Teaching yoga will change your life. It will continually bring you back to your earliest motivations to practice and find answers to the first questions you asked yourself about yoga. These questions are almost philosophical and personal, the answers shifting amidst the currents of our lives. Who am I? What makes me feel happy and balanced? How can I make things easier and balanced in my life? Even after years or decades of practice, most teachers motives are still evolving. The more I practice and teach, the more I realize there is to learn about myself and life. Students come to yoga for a variety of reasons. For many it is a way to relax and reduce stress from living in a world of mobile phones, high-pressure jobs, relationship challenges, and the fast pace of modern life. Yoga’s health benefits bring many people to the practice. Some are looking for the “weight loss workout” and perfectly sculpted body highlighted in the instagramand other social media courtesy of yoga practicing stars like Kino etc. Others, however, are interested in inner harmony, balance, and a sense of overall well-being. Some are motivated by pain or suffering, looking to yoga as a way to heal and feel whole. Still others consciously evolve to yoga, seeking a sense of spiritual connection or growth. For most it is a combination of these and other goals. The role of the teacher is to provide inspired support and informed guidance to students pursuing these varied and changing aims. When teachers create safe and nurturing yoga classes where students can explore and experience anew the body, mind, and spirit, amazing things start to happen. New sensations arise in the body. Just breathing becomes a profound tool of awareness. The mind becomes clearer and stronger. Emotions even out, the heart opens, and the spirit soars. You simply feel better—more vibrant, more alive.
Our ability as teachers to help students develop and sustain their yoga practice in keeping with their personal intentions rests upon three basic foundations. First, continually cultivating our own personal practice keeps us strong, clear, and connected to the evolution of yoga. It also refreshes the well from which we draw new insight and inspiration. The lessons we learn on the mat as well as from our teachers and students are invaluable when giving guidance to others on their mats. Second, deepening our understanding of how bodies work gives us an essential set of tools for offering appropriate instruction. While our experience on the mat is essential, the marvellous diversity of people and the different conditions they uniquely bring to the mat requires ongoing learning about functional anatomy, common injuries, alignment principles, physical and emotional risks, pregnancy, the respiratory process, and many other aspects of our being. Equipped with more knowledge and greater understanding, we can teach more safely. As yoga continues to grow in popularity, many teachers are entering the profession unprepared for working with the diverse array of students in their classes. Third, drawing intelligently from the wide variety of styles and sources available to us from the historical evolution of yoga provides an essential foundation for effective teaching. For just about every intention one finds in a yoga class, there is a tradition and style of yoga. Within the various traditions and styles, a teacher’s approach to the craft adds to students’ experience. Most of the styles and approaches are, wittingly or not, rooted in a vast and rich web of ancient to contemporary writings on the nature of the physical body and mind, healing, and spirit. Tapping into these sources, teachers find greater ease in navigating the need, and motivation arising from students and their own lives. Exploring the vastness of yoga philosophy and literature creates a richer, deeper palette from which to draw in the art of teaching yoga.
Finally, the ultimate language of yoga is expressed in doing yoga, a practice that transcends words as we open our lives to living more consciously through the infinite wisdom of the heart. It is in this wisdom that we take the seat of the teacher, sharing yoga with all who cross our path. In my own experience as a yoga teacher, nothing has so changed my life as the commitment to sharing yoga in a way that helps students to develop their own personal and sustainable practice. From my earliest days as a teacher in Ashram to the present—and whether teaching public or private classes, beginners workshops or teacher trainings, working with people from many countries—every one of my students has been my teacher, each in his or her way bringing new light to my practice and teaching. May we all continue to inspire and guide many studentswhom we meet along our path as teacher.