October 3, 2011

12 Tips for Teaching Yoga. ~ Angie Benton

Photo: Katie Spence

1.)   Don’t bring your own “stuff” to class.

Students can recognize when a teacher is not fully present. If you’ve got stresses in life, practice what you teach and leave them outside. Teaching yoga is in no way a means of therapy for you.

2.)   Don’t tell students what “not to think about.”

I’ve taken classes where the teacher would say, “Now, don’t think of how you have to go home and cook dinner or do chores.” Thanks for ruining my “yoga brain moment” of relaxation by putting those thoughts into my mind!

3.)   Don’t tell students stories about yourself during the practice, even if your intentions are to bring a positive message.

If you wish to share a personal story as a teaching, please do it before class begins, and make sure it carries a teaching with it. Again, class time is for the student. They don’t want to hear about your experiences when they are trying to tap into their own.

4.)   Don’t try to assist someone deeper into a posture when it is apparent that they are backing out because they need to.

Remember, they may be backing out of a pose not only because it is physically uncomfortable, but it may be bringing up some emotional discomfort, or they simply feel nauseous in this position. Allow them space to adapt their practice as they feel is best for themselves at that moment, as long as it is safe.

Photo: dejahthoris

5.)   Don’t become a teacher, or teach for your own benefit.

Let go of expectations to have a large class attendance, to be well-financially rewarded, to have your name known or to grow your business. If your teachings are genuine and allow students to grow, they will continue learning from you. Teach only because it fills your heart with joy to give others the tools to find peace in their lives through the practice. It’s their class. You do not “give” them yoga. They realize their own.

6.)   Don’t disregard styles of yoga that you have not been educated in.

Experience them all, but realize that just because someone “branded” their style of yoga, does not mean that “their” yoga is newish. Yoga has been around since arguably 3000 b.c. It is all yoga, regardless of what other name is attached to it. A particular style may feel good to you today, and something different may feel good to you tomorrow. There are no “superior” practices to be taking pride in.

7.)   Understand and teach that yoga is not just something you do.

Yoga is something that you feel, or a state of mind (connection between mind/body/spirit and awareness of interconnectedness of every living being). Asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing) are only two of the eight limbs of yoga. There is no goal, or end to a yoga practice. It is a constant practice of refining the mind. The body is simply an instrument (in asana) in guiding you to your Self.

Photo: Diamond Mountain

8.)   Do provide a new yogic teaching in each class.

Students should have something new to take home with them after each class. Maybe it is a new posture, a breathing technique, a new mantra or chant, a new hand mudra, a new meditation, intention, archetype, sutra, reading from a yoga text, etc.

9.)   Do teach by example.

There are firm ethical guidelines for yoga teachers, which apply to life in every situation, not just in the classroom. Some of these include refraining from behaviors such as, harmful language, the use of drugs/alcohol, “displaying” yoga postures in any setting that is not whole-heartedly intended to teach. It is an honor to have the ability to continue passing on the rich Yoga tradition.

10.) Do honor yoga’s roots in ancient India and even in Hinduism.

Anyone can practice yoga, regardless of religious beliefs. Yoga is not a religion, and most yogic teachings were born pre-religion. The root practice of yoga however was widely practiced by Hindus and even some of the asana names were named after Hindu gods. Hinduism and Buddhism are non-discriminatory, and both faiths teach that everyone’s chosen path (whatever faith you follow) is the right one. All religions intend to lead to the same realization and freedom. By teaching yoga, you are not teaching Hinduism, but remember not to neglect the heritage of the practice.

Photo: kristinmirabelle

11.) Do continue educating yourself about the wholesome practice of yoga.

The benefits are endless for both yourself and all who you contact directly or indirectly. Read books. Take more teacher trainings. It is not possible to master this practice in one lifetime, there is so much to learn and experience. Enrich your mind by teaching others how to enrich their own.

12.) Do the practice. Yes, I said it. Practice what you teach and teach what you practice.


Photo: Kevin Cole Photography

Angie Benton believes that we all have the power to discover peace by getting out of our own way and following our innate inner guidance. Her vibrant and free-spirited energy has led her to study yoga around North and Central America; now she teaches on the east coast. Through her yoga practice of nearly two decades, she leads you to realize that yoga is way deeper than asana (posture). When not formally teaching yoga and meditation, you’ll possibly find her with a book, dirt, paint, or food in her hands. She lives in Charlotte, N.C. with her hubby, and they are proudly owned by a snugly pug/Boston terrier. She also writes in her WP blog; visit her website and facebook page here.

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