How To Be a Good Yoga Teacher

To be a yoga teacher is to intensify your spiritual growth, your emotional growth, your intellectual growth and your capacity to act. Even though you will teach others, the real process that is happening, is that teaching intensifies your spiritual life, your practice, and your growth. It deepens your understanding and it naturally provides challenging opportunities.

I wanted to share a particular idea in Kashmir Shaivism which is crucial to becoming a good teacher.

Shaivism talks about spanda, the vibration of inner energy. Swami Muktananda says:

“A person cannot do work merely because he or she wants to do it. To do work in the way we want, we need the help of the senses. But, there is another force which motivates the senses and gives them the power to work. This conscious force in its introverted aspect is called the spanda principle.”

He defines spanda as “the inspiration coming from contact with the strength of the Self. Spanda enables the senses to carry out their work.”

This ‘work’ in the highest sense, is to assist the mind in telling the difference between right and wrong; whether to say yes or no; what is true and what is false; what is good for us and what is not; what is the right decision and what is not. What takes us toward the Self and what takes us away from it.

Spanda is a current of energy that pulsates within us.

It is a potential that springs into manifestation the minute we have a desire or fear, the second we want to act, speak or do.

Spanda is our deepest potential. It is our creative impulse. It appears in the space between the in-breath and out-breath; it is the space between two thoughts as one arises and another subsides, and the space between one feeling or thought and another.

We can recognize and enhance the principle of creativity and inspiration by being aware that it is a real and powerful force that is present within us all of the time. It shows up as an experience of the Self when we are at peace, but is hidden from us when we are in a state of separation or contraction. It presents itself as an upward shift of positive energy, or a downward shift of contraction.

  • It shows up as a yes or no current.
  • It can be creativity and inspiration, or it can be obstruction and block.
  • It vibrates likes and dislikes.
  • It manifests as both fear and desire.

To know when to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is crucial to becoming a good teacher.

The ability to know the difference moves us toward the feeling of aliveness and connection. Or, when we deny contraction or lack of Spanda, we find ourselves in uncertainty and fear.

This inner divine spark is in constant readiness to ignite and connect us to our being. It points the way to strength and wisdom both in our inner life and our outer life.

We can understand it two ways, either by experiencing it, or by recognizing it.

  • It exists in both thought and feeling.
  • Actions or decisions based on ignorance lead to suffering. They do not bear the fruit we wish.
  • When we contemplate the inner vibration, then the world of duality causes us no trouble or pain.

So, do not look at others, or compare yourself to others, or find fault with others. Always focus on your own Self. When something contaminates your sense of Self, then you cannot function properly: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually or creatively. When that happens take some time to yourself, or seek counsel.

Apply the awareness of spanda when teaching yoga. Brilliant teachers know:

  • Not to attempt postures or poses that you are not certain you understand and know well.
  • That teaching yoga can help students grow spiritually.
  • To be a teacher is to be of service.
  • To approach teaching with humility.
  • How to be generous and willing to share what they know.
  • To acknowledge where they learned yoga what they truly know.
  • To respect their fellow teachers.
  • That to serve is to stay connected to the lineage of teachers.
  • How to transmit the actual experience and essence of yoga.
  • Not to be too ambitious.
  • To allow organic growth that comes naturally.

Teaching yoga is much more about serving people, uplifting people and facilitating transformation, rather than giving useful information, or helping people stay fit and healthy, or becoming flexible.

Yoga shows people how to relax and move towards calm states of mind. It provides techniques they can use to stay centered. It can be the first step to learning how to turn their attention inward and meditate. They can create an environment in which students can contact the Self. They can provide a refuge from stress.

Some tips on how to be a good teacher: 

  • Get centred before you begin. Then help your students get centred.
  • Have your class structure and asanas you want to do ready.
  • Do not do asanas you don’t like; go with your strength.
  • Teach from your comfort zone until you feel confident to push the envelope.
  • Being scared is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes.
  • When you don’t know the answer to a question, then say so and tell them you will answer next time.
  • If someone is giving you trouble, ask to speak to them after class.
  • Do not get into arguments in front of your students.
  • Try not to speak to quickly.
  • Remember to breathe.

When we become a yoga teacher, we enter a lineage of yogis that is centuries old. We join the family of yogis. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of that tradition. By teaching with humility, we do the great beings of yoga justice.