According to a recent Yoga Journal poll, Americans now spend a total of $2.5 billion on yoga instruction each year. That’s no small sum. It leaves us wondering, “What is it that makes a great yoga teacher? Who draws loyal students and why? What is the difference between a good yoga class that stretches and strengthens you and a great one where you leave feeling amazing? Of course the full answer to that question is multi-faceted and complex (and we welcome you to Tweet us YOUR thoughts on the topic). For now, here are ours.
A WELCOMING MANNER
Students are drawn to the yoga room for innumerable physical reasons – to deal with chronic pain, lose weight, build strength, or increase flexibility. The list goes on. But very often there are emotional and psychological factors prompting someone to step onto the mat. It is those guiding fears, needs, wishes, or challenges that need to be met with ease, joy, and receptivity by the teacher in order to make the experience a success. A yoga class needs to feel inviting and yet safe in order to appropriately hold the disparate humanity students bring into class. It is the teacher, the guide, who sets this tone.
EXPLAIN, DEMONSTRATE, SUPPORT
Adults in a yoga class typically learn and absorb information either by ear (auditory learners), sight (visual learners) or movement (kinesthetic learners). Unless a teacher has worked with a particular student for a long time, it can be hard to know which learning style suits which person. What is clear is that a teacher worth their salt is one who has mastered how to express the dynamics of a pose in all three ways: through speech and explanation for the auditory learners; demonstration for the visual learners; and physical support and adjustments for the kinesthetic learners.
LIVE THE PRACTICE
Aristotle said, “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” To be a great teacher, you must first be a great student – always searching, learning, and questioning yourself. There is nothing worse to a new (likely intimidated) student than taking class from someone who represents herself as an arrived and untouchable spiritual diva. And yet it is also demeaning to the ancient spiritual tradition of yoga to wear the role of teacher a bit too lightly or informally. A great yoga teacher understands the authenticity of presence required to sit at the front of the room. She walks the line between spirituality and modernity with grace, ease, and humility. He doesn’t merely speak of mindfulness; he showcases it. And perhaps most importantly, a great teacher makes practicing, living, and embodying yoga accessible and understandable to their students. For though we come to yoga class for a few hours every week, a true practice is one that we – as teachers and students – live both on and off the mat.
Click on the image below to watch master yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, instructing yoga teachers how to use Three Minute Egg yoga blocks for therapeutic yoga.