I’ve been a Yoga teacher in Australia for 5 years now (I am writing this October 2022). Teaching thousands of students in real life and even more online! I receive all kinds of frequently asked questions about becoming a Yoga teacher but really they all roll into this one broad question: what makes a great Yoga instructor?
Of course, becoming a certified Yoga teacher is a great place to start. However, also having a solid personal Yoga practice, understanding elements of Yoga philosophy, anatomy and physiology are other aspects that will make you a great Yoga teacher.
But what else makes a great Yoga instructor?
One of my favourite Yoga Instructors I’ve ever learnt from sat at the front of class and directed the movement. She didn’t do any of the poses. She didn’t walk around the room. She didn’t physically adjust poses.
She sat at the front of the room and took us through the flows while also telling stories of myths and legends. And although Yoga is very much a presence practice, these stories created visions in my mind. Visions that were metaphors that not only got me focused on the movement but also created awareness of my body, mind and soul. She taught me through storytelling, through feeling, through connection. Back then, I didn’t realise just how special it was.
I’ve also been taught by teachers who are strong, agile, can do the splits, can hold a handstand and do all the crazy moves. They’d often stop the entire class and demonstrate the sequence that about 1% of the class attempted and about 0.3% did properly.
And yes, it was impressive.
I’ve had teachers that seem endlessly creative and leave me wondering how on earth did they remember the other side of that 30 minute sequence?!
I’ve done the sequences that get me feeling empowered and strong. The ones that take me to a deep state of relaxation and bliss. The sequences that leave me feeling uplifted and inspired. And also (unfortunately) the sequences that make me feel like I might just pop a shoulder or knee if I do what the instructor tells me to do (yeah they were not my favourite classes).
Every Yoga Instructor is different. This is what makes Yoga so amazing. You’ll never go to a Yoga class and do the exact same class… unless you love online Yoga and like to hit play on your favourite class every second day. Have you tried MerryBody?
How do you truly stand out as Yoga instructor?
It begins with something simple… be YOU.
1: your quirks make you a great Yoga teacher
Your uniqueness is what makes you different from other registered Yoga teachers teaching at the Studio in the next suburb (or the next domain name).
And my advice? Lean into this. It’s important, especially when you’re doing your first 200 hour Yoga teacher training course to learn from your teachers. However, check-in. Be sure that you’re not becoming a carbon copy. It’s easy to pick up little sayings of other teachers, this is fine to an extent but try to come up with your own explanations, cues and quirks that make you different.
Your uniqueness is your superpower.
2: learn to read the room
Have you ever been in a Yoga class where every second posture seems to be something you simply can’t do? This is what it’s like for me with inversions. Sure, I can do a headstand, does it make me feel good? No. Have I injured myself before? Yes.
Learn to read the room. Scan your students. Ask them how their energy levels are. Ask if they have any requests. You will start to notice, by their answers, the kind of class you should be teaching.
It’s also important to check in with the time of day and of course the type of class, for example, if it’s a slow flow, then maybe leave out your 100 planned Chaturungas! If it’s Yin Yoga then remember, no flow. If it’s Advanced Vinyasa, well those students are looking for a challenge.
As you teach more and become a senior Yoga teacher, reading the room will become second nature.
Of course, if you’re teaching online classes, then devise an intention for your class and deliver on that. For example, if I start an online class explaining that it’s going to be long hold stretches but then turn it into a fire-y flow halfway through, that is not meeting my student’s expectations. Have a plan and try your best to stick to it.
The best classes I’ve taught are the ones where my students have left feeling accomplished. Students could move through the class with no confusion and have modifications that suited them when they needed them.
This leads me to my next point.
3: modifications are important if you want to be a good Yoga teacher
There is nothing worse than attending a Yoga class and there’s a pose in the sequence that you simply cannot do. Nowadays if that happens to me I will happily get into a Child’s Pose. However, in the early days of practicing Yoga, I would have been left sitting on my mat looking around the room aimlessly.
Regression options are just as important (if not more) as progression options.
If you want your students to feel accomplished at the end of every class (and I think you do), have options in mind for most poses.
If you are unsure of what modifications to offer, then simply add at the beginning of each class that Child’s Pose is always an option.
Once you have been teaching for a little while (give yourself about a year), and you continue to teach with options, you will notice that it becomes second nature and a part of your cueing process.
Some examples of regression options are: Low Lunge instead of High Lunge, Down Dog or Child’s Pose instead of Chaturanga, Extended Side Angle instead of Bound Extended Side Angle.
My advice is to lead a student into a progression pose THROUGH the regression pose. That way, you can always say something like “now hold here, or if you feel like a little more, let’s try xyz.”
These are just 3 things to focus on when wanting to up your Yoga teaching skills. To be a great Yoga Teacher it’s not about knowing how to do all the Yoga postures… it’s more about making your students feel something.
Take a moment to think about your intention behind your classes and how you’d like your students to walk off the mat.
Whether you want to teach Yoga part time, become a full time Yoga teacher, teach private Yoga classes, perhaps even become a Yoga therapist… keep these 3 things in mind and continue to practice and teach.
- It’s your uniqueness, the youness, that makes you GREAT!
- Learn to read the room (or set a solid intention, and stick to it).
- Regression and progression modifications are the same level of importance.
If you’re wanting to do a deep dive into your Yoga practice, become a Yoga teacher or continue your Yoga education, we’re developing the School of MerryBody Yoga Teacher Training Program.
The first training will be a 200 hour Yoga teacher training course. It will be run completely online, making it accessible and doable.
Right now, we are getting everything ready to seek approval from the International Yoga Alliance but if you think this is something that you might be interested in, then head over here to sign up to the waitlist!
Our first intake will be in April 2023.
We cannot wait!
Carla (and Emma)