4 New Year’s Resolutions for Yoga Teachers. ~ Victoria McColm

Via elephant journal
on Dec 17, 2012
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Photo: Lululemon Athletica

Photo: Lululemon Athletica

January is the busiest time of year for yoga teachers. Here are four New Year’s resolutions that will help you get there, and then get through.

You are about to be confronted with a lot of new faces. I’m talking beginner yoga students, here. En masse.

January is the busiest time of year for yoga studios and gyms. People everywhere want to be healthier, more connected, less stressed, more fulfilled, answer life’s existential questions, get slimmer, get stronger, get calmer, live longer, whatever. Everyone is resolving to attend your yoga class, every day for the next year (well…maybe once a week, or maybe, just once) because you, Yoga Teacher, are the one person who can solve all of their problems. Oh, and if you could solve them January 2nd by five o’clock, that’d be greeaaaat.

Deep inhale, hold it, now exhale forcefully out of your mouth.

I’m kind of joking, but also kind of serious. January is crunch time. The big question is: Are you ready? Here are four New Year’s resolutions for karma cleansing that will help you get there, and then get through.

Repeat after me: In the coming year, I will:

1.) Be authentic.

Every yoga student has a different reason for coming to yoga, and so does every teacher. Take a morning between now and New Year’s Eve to mediate on your journey. What attracted you to yoga in the first place? What has kept you on your path? What are the benefits that you have personally experienced? If you’re at a studio that is uber-spiritual, and you are not, take a look around town for a new gig. Conversely, if you’re an eight-limber stuck in a gym that forbids Om, then find a new home. You will teach better yoga and form a stronger connection with your students when you are teaching from your truest self.

2.) Be accountable.

Is everything perfect? Is it? Really? Cause I’m calling bullshit. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all slip up. Sometimes we’re lazy. Sometimes we get caught up in our perceived calling to improve lives. (Ego, anyone?) Sometimes we blow off a student who has a ton of questions because they annoy us. (Patience, anyone?) Sit down with your sutras and review your yamas and niyamas, and then make a commitment to be accountable in 2013. If not for yourself, then do it for your students, who are spending their hard earned money to keep you in business because they believe you have something to offer them that they can’t get anywhere else.

3.) Be compassionate.

My new teaching mantra is: “Guide the journey, don’t chart the path.” How many of us have criticized a student for her lifestyle choices? Maybe he hasn’t gone full raw vegan yet? Maybe she is still afraid to try headstand? Maybe you didn’t scream at him or call her an idiot, but even a casual, “Oh, you still eat meat?” or “Come on, headstand is really easy. Here let me show you!” can leave a new student feeling unworthy. Everyone approaches yoga at his or her own pace. As a teacher, you are the guide, so lead by example. Seekers are vulnerable. A responsible teacher carves out a safe space and detaches from her students, acknowledging she can’t control them, only guide them. An irresponsible teacher exploits and feeds on that vulnerability to bolster her own ego and build her throne.

4.) Be prepared

When’s the last time you taught a beginner’s class or had a majority of beginners in your all levels class? If it’s been a while, then take some time to prepare yourself for the task of service. Review your lesson plans and sequences to make sure that they’re beginner friendly. Refresh your memory on contraindications and common medical conditions, cause you’ll likely be hearing about a lot of them. Suggest that your studio switch the schedule up a bit to accommodate beginners if that hasn’t been done already. Mentally prepare for the task of teaching beginner students. Take it seriously. New students are a blessing.

Got any more resolutions for yoga teachers? Tell us about them below.

Victoria McColm


Victoria McColm is the author of “The Contraindication Index for Yoga Asanas” and manages the website Prevent Yoga Injury. Prevent Yoga Injury was launched in fall 2012 as a one-stop-shop for reliable information on yoga safety. She is also developing Yoga Business Resources – a site dedicated to helping yoga teachers and studios diversify their revenue streams – launching in January. Connect with Victoria on Twitter and Facebook.



~ Ed: Kate Konieczny

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16 Responses to “4 New Year’s Resolutions for Yoga Teachers. ~ Victoria McColm”

  1. judith says:

    Thanks, Victoria for you article. #3 reall resonated with me. Have a happy new year!

  2. Lara says:

    These are such valuable recommendations! It's so easy as a yoga instructor to lose focus and forget why you're teaching and WHO you are teaching. Even though I always aim to ignore my own expectations of my students or my classes, sometimes I walk in expecting my regular students and expecting it to be super awesome! And then smack in the front row is a brand-new-this-is-my-second-yoga-class-ever student who totally throws off my groove. These scenarios always remind me to leave any expectations at the door and cater to the people who were gracious enough to rely on me for their yoga fix. So one of my resolutions this year will be to continue striving to lose expectations and play with the cards (and students) that I'm handed.

  3. aloha says:

    I think if teachers don't have a spiritual practice that is alignment with the 8 limbs of yoga, they should then refrain from calling themselves yoga teachers. But rather call themselves an asana teachers. There needs to be a distinction.

  4. Thanks Judith! Meeting new students at their level can be such a challenge! All the best for your new year!

  5. Lara – you are so right on! I love how you referred to it as "my groove." Who's class is it anyway? Keeping the needs of the students in perspective is so important. Great addition to the resolutions list! Thx for your comments!

  6. Thanks Judith! Meeting new students at their level can be such a challenge! All the best for your new year!

  7. Aloha, that is an interesting perspective. How do you feel about students who aren't quite ready to take the 8Limb leap yet, and maybe still view asana as just "exercise?" So many people are attracted to the physical practice, and that's what eventually opens them up to the rest of it. Sometimes, it just takes time.

  8. Ambroyogini says:

    Thanks for the lovely reminder! As we all "shake off" the residue of 2012 and prep for 2013 we instructors need to keep these points close to our hearts always – as a container of sorts for our presence to reside. I will definitely provide this list to my teachers-in-training (and will site you, as well) because these ideals are especially important when one is just starting out!

    Thanks again! Wishing you Peace – Wishing All Peace!

  9. David Bruce says:

    Love this and love #3 as well! These are great resolutions for anyone to contemplate.

  10. Yes, yes, and yes! Love it Victoria!

    All yoga teachers should read this one and give it some serious thought.

    Love and blessings,


  11. @SaferYoga says:

    #3 Seems to be resonating with many David. 😉 It can be one of the most difficult, but I think might be the most important. All the best for your holidays!

  12. @SaferYoga says:

    Thank you so much Chris! I hope all teachers can find the time to sit with themselves for a bit this holiday season. Thanks for sharing!
    Love, light & gratitude ~Vic

  13. Ardha Chandra says:

    What a lovely, grounded list. I started my yoga journey in the '70s, when "purity" had a larger presence in the yoga world than it does now. I felt totally unworthy to practice. And talked to my Indian Swami teacher about it. His advice was, "oh, don't worry about it, just pay attention." Meaning attention to the impulses that gave rise to the habits that made me feel unworthy and the results they brought . . . And some 35 years later, the advice remains helpful. When pride (or shame) rears its head, in all its subtle little gestures . . . attention, attention, attention

  14. Sara H. S. says:

    I'm a total newbie teacher, and I thank you for this offering. I'm going to print it out and put it in my "teaching inspiration" binder. Blessings in the new year!

  15. Ashlee says:

    I love this. Thank you!

  16. kate says:

    thank you for sharing this article – it's such a great reminder for all of us!