How to Be a Strong Yoga Teacher (and Person): 3 Essential Tips
Being a strong yoga teacher has only 10% to do with your body. Sure, you can have arm, leg, core, back and glute strength enough to knock a building down. That’s not what we’re talking about.
Any yoga teacher can handle modeling an advanced pose with physical strength while talking through it. Yes, that takes a lot of skill and practice. But inner strength is how truly great yoga teachers attract students and change people’s lives.
It’s not about what you can do. It’s about the strength of your Spirit, the energy you bring and how you protect yourself.
3 Essential Tips to Being a Strong Yoga Teacher:
1. Respect your own boundaries and those of your students:
As yoga teachers, most of us want to give as much as we can to our students. We live by the notion that we must love and give freely at all times, in every moment.
That’s a beautiful way to aspire to live, but it’s unrealistic unless you have boundaries. There’s a point when you have to stop giving. Life is a delicate balance of nourishing yourself (being) and nourishing others (human). The harmonic balance between human and being makes us human beings.
It’s about respecting your own time and energy. It’s about loving them enough to let them figure it out—not to coddle and baby your students, even in class.
Don’t give it all away. When they leave the studio, wish them well. Send them loving energy from your heart to theirs. But you don’t need to be a guru. You should not become someone’s free life coach unless you absolutely want to, with 100% backing from your soul and heart.
If you want to help someone, let it come from a place of complete and utter love. Your free help should never come from guilt or duty or with some ulterior motive. Don’t play the part of the self-sacrificing martyr.
The thing that happens sometimes is that students get attached to yoga teachers. When you’re a teacher of any kind, there’s a pattern that forms in the relationship, and it’s important to create boundaries with students, even when they become your friends.
Especially if there’s been a personal relationship that’s formed, as this often happens. But let the relationship develop without that pattern. Allow them to teach you. Reverse the roles, if you will. Completely separate the friendship from the studio.
Just watch the personal relationships that develop from your teaching. Always be conscious that there are healthy boundaries. This ensures your nourishment and self-respect. To be a good teacher, we have to take a break from teaching.
You can’t be on all the time. Don’t try to rescue every troubled soul that comes into your class. No one should expect that from you. We create boundaries because we have abundant self-love. To be anything to anyone, we must first honor ourselves. This is something we all know logically. We believe it, but do we practice it?
This is important for all humans not just to understand, but to practice. Especially those who take care of others in any way.
As teachers, it’s even more important to incorporate self-love into our lives. If you give up on your own practice, you essentially give up on your teaching. We know what it means to neglect our own practices.
There is nothing more loving to the self than creating healthy boundaries. Appreciate your own energy and time, and let no one disrespect it. Excuse yourself from a situation if you’re giving too much of yourself, if you’re being depleted.
This happens more often than you think.
Strong yoga teachers need to respect the boundaries of their students too. Always, always ask permission before you touch or adjust them. Especially if it’s a new student. Especially if it’s not your usual studio.
Outside of class, you must respect their need for privacy. A lot of this is reading people’s energy. You know the people who just want to come class and leave. Don’t pry, don’t ask for numbers, unless it feels 100% welcome.
Even when you feel like it’s okay to ask for personal information, think twice. If they do give personal information, keep it personal for them. This goes without saying: don’t ever gossip about one of your students.
There needs to be lots of respect and clear boundaries in every relationship, but especially the professional one of yoga teacher and student. And even more so, a professional relationship turned into personal relationship.
Separate the studio from the house, keep clear on your boundaries between the two kinds of relationships. Stay professional.
2. Use a personal mantra to stay clear and focused before, during and after class:
When I’m in a bad mood, I just repeat to myself, “I will do no harm.” You can’t help the way you feel before class sometimes. You can only do so many things to help a low energy level or a poor vibration.
But if you form your own intention, made into a mantra, then you can keep yourself focused and clear. And sometimes you can rise up from your original mantra. Let the mantra shift with how you feel.
Somehow, from “I will do no harm,” I can move up to “I will uplift.” If you can work your way up the frequency scale, still ensuring a vibrational match with how you feel, you will find that as your focus mantra shifts, so does your mood and the way you affect your students.
Focus on the outcome with your mantra: “I’m opening hearts” is one I sometimes pick if I want to promote kindness among my students. I like to picture the students leaving the classroom lighter, more relaxed, a little stronger but also softer.
I imagine them walking throughout their day with a smile and saying kind words to others. I imagine them loving their family and friends. I imagine a day made better by the practice.
So visualization in conjunction with the mantra can be truly powerful and keep you clear, as a teacher and as a person. You really do affect people so focus on the effect that you want to see. A mantra really helps with that.
It helps to try to do come up with a mantra and think about your intention before class. Here’s a little checklist I use to help prepare me for class:
3. Open your mind, your heart and have fun:
The best yoga teachers are the most fun, the ones who change things up a bit. The ones who are not so square on being uniform, being perfectly in alignment with the exact pose as it’s been taught for thousands of years.
They take the practice seriously, but they know that things change with time. They don’t take themselves so seriously as to think they must teach perfectly: the perfect pose, the perfect instruction, the perfect class.
Really strong people and teachers reject the notion of perfection. It doesn’t exist. No need to be hardcore with yourself, with your students, with anyone. We allow freedom, and we learn from our students
When it comes to our students and how they practice, we don’t want to try to fit them into square pegs. If we can open our hearts to realize that not everyone will do the pose exactly as it’s meant to be done, we can have the compassion to honor their bodies and let them express their own version of the pose, so long as it’s safe for their bodies.
Everyone is different, and the more open the heart, the more we can honor differences: what people like to do, how people like to be, etc. Your students know what they need. Let them do that without forcing tradition and textbook on them.
There’s a lot of tradition when it comes to this ancient practice, and we have to find a way to honor that but at the same time, feel free to rethink the way things are done, to switch it up. It’s easier to do that in freer traditions like vinyasa flow, as opposed to bikram or ashtanga.
It’s another line to walk between honoring the sacred traditions and opening your mind to think creatively about poses, sequences, and how they are practiced among your students. Don’t be afraid to try new things and think out of the box, away from rigidity.
Of course, we want to teach a pose correctly and safely, lead our students in that direction. But keep it lighthearted.
I think the most important thing to take away from this is let it be fun, for you and for them. It doesn’t have to be so hardcore and serious and correct. Just watch over the safety of your students and relax about it all.
Then your students will relax, and that’s honestly what they need, what they came for.
Music is a great way to help everybody have more fun, and if you’re looking for some new playlists, I’ve got some free ones right here:
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