The teacher's path
9 simple steps to make sure your yoga teaching stays on an authentic path. By Ganga Devi
There is a tendency in the West to focus on only one limb of yoga, the asanas. While there are undoubtedly benefits to engaging with yoga on one level, as a teacher, you want to authentically embrace the entire spiritual system if you wish to serve as an example for your students. Here’s a quick guide how.
1. Read spiritual books
Today, we have access to wisdom that has stood the test of thousands of years. Go deep into spiritual texts. The list of books recommended by your particular teacher training programme is a great place to start. By doing so, you’re honouring the niyama (personal observance) of svadhyaya or study.
2. Daily practice of asanas
Commit to a daily home practice. The physical postures of yoga help you master your emotions as well as keeping your body in optimum health. It also helps you build empathy with your students since this is much of what you’ll be asking them to do.
3. Practice pranayama
The fourth limb, breath work helps balance your nervous and respiratory systems, calms the mind and increases your prana. Too often overlooked by Western yoga practitioners, pranayama techniques are your best tool to cope with the stresses of life.
Meditation is the seventh limb of yoga and is supported by breathwork and asanas. It has a range of health and emotional benefits that have been touted by practitioners for thousands of years and even proven by science. Meditation teaches us to let go of thoughts that don’t serve us and is the best way to cultivate inner awareness and clear seeing.
5. Walk the walk
The moral code of yoga outlined in the yamas (laws of universal morality) and the niyamas (personal observances) are not meant merely to be studied. At the beginning, it can help to concentrate on one concept at a time to experience them at a deep level. Set your intention to live the yamas and niyamas as faithfully as you can.
Don’t let your spiritual work feel heavy and burdensome. Take time to sing, it’s a beautiful way to release emotional tension and strengthen the voice and presence you’ll need for teaching. Mantra singing (kirtan) or the singing of bhajans are methods of Bhakti yoga. You can find a class or explore them online. But really, any singing will do if you pour your heart into it!
7. Find a teacher
We are lucky enough to live in an age where you do not need to live in close proximity to your spiritual teacher. You can skype, email or talk on the phone with your teacher. Having an experienced, authentic teacher can make a huge difference in your journey, keeping you on the path and helping you work through any spiritual blind spots you may have.
8. Check your ego
Be humble and remind yourself that we are all but students and you have much left to learn. Cultivate a sense of humour about yourself and have empathy and compassion with others.
9. Commit to lifelong learning
Spend your life seeking wisdom, attending retreats, and pushing your personal practice to new levels and the yogic lifestyle will never get stale for you.