The Practice of Teaching Yoga

As yoga students we’re committed to the process and concept of practicing. Even though we may slip here and there, we remember that we aren’t competing with anyone—including ourselves—when we’re on our mat. We remember that our practice is not the preparation for a scored event and we’re not on a timeline to develop postures or gain particular insights.

And, yet, we’re committed to the spirit of practice and this means that we’re not simply resting on our laurels or going through motions. As practitioners, we’re honing our focus, deepening our self-awareness and developing our experience of embodiment. We’re repeating postures, sequences and elements of the spiritual practice in order to refine our skills. We’re also exploring our edge so that we discover what’s beyond our comfort zone.

As yoga teachers it’s essential that we see ourselves in the same light: as teachers practicing the art of teaching. Too often, we’re overly critical of ability to convey information and inspire students. We ask our students not to be competitive or judgmental in our practice, but our inner-monologue about our own “performance” is often extremely harsh. As educators, we have to remember that we will always be honing our craft—which means we’re not always perfect and expecting as much creates unnecessary tension that causes more harm than good. We’ll continue to refine our awareness in key areas like anatomy, sequencing, manual adjustments, verbal cueing, and so on. We’ll continue to practice witnessing our students clearly and unconditionally. And, we’ll continue to develop our voice and clarify our sense of purpose—and, we’ll allow both to naturally change over time.

As teachers, we should hold ourselves to an extremely high standard, while, at the same time, remembering that just like our students are practicing down-dog, we’re practicing the many, many layers of teaching during our classes. Even more, we need to make inner-room and allowances for the countless mistakes that we’ll inevitably make as we teach our classes—after all, we need to make mistakes and have confusion in order to grow.

In my trainings, I encourage trainees to be proactive about the practice of teaching by listing several skills that they are currently developing. I hear teachers talk about what postures they’re working on—or see pictures and video clips—but I rarely hear what aspects of teaching and knowledge development teachers are currently working on. In order to be transparent and encourage everyone to do the same, I’ll end with my list of skills that I’m currently focused on deepening in my practice of teaching yoga. I’d love to hear what you’re working on.

  • Seeing my students’ shoulders with more clarity and accuracy.
  • Experimenting with sequencing structures that are unconventional for me.
  • Trusting that I can give less instruction from time to time and allow greater quietness.
  • Continuing to give simple, clear, accessible instructions without diluting the content.
  • Maintaining a steady tempo for longer durations in class.
  • Using my students names and giving personalized instruction in the middle of large classes.
  • Learning the names of new students more quickly.

Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.

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