What makes a good yoga teacher?
What are the raw ingredients you need to be a successful teacher? By Louisa Craig
What makes a ‘good’ yoga teacher? What does the student want or need to get from their practice? Most yoga practitioners practice what feels good and not what is necessarily good for them. This is human nature.
People with Vata constitutions (according to ayurveda) are typically drawn to strong Vinyasa practices, and Kaphas are drawn to Restorative Yoga; these choices, if the student doesn’t do any other type of yoga practice, may lead to Doshic imbalances. Yoga is self-awareness, and the more self-aware we become, the better choices we make. As teachers we should help to guide our students on this path, but it’s up to them whether they walk it or not (they usually tend to wander off and come back a few times first!).
There are so many beautiful yoga ‘shapes’ on social media, and ads for workshops on how to get into wild and crazy poses, but really asana should be about ‘function’ and not ‘form’. Teachers need to think about the biomechanics and the energetics of the asanas, and what they want to give to their students on that chosen day or time. What is the ‘Bhav (the theme or feeling) of the class? If you’ve got a group of stressed-out NHS workers, you don’t want to stimulate their sympathetic systems by giving them an energetic back-bending class with an emphasis on the inhale. And if you’ve got a group of lethargic, depressed students you don’t want to give them a calming Yin class followed by a Yoga Nidra (they need to be uplifted).
One of my own yoga teachers, Rod Stryker, once said to me about modern yoga classes that throw in so many complex sequences and asana types, “if you take all the colours of the rainbow and mix them together, what colour do you get? Brown”. You don’t want to be teaching a ‘brown’ yoga class. Your classes don’t need to be filled with as many asanas as you can fit in to that time.
Students should be given some time to check-in with themselves during class.
As a teacher trainer I don’t want to churn out generic yoga teachers who are clones of me either. I feel it is important that my graduates are able to share what yoga is to them in an authentic way without losing the ‘real’ essence of yoga along the way. We all came to yoga from a different perspective and it’s important we don’t lose ourselves along the way. Having a daily meditation and yoga practice as a teacher is incredibly important and applying yogic philosophy to our lives is also a must. Embodying what you teach and being ‘real’ is what makes a teacher stand out. I tell my trainees to become ‘curious observers’ (it makes life more fun!). It’s about stepping out of your own way and not taking anything personally; everyone has their own path to take and can only meet you where they’re at. Learning to sit in the eye of the storm and choosing not to ‘react’ can help you make ‘wise choices’.
During this recent pandemic my graduates have found reading the Bhagavad Gita a huge support. You can’t learn how to swim by reading a swimming manual, and my graduates have found that they now have a greater understanding of ‘performing their Dharma on the battlefield of life’ by applying this philosophy to their lives during this unsettling time.
Something that I reiterate before every YTT is that before you can hold anyone’s space, you need to be able to hold your own. Always make sure you feel grounded before you teach. I usually meditate and do some Nadi Shodana before class so I’m in the right space for my students. In summary, to be a ‘good’ yoga teacher, it’s important to be true to yourself, keep practicing and evolving, and always be a student. Good luck!
Louisa Craig, LKY Yoga Teacher Training School (yogateachertrainer.co.uk)