THREE STEPS TO BECOMING A LEGIT YOGA TEACHER
ELEMENT #1: FIND AND LEARN FROM A TEACHER YOU RESONATE WITH
Yoga can be powerfully transformational. This process of transformation comes from both the students efforts and the guidance they receive from their teachers.
Not all teachers emphasize the same points and have similar ability, or provide the same methods. Hour per hour, some teachers will have more impact than others. Students need to find a teacher that resonates with them.
A student ought to trust and respect their teacher. A teacher is not necessarily a personal friend though they can be friendly. Their job is to hold space for yoga.
A teacher has a positive regard for the student and guides them with patience and understanding. The teacher does not try to be convincing to the student, or make them “believers”. They‘re not attached to the student’s progress, rather they are there to provide support, give direction when needed, and instruct by example.
The teacher is there to point out the territory. They show the student(s) how to recognize and overcome troublesome friction within their lives and live more fully. They offer methods to aid in the process.
Ineffective teaching comes when the teacher operates out of self-interest, does not maintain their own practice or had any personal insight into the things that they are teaching. When the teacher relies on giving platitudes to the students in place of meaningful instruction and knowledge, the presentation will lack depth and substance.
The teacher is not there to artificially prop people up. Rather, they are there to help students discover their own capabilities and instruct them how to access their deeper potentials and live with lasting peace. Of course, a teacher should be compassionate as well.
An effective teacher is one who operates in the mode of service to the teachings. On their best days, they are an empty conduit for embodying and sharing the knowledge of yoga. They translate and present complex, even bewildering teachings in a way that the student can understand and grow into.
It is the students responsibility 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.
ELEMENT #2: BE A DEDICATED STUDENT
Yoga is an immense topic that is: intellectual, physical, personal, and spiritual. There is so much to learn and experience. There are many ways to approach yoga (bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, & karma yoga to name a few), all of which require that the aspirant dedicate themselves to their particular path in order to make progress.
Being a yoga student looks like regular personal practice that consists of asana, pranayama, meditation, scriptural study, attending classes, and making time for workshops and other forms of focused study.
Often times, consistency of practice is more important than duration. This is a very simple idea, however it can be equally challenging to implement. Practicing a little each day, or on a regularly scheduled occasions is more effective than “stop and go.” Consistent practice will build momentum over time, one brick at a time.
Yoga study, as with other topics requires both regularity and a natural curiosity or inclination, in addition to a sincere desire to learn more. Build your practice over time, and find joy in it as well.
Being a dedicated student is the foundation for becoming an effective teacher if one decides to go that route.
What does being a student look like in our program?
Enter the Unknown – Some if not much of the content in this program will be new to you. It will seem foreign and unfamiliar. It is a little like traveling to a foreign country where you may not have a grasp the language or the food is different. I would advise against taking a program like this to reinforce what you already know.
Experimentation – Use discernment and be willing to integrate what you learn from the classroom into your life. Yoga practice is unique in that you are both the subject and the object of your study. Apply the practice and teachings in your life and reflect on the outcome of this grand experiment.
Dedication – This program is challenging at times. There will be days when you joyfully anticipate class and other days when you may feel challenged. Apply yourself to the process to get the most out of it, and know that you will most likely not understand or integrate all of the content. Learning is a process enhanced by dedication.
Class Participation – Invest yourself in the process. Ask questions and be willing to put in the effort to pace yourself at the same time. Similarly, be an ally for the entire room. Your participation contributes to the welfare of the greater class atmosphere. The program happens over an extended period of time and the cumulative effect of everyone’s participation is quite powerful.
Learn the Craft of Teaching – Being a confident teacher is not a given. As with learning any craft, at first it can be awkward and unfamiliar. Inevitable questions arise such as: where do I position myself? how do I demonstrate? how do I find my voice? what happens when many different skill levels show up in the same class? and many other questions.
It takes dedicated guidance and personal practice before one carries themself with composure in the classroom. Fortunately, knowing what to look for as a teacher and how to get your message across is not a random process. There are patterns to how a class is put together, and how to present your lesson effectively.At Axis, we teach you the operative principles to make you a competent teacher so you can share your love of yoga with others in a way they will understand.
ELEMENT #3: DEVELOP A STRONG PERSONAL PRACTICE
Like any craft, the more time you spend with it the further you progress. It also helps to have an astute teacher. If you want to master the violin, you need to practice. If you want to get better at painting, then practice. If you want to advance in yoga, again you practice it.
Yoga is an ongoing project that we take with us wherever we go and can apply it to all circumstances. Spending formal time practicing asana, pranayama and meditation will accelerate your growth. The Sanskrit word sadhana refers to one’s dedicated spiritual practice, namely meditation.
Sadhana is an ongoing project and it’s tinkering in the lab of your Being on a daily basis. It is best to proceed at a sustainable pace rather than with “fits and starts.” Even doing 10 minutes of meditation a day is an excellent start. Practicing asana for 20 minutes is also beneficial. Ideally one can dedicate a half hour or more on a daily basis. It does not have to be all or nothing.
Benefits of Practice – There are many short and long term advantages for starting a spiritual practice and many of them are scientifically validated. These include: better sleep, fewer trips to the hospital, pain management, patience, less overall fear, and an improved happiness index. Many of these are key indicators for a fulfilling life. None of them require anything external because they are all completely accessible and free.
How Do I Develop a Home Practice? Many people have resistance to starting a home practice. They know that it would be beneficial for them, but lack the support and instruction to start and sustain a practice. And too often fall into the “I’ll do it tomorrow” syndrome.
So how do I get started? Great question! Ideally you receive instruction from a qualified teacher who gives a specific method and guidance. Pranayama (breathing practices) are a vital component of getting the mind to be less rebellious and more able to focus. The fellowship of fellow practitioners is also very supportive.
Though less ideal, people also turn to meditation apps such as Headspace, and Rod Stryker’s Sanctuary for instruction. There are plenty of online resources for asana practice as well. The most important part is to get started. In order for the practices to work, you have to do them. Postponing or just thinking about doing them will not have the same effect.
A regular home, meditation and/or asana practice marks the transition from being a yoga student to becoming a yogi. A yogi is someone who recognizes their limitations and has taken ownership of their evolution. They see the value of regular sadhana and makes it a priority. They are committed to the process of yoga.
Home practice is a platform for personal enrichment and is the foundation for one’s ability to teach in the most authentic way possible. One’s message becomes seasoned with personal experience. The difference is palpable.