The Art of Teaching Yoga

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Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived.” – Aadil Palkhivala

Teaching yoga isn’t for everyone. While completing 200 hours of yoga training and receiving a teacher certification is quite the feat, knowledge and training alone do not make one a quality yoga instructor.

For example:

  • Have you ever had a yoga instructor who was impatient?
  • Ever had an instructor who was boring?
  • How about a teacher whose directions weren’t clear?
  • Or an instructor who just didn’t connect with you?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then you know there’s a difference between a mediocre yoga teacher and an amazing one.

The best yoga instructors know that teaching yoga is an art, not a science.

To teach yoga properly, you must live yoga. Your character and personal practice are just as important as your technical skill. When yoga is a part of you, it’s evident in your classes. Your students leave the session not just feeling different physically, but mentally and spiritually.

Here are some ways you can embrace the art of teaching yoga.

1.  UNDERSTAND YOUR STUDENTS’ WANTS AND NEEDS

As a yoga teacher, you’ll have different groups of students in your classes, and no group is the same. Part of the art of teaching is understanding what each student wants to get out of your class and how to help he or she achieve it.

The best instructors take the time and effort to connect with students before or after class. By listening to them, you develop a bond with them and intuition in how to properly instruct them.

2.  SIMPLIFY YOUR INSTRUCTIONS

You may have more than 500 hours of yoga training. You may be able to do a headstand in your sleep. However, some of your students may not be as experienced as you, making it difficult for them to transition from pose to pose with ease.

Make sure you simplify your instructions so every student understands. This is important for safety and flow. Simple instructions also help students maintain focus and breathing. If they have to figure out what your instructions mean, it breaks their flow.

3.  PERFORM POSES AND MAKE ADJUSTMENTS

Students learn best by example, so make sure you demonstrate poses and explain the proper alignment. Demonstrate at the correct pace so your students can follow you, mimicking the proper movement and alignment.

Not only should you perform the proper pose, but take time to adjust students properly so they aren’t in a position that will cause injury. As an instructor, you should always have students’ safety in mind. If students don’t understand your instructions or if you adjust them the wrong way, they could get injured. And injuries are more common than you think. You can find out stats on yoga injuries and the importance of yoga teacher insurance from beYogi.

4.  EXPLAIN DIFFERENT SANSKRIT WORDS

While Sanskrit is the native language of yoga, your students may not understand it. Part of being an amazing teacher is not just saying the Sanskrit words, but explaining their meaning. Most importantly, be aware of the tone and tempo of your voice. Make sure your voice is a calming and encouraging influence on students.

5.  PLAY GOOD MUSIC

Some may debate this recommendation, but if yoga is an art, why not implement the art of music with the practice? Music can play an integral role in your classes, setting the pace and making them more fun. Just make sure your playlist is authentic to you and your style of teaching. It can be classical, jazz, or hip-hop, as long as it flows with your teaching.

You can also opt to have music just during Savasana. Whatever music you choose, it can enhance your students’ experience and make the class more enjoyable.

Remember, the best instructors don’t just teach yoga, they live it. Your teaching should be an expression of your journey and practice. Take these tips and apply them in your unique way to make your yoga instruction a masterpiece.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kali at beYogi.com

Photo credit: Shiva Rea on Instagram

7 comments

  1. I think you just wrote this for me. As I’m finishing up my 200 hour tt in looking for ways to be an authentic, great teacher.

  2. Awesome! I really like this, as an instructor myself I found the best teachers that have helped me grow my practice, are the ones who teach me how to strengthen and deepen my practice, and not just shine in theres.

    I teach in a studio and on YouTube – being on video really pushes me to work on the communication of poses and alignment, due to the separation of the screen. I would love to hear your thoughts on teaching through videos, as it is a growing avenue for practices.

    Check out my channel – O’M Yoga – feedback is always welcome. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXSGYCcwSmDSeb3gAyhrDQg

  3. Hi there! Great article you have, I would also want to share my thoughts that Yoga indeed has positive effects not only in the body but also in the mind, a total holistic wellness that brings us to know our inner-self better. It gives us a peace of mind that helps us have a much better perception about our lives.

  4. Exactly! You can do also yoga staying at home. I think, this instruction suits for all interested people. Actually, this brings confident and keep fresh mind and peach mind. So, I would highly recommended to this post.

  5. Great article, I agree with playing good music as part of the exercise regimen. As a former martial arts practitioner and gym go-er, music is essential for good exercise and motivation.

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