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Reality Check: 14 Things Yoga Teachers Should Keep In Mind

by Greg OrmsonApril 5, 2014


Yoga Teachers Aren’t All That

I’m only a yoga newbie.

You can teach me a great deal, but I also have a few thoughts for you: For quite a while now, I’ve thought about what myself and other students wanted to tell you. Are you ready? Here it is:

  1. We like you, but we probably don’t love you, so get over your god/goddess complex.

  2. You say you want us to be injury free and that’s good; but then stop pushing so hard. We’re doing the best we can, and you know what … maybe we do have an injury.  We just don’t tell you everything.

  3. We can tell when you’re not into it. That’s ok though, sometimes on our jobs, we’re not into it either. Teaching yoga isn’t about perfection – remember – that’s what you tell us.

  4. Leave your issues at home. We pay for your service, so always be present. Draw a line in front of the door at your studio. When you cross that line, leave your issues behind.

  5. Learn what good classroom teachers know: make public correction without fostering embarrassment. That is a fine and discriminating public art, and it takes master teachers many years to develop such nuanced communication skills. Do you want to be a master teacher, the sage on the stage?

  6. It’s about the student … it’s about the student.  It’s about the student.  This must stick in your head.  And if it does, you will never be nervous in front of us because you know it’s not about you … it’s about the student.

  7. You are good at yoga, and that is why you are a teacher. You have some natural gifts physically and you are smart enough to link your intellectual and communication skills to confidence that allows you to take the stage. Keep in mind though, that many of your students do not have these same natural gifts.

  8. A person with physical and intellectual gifts can stand up and teach anything, but that does not mean they are emotionally ready for the challenge of teaching. We can see your emotional strength … seriously, we can.

  9. Read up on teaching techniques. Beyond your subject area (yoga) there’s a lot to learn about teaching. When was the last time you were in a classroom, or a student’s role?

  10. Never question or rate your students’ motivation. They are motivated; otherwise they would not be in your class. Your student’s motivation is not your issue.

  11. You’ve not “arrived.” Keep reading and learning. Be ready to suggest resources to us when we ask. If you know your students – which I hope you do – you will suggest an appropriate introductory text for a novice and something more philosophical or integrative for the regular devotee.

  12. Keep encouraging and affirming. It’s worth knowing that your affirmation may be the only encouragement your student hears.

  13. Sometimes you say powerful things, and in those moments, we are grateful. We are grateful for all you do as a yoga teacher: You love yoga; you give of yourself and share your gifts. You play a vital leadership role in our lives. You may even be the catalyst for great and lasting change.

  14. Some days we love you, but we probably don’t like you. That’s ok; you probably feel the same way about us.

So teacher, thank you for all of this. I hope you never treat your role in a cavalier manner. What you’re doing is important … you are part of a tall tree with deep roots, so stand in good relation to your craft, yourself and your students.

Greg Ormson
Greg Ormson
Gregory Ormson is the motorcycling yogi; he does hot yoga in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and rides Wildfire - his Harley-Davidson - 365 days a year. He earned a D. Min from the Chicago Theological Seminary and an MA in English from Northern Michigan University. He also writes for and HOG magazine
  • Flair Code

    I second this… I just brought a friend to my studio and it was my first time with the teacher, as well. She was almost condescending and pushy, it really ruined the whole zen of it. Awesome write-up!

  • Rachel

    Sounds pretty negative for a blog that promoting yoga, mindfulness etc etc.

  • Anna

    To be honest, in the 10 years I practice yoga I never met a teacher with such attributes. None of my teachers was pushy or have this “god/goddess” syndrome thankfully.
    The only thing that I don’t like is that some teachers don’t accept the fact that you can’t do a pose (I have an issue with handstands for example). They tell you that you don’t try much!

  • Tina

    I will NEVER go back to the gym. That is where I’d found decent, user-friendly, doable yoga–characterized by being mild, forgiving, and self-mortification-free. At this writing (and yes, I am an older woman, given the average age of public, commercialized yoga practitioners THESE days–but I’d come from the stiffie haven of step aerobics, which had caused my orthopedic problems!)

    Because of this, I had found a teacher – finally – with the requisite amount of humility (for ME- YMMV, always!) plus respect for their elders (not born in this country, SO WHAT?), after having toggled through yoga-mostly studios with teachers of all ages.

    Like that which is taught at the gym, though, it is yoga fusion. Not so coincidentally, I LOVE yoga fusion be it with pilates, calisthenics, modern dance or Feldenkrais.

    That is my solution, for what it’s worth.

    P.S. I am a primarily home yoga practitioner, if that makes a difference to you.

  • Tina

    … uh, and the gym yoga teachers may know a liiiitle bit more about how to treat a non-young, not-so-flexible body …

  • x

    #8 requires a typo correction on “hat” -> should read “that”

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