10 Tips for Becoming Your Own Teacher.

Via Alanna Kaivalya
on Nov 8, 2012
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“None can teach you. None can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.” ~ Swami Vivekananda

Whether it’s because we miss our favorite yoga class, live in a remote area, or simply want to take matters into our own hands, here are the top tips for becoming your own guru.

1. Develop consistency.

Come hell or high water, learn to do your practice as regularly as you brush your teeth. A great recommendation is to keep it short, simple and doable. Even seven minutes a day can change (or save!) your life.

2. Find your path.

Figure out what inspires you and follow it. Maybe it’s a style of physical practice, maybe it’s the inspirational words of a particular teacher, or maybe it’s the meditative practice of loving-kindness. When you find it, stick to it, just as a thirsty man would stay by the well that most nourishes his thirst.

3. Streamline your spirituality.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you. Everything under the sun is okay, but if we are to determine the right path for us, we need to be very discerning as to what we bring in to our personal practices that really feeds our soul. This isn’t a judgment on other practices: just because we are for something that works for us, doesn’t mean we’re against something that works for someone else.

4. Have patience.

No one enjoys this one. In an age where instant gratification is constantly sought, the idea of something just simply taking a long time can be tough to swallow. Remember the lesson of mastery. Malcolm Gladwell states that for anything to be mastered, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice. Remember the tortoise, because slow and steady is how this spiritual path is trodden.

5. Let go of gear.

You don’t really need much to be happy on the path. Maybe a meditation cushion. Maybe a yoga mat. Maybe not even those things. Let nothing get in the way of your practice. If your yoga pants don’t fit just right and your hotel room floor is a little slippery, instead of getting discouraged, go for it. You may learn that the “slip and slide” version of downward dog teaches you a lot.

6. Sing.

Or chant. I’m serious. Make sound a part of your practice. You can take it anywhere. It’s easy to do under any conditions and requires no space or extra props. Start with simply chanting a few Om’s under your breath even if it’s difficult to say out loud. The power of sound is undeniable and documented. Music uplifts us. Chant a mantra or sing your favorite song in the show, but make it part of your practice and let it work it’s wonders.

7. Form a team.

We all know that we do things if the people we love are counting on us to do them. Find some folks you love that love and respect your practice. They know you’re a better person when you do it. And, while they won’t become the nagging force that makes us ashamed of not doing the practice, they will become the inspiring force that moves us to our mat daily. How? You don’t have to tell them about it, just do the practice for them.

8. Keep it secret.

These practices have been secret for a long time. It’s nobody’s business how enlightened you got today. As Shri Brahmananda Saraswati would say, “Mind, your own business.” As in, your mind is your own business. So what you saw god this morning? Are you seeing god now? Spiritual experiences happen for people all the time. By keeping it to ourselves, it retains more power and propels us forward. It also helps to keep us calm and collected members of society where we can continue to do the best work.

9. Stay normal.

One of my favorite teachings is “Don’t get weird.” It’s totally cool to continue to be yourself and stay engaged in your world and surroundings even as you advance on your spiritual path. In fact, it’ll probably get a lot easier to do so.

10. When in doubt, love harder.

It’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes, getting to the mat or cushion will seem harder than climbing Everest. Fine. Forgive yourself. Let it go, and instead of letting the guilt creep in or the self-doubt increase, just love yourself. Let that be your practice.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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About Alanna Kaivalya

Alanna Kaivalya is an artistic and inspiring teacher of yoga. Born with a hearing impairment, Alanna learned through the power of vibration at a young age, and was then naturally drawn to the harmonic practice of yoga. Listed as Yoga Journal’s top 21 Yoga Teachers Under 40 (March, 2008), and now with more than a decade of teaching experience, she has developed a teaching style that is a unique combination of her spirit, her knowledge, and of course the teachers who have influenced her along the path. She has a mission: to convey a sense of joy and freedom through harmony and synchronicity, which she does beautifully through her classes, workshops, writing and music. Alanna is known for her ability to translate the ancient practice of yoga into a modern day context. For more information visit Alanna's website or connect with Alanna on Facebook and Twitter.


20 Responses to “10 Tips for Becoming Your Own Teacher.”

  1. goldenheart555 says:

    This is great. Thanks.

  2. Mariucc says:

    The picture makes me think of being thin and fit;, don't we focus on that enough through the mainstream culture? GREAT article!!!!

  3. Vision_Quest2 says:

    2, 4, 8, 9 and 10 work for me with yoga.

    I do not take live yoga classes any more.

    My current pilates teachers know a lot about yoga, and I take a class about once in 10 days–guides and aligns my self-practice.
    I guess, whatever works, is (or should be) valid.

  4. AlannaK says:

    Ha! Mariucc – great comment. Truth be told, I didn't choose the pic, and can assure you MY body does not look like that. 🙂 And, I firmly believe this practice can be done by any BODY.


  5. Joe Sparks says:

    Love all 10 tips.Thank you! If you are doing yoga everyday, you are having a pretty good life! It is really important to notice reality. We need to learn how to appreciate ourselves and our lives. All the other stuff is stuff.

  6. Matt says:

    Excellent Alanna. I can tell this comes from a very genuine place. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Alison Colyer says:

    I LOVE this. Thank you so much.

  8. mark says:

    When I first started a yoga practice, my instructor encouraged loud sighing after particular poses or just when it felt right. And she ended classes with chanting Oms. She never forced, but invited us to share our voices or simply take in sound. How strange I thought. Big loud sighs and then Oms? Why would I want to do those things? I'm there for the poses and breathing. But over the weeks and months I found myself joining in and now sigh loudly without thinking and look forward to the end of class Oms.

    Great post! Thanks for providing an opportunity to reflect upon my practice.

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  10. Angel says:

    Working on #7 right now. Awesome advice!

  11. greateacher says:


  12. happytreepose says:

    Love this, thank you!! Bookmarking now. Don't get weird & keep it secret are new ideas for me, but they make total sense. Fab. xx

  13. Kate Southward says:

    Inspiring article Alanna, thank you for sharing! I LOVE the 'don't get weird' tip and will be using in my yoga classes. Hilarious. Also key advice from my Mum as I went off to start my yoga teacher training… Hahaha. I was in a master class in Sydney last weekend when the teacher taught us a few songs/mantras – it was great! Not sure how most main stream yogis in yoga classes would react, but I think this is something that should be included more in classes – beyond the OM! Love Kate xx

  14. […] 10 Tips for Becoming Your Own Teacher. […]

  15. John says:

    8 and 9: YES, a thousand times yes!

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