A while back, The Global Yogi interviewed me to ask how I found my way on the path to teaching yoga internationally.
Are you ready to begin your path as a global yogi – teaching yoga internationally – but don’t know where to start? Check out our new online course, How to Make a Fabulous Living Teaching, Traveling (and Saving) the World. Click here for details and to register.
Classes start 14 July 2014!
So, you’ve done your teacher training. You learned how to lead a good yoga class. But what is the difference between leading a yoga class and inspiring your students? Take the quiz below to find out if you have what it takes to be a great yoga teacher.
1. Do you have a dedicated committed daily SELF-PRACTICE?
Taking classes is not the same as having your own practice. When you show up for yourself, whether or not anyone else is watching, your practice develops depth. People can see this. Great teachers have enough understanding of the tools of yoga to create and maintain their own practice that supports them through life’s ups and downs.
2. Do you have a great teacher?
It’s so important to have someone you can go to when you need guidance. You’ve learned the foundations of yoga practice with a wise and compassionate teacher who has devoted years to the practice, someone who has been there before you.
3. Do you have a meditation practice?
The Yoga Sutra names one asana, which is the most important one—that of sitting for meditation. Speaking of which…
4. Have you studied (or at least read) the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?
And perhaps the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Shiva Samhita, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads)
Practice is important. So is study.
5. Have you addressed your own psychological garbage?
I cannot stress this enough. Obviously you don’t have to wait until you are completely neurosis-free (good luck with that!) but PLEASE, don’t burden your students or fellow teachers with unfinished psychological business. You are responsible for your own state of mind, but in this situation, as a yoga teacher, you are also responsible for guiding, protecting and expanding the state of mind of your student as well. It’s a big responsibility. Please take care.
6. Do you have healthy boundaries?
Do I need to say this? Please recognize the power differential and the position you hold as a yoga teacher. Don’t make a habit of sleeping with your students, and understand the difference between a student and a friend.
7. Can you accept where your students are?
Allowing is the first step to working with any habitual pattern. Can you have “bad” students without trying to change them? If you as a teacher cannot accept a student’s weakness, how do you expect them to? It’s about the student, not you.
8. Are you still (and always) a student?
If you always continue to be a student, you will retain what Suzuki Roshi called, Beginner’s Mind. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.” Keep evolving through regular intensive practice and study, retreats and continuing education.
9. Do you live what you teach?
Practice what you preach, not because it’s expected of you, or out of a sense of duty, but out of joy from experiencing the fruits of practice.
10. Do you share from your heart?
Trust your inner wisdom and experience to guide you.
11. Are you able to say “I don’t know?”
My first teacher Richard Freeman gave me great advice when I first started teaching. He said, “Teach from your heart and teach only what you know.” Words of wisdom that I still follow.
12. Can you accept other teachers and traditions?
Please don’t badmouth other styles of yoga, or other teachers; it’s just not good practice. We are all making our own way through this treacherous terrain called life, doing the best we can. If you have found a spiritual path that helps you, that is wonderful. Please respect my path as being valid, for me.
13. Can you laugh at yourself?
This may be the most important qualification to be a great teacher. Relax and enjoy! You’ve discovered a practice that you love enough to teach, and you get to help people at the same time! Lucky you! If you make a mistake, use it as material to prove to your students how yoga can make you a flexible, compassionate and wise human being.
In March of this year, I went to Sarnath, India, where Shakyamuni Buddha gave teachings for the very first time. While I was there I had the incredible good fortune to have a private meeting with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. My meeting was limited to 3 minutes, so I had time for one question and one photo. In answer to my question, he essentially reminded me that the best way to use this precious human birth is to practice taming the mind through meditation, and to use that training to develop compassion for all sentient beings.
Just finished our 3rd annual Contemplative Practice and Wellness Retreat in Phuket, and the incomparable Amanpuri Resort. We hosted a small group of graduate level psychology students in a training designed to share mindfulness practice for practical application in the clinical setting.
It was a fabulous reminder that being a pilgrim, learning to train the mind and body to be present does NOT have to mean self-denial through ascetic practices.
Though we did practice yoga and meditation each day, and discussed ways to inspire compassion to arise in our hearts, we also ate fantastic Thai food, discovered the beautiful beaches Thailand is famous for.
We will repeat this program again in October 2014, so if you are interested to join send me a message in the form below, or click here for more information.
Sometimes it’s good to look at things from a different perspective…
One thing I love about Cambodia is its incredibly rich spiritual heritage. It’s one of the few places where you can get a felt sense of how the Hindu and Buddhist traditions mixed, merged and eventually diverged. Outside of Nepal, I have not come across another culture that has such a vast treasure of the intertwining of these rich heritages.
I spent a day recently at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, enjoying the cultural offerings.
A few quiet days on under a shady umbrella…nothing fancy. Just what a pilgrim needs to refresh her batteries.
When she learned that I also teach, she said, “Oh, where did you do your teacher training?”
My mind went blank for a moment (which was a blessing in itself). It was such a bizarre way for me to think of my journey of practicing yoga. I suppose I had been training to be a teacher since my first class 22 years ago, and I have indeed received numerous “certificates” that show in black-and-white that I am qualified to share the practice with others.
But this young woman seemed to have a very different idea of “teacher training.” To her, it evoked images of a program designed to share a skill-set, culminating with a letter of authorization. To me, it represents years of pilgrimage and practice spanning nearly half of my life.
People are often surprised to hear my reply when they ask me if I have recommendations on yoga teacher training courses.