As a yoga teacher, it’s natural to wonder: am I doing a good job? What can I be doing to offer my students the most authentic experience in the studio? Essentially, we all want to be the best yoga teacher we can be for our students.
A lot of the ways you can improve your teaching game have to do with being selfless, but we’ve also snuck in a couple not-so-selfless ways that we think you’ll love!
How To Become The Best Yoga Teacher You Can Be
1. Know Your Students
Developing personal relationships with your students is one of the best ways to be the best yoga teacher for them. A yoga practice is such a personal endeavor, so the better you know the people you are teaching, the better you can customize their time in the studio.
Another important piece of guiding others through their practice is holding space, and making sure that space is safe. Remember your students’ names. Look them in the eye. Get better at teaching according to what you see instead of what you have planned to ensure you are guiding people safely.
One of the best parts of getting out of the house and practicing yoga at a studio or health club is the community that gets built, and that’s what this step is all about. If you make your students feel valued, seen and safe in the space you create for them, they’ll definitely keep coming back to your classes and have a more rewarding experience each time they do.
2. Be Flexible (Not Physically!)
When planning your classes, it is important to have a theme or an idea of the sequence you’d like to teach. It’s totally fine to follow your notes and teach the class you think will be the most helpful to your students on that day. Sometimes sticking to that plan is the most appropriate course of action.
However, to be the best yoga teacher you can be, you also have to get good at reading your students (see #1), and reading the overall energy in the room so you can be aware and adjust things like:
- the tone of your class
- the music (or lack thereof)
- the pace of your asanas
- the difficulty of your poses
The more you teach, the more you’ll hone your ability to go with the flow. Make sure you come to class with a clear head and no distractions so you can easily change things up if a student has specific needs or the vibe in your space needs tweaking.
Remember: teaching yoga is not about showing off what you know or being in charge. It’s about providing guidance so your students can get deeply in touch with their own practice. You’re just a conduit for that, so use your intuition!
3. Find Your Voice
This one is all about being aware of your impact and working on how you cue your classes. How you talk to your students and how often affects their mental and emotional space, and can be the difference between a focused, rewarding class and a distracted and possibly frustrating class.
It may be your instinct to take a passive voice when teaching to allow students to make their own choices in poses and flows. But taking a passive voice has a tendency to de-energize your class. Instead of using suggestive phrases like, “You might want to check in with how your low back is feeling here,” say something engaging like, “Energize your core in this pose to protect your lower spine.”
The best yoga teachers give firm but compassionate directions, especially when it comes to executing poses safely. You can let your students know in other ways that it’s ok to make their practice their own, and it’s always important to remind them to listen to their own bodies and limitations.
Another thing to be mindful of is how much you’re talking. We tend to want to fill silence with talk or noise in our daily lives, but when we get on the mat, quiet time is vital in order to focus and look inward. It’s a hard balance to strike, but once you’ve had practice and can do some self-observation, you’ll be able to cut out filler speech and cues that aren’t really necessary.
4. Leave Your Personal Junk At The Door
If you’re going to be the best yoga teacher for your students, you know that this is about them, not you. You have your own personal practice outside your classes for this reason. To truly be a good guide and a reliable source of information for the folks you teach, you have to learn to set your ego aside.
This applies to junk from your personal life as well. If you had a hectic day and were almost late to class because you got stuck in traffic, and you spilled coffee on yourself, and locked yourself out of the house, and all the things went wrong today for you… you still have to show up for your students.
Even if you feel flustered when you show up, stop before you come into the studio, take a breath, close your eyes, and let all that stuff fall off. It’ll be right there for you to pick back up after class. Or maybe, none of it will matter anymore once you’re done teaching an awesome, tuned-in class! Remember, your vibe affects theirs!
5. Be Yourself!
This one may seem like a contradiction to #4, but it’s actually pretty important. And it’s simple: don’t be afraid to show your students you’re not perfect. Be real, and let them know how yoga helps you connect to yourself despite your own limitations and imperfections. You will be the best yoga teacher for them if you can show them you’re comfortable in yourself, so they can be comfortable in themselves.
6. Grow Yourself!
This one is another simple way to be the best yoga teacher you can be. The message is this: keep learning and growing your own practice.
Take classes, explore new ways to practice, do teacher trainings, take retreats, stay up-to-date on safe teaching methods. Do whatever you need to do to stay fresh and inspired so you always have something great to offer the people you lead.
7. Fill Your Own Cup
Last but not least on the list is self-care. As someone who must always be thinking of your impact on others and how you can help them, it’s super important to think of yourself as well.
The best yoga teachers know you must cultivate your relationship with yoga so you can avoid burnout and continue to love it. Cultivating self-love is the best way to give it to others.
Remind yourself why you wanted to teach in the first place by always making time for your own practice. Renew your sense of wonder in yoga and meditation by taking a yoga-based vacation or retreat. Let yoga fill your cup so you can continue to have enough for the people you guide.
Your love for yoga drove you to become a teacher. But don’t just be any teacher; be the best teacher you can be for your students. If you take steps to keep improving your game and becoming a better yoga leader, you’ll be a part of bringing up your students, your community, and yoga culture as a whole!