The Secret of Great Teachers. ~ Peg Mulqueen

Via Peg Mulqueen
on Dec 4, 2012
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During my practice this morning, my teacher came to me in parighasana and shared with me a little trick, I mean technique, for getting a little deeper into the posture.

And, wouldn’t you know it, it worked like a charm.

I wondered from which brilliant teacher she had learned it. Had Kino put out a new Youtube video I somehow missed? Was it David Keil, the guru of all things anatomy? She said, no, it wasn’t either of them.

She learned it the other day . . . in practice.

Turns out, she’s not a big fan of this posture. However, she discovered if she did this little something-something in her own morning routine, it helped her find a more joyful opening.

And so, she did the thing good teachers do—she shared what she learned with me.

Which brings me to the real reason I’m writing. Last week The Confluence Countdown wrote a great blog on what makes a good yoga teacher. And I agreed with nearly every point they made, including that a piece of paper alone simply doesn’t cut it.

But what really struck me was the one component that wove all the other qualities together: practice.

Because good teachers are always students first.

If you haven’t done the exploration in your own body, it is going to be harder to lead someone through their own exploration in their own body. – David Keil

Good teachers practice what they teach—not while they teach, (a serious pet peeve of mine). And I’ll even go a step further and say, good teachers don’t teach what they don’t practice.

I’ve heard teachers argue that they’re such a bundle of knowledge they can actually teach things they don’t/can’t put into play. Really? Any parents out there raising toddlers or teenagers? I don’t know about you, but I’m particularly fond of parenting advice from those who have never lived with either. Especially, when the task at hand is no less difficult than putting a linebacker in kapotasana.

Despite their good intentions, although sometimes even these are questionable, they simply don’t know what they don’t know—and won’t, until they have the actual experience.

I know a local studio owner whose rule it is that to teach for her, you must practice their style in their studio. There was a time I thought she was awful closed minded. I mean, what’s the difference really? It’s all yoga, after all.

Perhaps this is the reason, five years later, she owns a string of successful yoga studios and I just teach a few classes.

But now, you see, I know she’s right. Especially as I watch the number of  Ashtanga classes taught by those who love the name only breed quicker than rabbits mixed in with those taught by fundamentalists who don’t know the first thing about compassion.

The simple fact is, you can call what you’re teaching anything you want. You can wear the right clothes and be the best-looking person on the planet with the ability to stand on one hand. You can even proudly display a certificate and boast yourself an expert, and still be an a$$hole.

There is only one place you will develop in time all of the teaching traits my friends at the Confluence listed, including experience, knowledge, enthusiasm, compassion and the ability to truly understand and explain.

And it’s not in a weekend workshop, a month in Mysore or even a 200-hour training.

Because even good, what to speak of great, teaching isn’t learned—it’s earned . . . earned through your own toil and trouble and your own sweat and tears. And you don’t become great by becoming elite, but rather in remaining humble.

The only one way you earn it all is by remaining a forever student both on your mat, and most especially, in your life.

Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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About Peg Mulqueen

With a gentle warmth and contagious sense of humor, Peggy shares her passion of life and love with all those she meets. She was a counselor for many years before stumbling upon one of the oldest forms of healing therapies: yoga. Since then, she has been helping others lead lives of change and renewal, exploration and—all from a yoga mat. When not on her mat, Peggy (her husband and two children close at hand) can be found on a surf board in Maui—learning to fall off gracefully and get back up, or suspended 500 feet in the air on a zip line over a Costa Rican jungle—conquering her fear of heights, or searching for the perfect cast, fly fishing in the wilder places of Montana. You can follow her adventures in yoga on her blog here.


14 Responses to “The Secret of Great Teachers. ~ Peg Mulqueen”

  1. athayoganusasanam says:

    preach it, sister!
    full on agreement over here.
    loving your articles here on ej, peg! so refreshing to see this kind of honesty and authenticity.

  2. Truth says:

    For great teachers, someone needs to do an expose on Diamond Dallas Page. That guy works miracles.

  3. Ben_Ralston says:

    I basically agree with you Peggy, but one of the best classes I ever had was with Swami MahaDevananda in Kerala. He's way too fat to still be practicing…
    I think that actually the only things a truly great teacher needs (no matter what they're teaching) are: a deep understanding of the ESSENCE of what they're teaching – ie, they need to have been there and got it, but not necessarily still be going there; and a yearning to share it.

  4. Eric Brown says:

    Great post Peg! I couldn't agree more.

  5. jean marie says:

    Great! I think some teachers because they practiced well enough before becoming too old or injured or whatever to do something, still have the ability to teach it because it is so entrenched in their bodies already 🙂

  6. @pegmulqueen says:

    thank you frances! big love!!

  7. @pegmulqueen says:

    completely agree! in fact, i'd say the BEST teachers are those who have the lessons so much of their own essence that it is on such a deeper level, the physical need not be there at all.

  8. @pegmulqueen says:

    thanks eric!! 🙂

  9. @pegmulqueen says:

    yep! there is a time when the physical is no longer necessary and those teachers who come to that kind of deep understanding and knowledge, well … they happen to be more than great!

  10. Jen says:

    You might be interested in the work of Matthew Sanford. He's been paralyzed from the waist down since childhood and he is an amazing yoga teacher. His inquiries into the nature of prana are astounding.

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