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6 Characteristics of a Great Yoga Teacher

Teaching Yoga | Yoga

Yoga teachers have an incredible influence on a yoga practice. For every style of yoga, each teacher adds his or her personal touch and flair, making each class unique.  Because of these differences, some yoga teachers will affect you more than others. Think about it: what characteristics does your favorite yoga teacher have? What gives them their greatness?

The definition of a “great” teacher will inevitably vary among students, but certain qualities are always winners. The teachers the stand out above the rest possess these basic qualities.

1. Keeping it Personable

Yoga teachers who are warm and friendly help to break down any anxiety a student may have about starting yoga or attending a class for the first time. A teacher who is genuine, kind, and willing to discuss yoga in ways that make sense to you is a key characteristic of a great teacher.

2. Being Flexible, In More Ways Than One

You may think that yoga teachers need exceptional physical flexibility to be great at what they do, but this isn’t necessarily true. While physical flexibility can be an asset when showing how to perform a pose, a yoga teacher needs to be mentally flexible as well.

This flexibility can be used to adapt the practice to the needs of the students and the overall class, adapting poses and verbal cues to the level in the class. A great yoga teacher also needs flexibility in how they understand movement, adapting a yoga practice to the needs of the students.

3. Maintaining an Open Mind

Every student is different, and teachers with an open mind can help accept the differences of other students and adjust the yoga practice accordingly. Keeping an open mind allows you to remain understanding, flexible, and alert to particular students’ needs.

4. Being Knowledgeable, But Willing to Learn

Currently, there is no one system to assess the qualifications of a yoga teacher. There may be multiple hours stacked behind their names, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to being a great teacher.

Like all instructors, yoga teachers need to have knowledge about the practice they are teaching, and be willing to improve existing knowledge and skills. Yoga covers a wide scope of topics, ranging from philosophy to breathing techniques to anatomy, and teachers should have a good knowledge of this or be honest when they don’t.

5. Cueing Clearly and Effectively

The ability to clearly communicate information is key for students to understand what is happening. This is particularly important in yoga, as students need to be in control of their physical movements. Using cues that make sense to students, including visualizations, or simply stating how to enter, hold, and exit a pose, is vital to a beneficial and safe yoga practice.

6. Promoting Self-Care and Carrying Positive Vibes

Every interaction we have with people is an exchange of energy. A yoga teacher that is able to provide a positive energy to students is helping to create a more comfortable and feel-good atmosphere. This may, in turn, carry over into the students’ practice, including how they feel during it and the benefits they take away once the practice is down.

One of the best ways for a teacher to stay positive is to take care of themselves so they can provide the energy needed for a transformative practice.

At the end of the day, yoga teachers are people full of fabulous flaws, success, failure, insecurities, and exceptional qualities. Like any form of teaching, yoga teachers are required to study, practice, and figure out the best way to communicate information to their students. While all yoga teachers have something to offer, certain characteristics are a great platform to build from. What qualities do you appreciate in a yoga teacher?

Image credit: Drinie Aguilar


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