should listen to. We must not draw attention to ourselves. But we have to be open enough, and courageous enough to admit to not being at our best. This makes us more human. It gives room for compassion and also compassion for ourselves, which both the students as well as the teacher can experience as a result.

Honesty, humility, compassion, being inspirational… the list of characteristics essential to teaching Yoga skilfully, is very long. Therefore, we need to continue to practice every single day, and in our lives act according to yogic principles.

We are here to serve, and the ’me’ needs to take second place. When teaching Yoga we hope to be a conduit of Divine wisdom and healing, from which everyone should be able to benefit equally, disregarding their physical capabilities. The aim is to love everyone equally so that we can serve everyone in the best possible way.

OM Shanti,



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