How to Be a Great Yoga Teacher
I got a curious response from a yoga teacher to the survey we ran last month asking about your 2 biggest yoga-related challenges. She said “If I teach my students enough that they can just practice yoga at home, then I’ll go out of business!” …
Ok, within the context of the rest of her email, it was obvious that this comment was made in jest. But the thing is, I have often heard other yoga teachers joking back and forth about this same sort of thing as well.
And you know the saying … “Behind every joke is an element of truth.”
Teaching Yoga Has Never Been Easy
Let me start by reminding you that yoga teachers are people too (it’s true!), and they have all the burdens and financial responsibilities that you and everyone else in this modern world have. So us yoga teachers, if we want to put food in the mouths of our children and a roof over their heads too, still have to run a viable business, just like everyone else.
That’s fair enough, right?
That means that yoga teachers have to follow all the same principles of business success that everyone else does right? … and every business owner, whatever their industry, knows that long term success rests on creating happy, repeat customers, right?
Put it this way. If I were a disposable razor company, I would be competing with other disposable razor companies to make the best darn disposable razor possible, wouldn’t I? The problem is that it can’t be too good! After all, I don’t want my customers to never need another razor!
But is that really the right attitude for a yoga teacher to have? “I want to be a good teacher, but not so good that you’ll never need me anymore?” Let me cut right to the answer.
In fact, that attitude, and it is more prevalent in the modern yoga world than you might think because it is the underlying attitude of the modern business world, not only hurts so many sincere, aspiring yoga students, but it ends up killing a yoga teacher’s business, not helping it to grow and flourish!
Here’s why …
With the logic that you only give your customers enough to keep them coming back, teaching people how to do yoga on their own, at home, would most certainly lead to the eventual demise of a teacher’s livelihood. … right?
But let me tell you from my own experience that this fear is completely irrational. In fact, it is an assumption that is just plain wrong.
When your students grow, through your instruction and guidance, into practitioners of yoga who have the knowledge, wisdom and experience to practice yoga on their own, they will NOT disappear! In fact, they will become even more dedicated to you because you have proven to them that you are indeed a GREAT teacher.
… and what does that also mean?
It means that they will keep sending new students your way!
Swami Gitananda used to tell people that his aim was not to create perpetual students, but to create eventual yogis! And he did! Yet as he sent knowledgeable, confident yogis, one after the other back out into the world, he continued to have an endless flood of new students. … Tens of thousands of them!
But what if you’re not a Great Guru, or even a really good teacher for that matter … at least not yet anyway?
Then teach what you can, as best as you can, to students who can benefit from your current level of knowledge and experience.
Above all else, keep studying hard, practicing and growing! Your students don’t need you to be an enlightened master. But if they see you living what you are teaching, and if they see you growing and transforming as time goes by, then they will continue to follow you, and they will encourage other to follow you too!
Unfortunately, most teachers do not approach their yoga classes from this perspective. In fact, most yoga teachers have been trained to run classes which are not geared towards teaching their students how to practice yoga on their own at all.
But they should! Learning how to help your students “learn to practice yoga” is an essential skill that a good yoga teacher must have. Do you want to have students who think that you are an amazing yoga teacher? Do you want to have students who recommend you to others time and time again?
Then help them to gain the knowledge, the ability, the confidence and the experience to properly practice yoga, on their own. Help them to NOT NEED YOU anymore.
If you do, then they’ll be more dedicated to you than ever before!