In our Arts of teaching classes in India we were asked, what a good yoga teacher needs to have. And especially for a becoming yoga teacher it’s an ambivalent question. First, you think about what you are looking for in a teacher. Then you ask yourself: Do I have that? Fulfilling our own expectation can be a hard business. Being a good yoga teacher comes along with a lot of skills. Good demonstration, clear verbal instructions, correct alignment, pleasant adjustment or compassionate communication to mention a few. That can be overwhelming at the beginning, but so far no master just has fallen from the sky. Everything comes with the practice. I can tell you from my beginnings…
my first class – teaching myself: how to be a good yoga teacher
I remember my first yoga class I offered. It was open air, in a wonderful green park, free to everyone. My first students were five brave people resisting the lethargy of sevillan summer. I was absolutely satisfied with that little group, as in summer Seville is close to those dead cites in wild western movies, dry and deserted. Only the rolling ball is missing.
Even I didn’t like preparing classes (I usually follow my intuition and create in the moment), I draw a roadmap of asanas I can follow in case I am totally blocked. Indeed it was more than a little roadmap, there was a whole list in my mind about things I want to take care of in class:
- what kind of atmosphere I want to establish
- how to create it
- not forget to repeat my 3 main principles on the mat
- reminding the students to focus on the breath
- all the technical part, clear verbal instructions (in in a language which isn’t yours)
Somehow I caught myself demanding me this nice and perfect demonstration of a freshly-back-from-India-Yogi maintaining the contact with the students and keeping conscious observation. Followed by all that other stuff that comes up in your mind when you want to make your class perfect. Well, there it is. This little word with great power: perfection. Usually raised in the western society, we strive for perfection. So did I in my first class. Myself, I have high expectations on my yoga teachings and wanted to impart my ideal of a yoga class.
in my interior I was judging my own teaching all the time
During my class I observed myself reminding my students not to judge themselves, just to observe and let go of all the pressure, while in my interior I was judging my own teaching all the time. “Was that word correct? Do I sit straight? What might think this other yoga teacher who attended my class? Do they think it’s silly what I am saying? Maybe I am not reaching them.” And within these moments of questioning at the same time I was aware of the same: “No, you are judging to much, just observe, let go, be what you teach.”
Teaching others is always a moment of being taught as well.
My second class was the total opposite, almost no preparation, no monkey mind, no expectations. And my students were thrilled. It was not a big deal of a class. I simply shared my experiences, my beliefs and convictions. I offered what I know, have and be, without fear of being judged. Simply being me was the best I could give. And of course technically I could improve stuff, I could say different things, I could… But I realized: that comes with time and there’s no need of control nor pressure. The keywords for good, fulfilling teaching are others.
Be yourself and teach what you live – authenticity and coherency
For me the two main characteristics I am looking for in a teacher and trying to live myself everyday are authenticity and coherency. Oh God. What abstract terms. Yes. But it’s not such a big deal. I mean can you imagine something easier than just be yourself and do what you believe in?
1. Just be you – be authentic.
Be you. And that’s enough. We don’t need to pretend to be someone else. Your personal mix is what makes you unique. There’s no one else with the experiences you have lived, the things you have done, the thoughts you have thought. If we try to be someone else who might be already successful and famous, we will always fail. Because this person already exists. But you are incomparable. Just be you. You are not sure what is you? Listen to your heart, still your mind and connect. It will come.
2. Live what you teach – be coherent.
It doesn’t matter what you teach – but live it. There are plenty of yoga teachers worldwide and everyone of us is different – not to say contradictory. There’s this crazy idea of the yoga teacher, always happy and calm and making these fancy postures. Sorry guys, this image of the magazine doesn’t show reality. It can be like that. But usually living the human experience is different. We don’t need to be a living spaghetti and often you can find us even in bars drinking a beer or eating a steak. And that’s fine. We are not closer to enlightenment just because we teach yoga. And sometimes life overcomes us as the same storm as it does to everyone else. We are still humans. So a good yoga teacher are those who are living what they teach. Be the best living example of your teachings, and don’t try to be more. People will notice. If you agree with AHIMSA and being vegetarian is part of it, but you are still eating meat. That’s ok. We are all on our personal pathway. Just don’t pretend something else.
Being a yoga teacher isn’t always easy. For a lot of people you are a role model and they put you on a pedestal. And you just don’t feel right up there. Bring yourself down. Ground yourself. Be humble. Show your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest and authentic. Believe me, being yourself and teaching your own truth is the best thing you can give. And do it with joy. People will respond.