9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow. ~ Rob Pollak.

Via Rob Pollak
on Jan 16, 2013
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Nine simple things that every yoga teacher should do to make class a little more awesome - by Rob Pollak

Nine simple things that every yoga teacher can do to make class a little bit more awesome.

Rule 1:  Pay Attention to me!

Most yoga teachers really like yoga and also happen to be very good at it. These traits, however, do not mean that I’m taking your class to watch you be awesome. If that’s what I was seeking, I’d flip on your youtube channel.  Please don’t forget the real, live, disgustingly sweaty people right there behind you. So, goddamnit, pay attention to us!

The best teachers strike a balance between showing off their mad skills and watching students struggle to get the little things right.  They use their strength and ability to demonstrate or highlight certain aspects of a pose rather than to show off a one-handed side crow headstand that they’ve been working on in their Super-level eight goddess class.

If I leave class thinking, “Wow, that teacher was sooo good at yoga,” then something went horribly wrong. I should walk by the treadmills on my way out of the gym thinking, “Wow, I am freaking awesome at yoga.  Suck it, runners!”

A Yoga drawing by rob pollak - 9 rules every yoga teacher should follow

Rule 2:  Introduce yourself to your students:

Loyal readers of mine will remember that I’m working on introducing myself. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce yourself to me first.

All it takes is a one second conversation in which the teacher comes over and says, “Hey, I’m [insert hippie name]. Have you done yoga before? Any questions? Namaste, bro.” Boom. Instant openness and camaraderie.

However, since we’re preaching mindfulness here, just remember to be mindful of your junk:

Rules every yoga teacher should follow - Rule 2 Introduce yourself.  Tips for yoga teachers by Rob Pollak

3.  Ignore Anything You Weren’t Supposed to See.

Look, things happen in yoga classes. Like the time I saw the entire left ball of the guy practicing next to me. Or how every time I jump from a standing fold into a push up, my shirt flies up a little bit, exposing the lower portion of my back (aka the upper portion of my ass). Look, I realize that the teacher is going to see everything that’s going on down there. Maybe he or she will even give it a once or twice over to size me up. Totally cool. There’s just no need to draw attention to the fact that I’ve got a little hair down there. Or that my love handles make twisting poses slightly more difficult.

How about we just agree to keep a few things between us?

In other words, maybe the moment my naked back and partially naked ass are exposed is not the best time for you to do that adjustment. You know the one. It’s when you grab my hips and pull them back or rest your hand on the sweaty small of my back and push with all your might. Yeah, save that for my first down dog. Just before the sweating starts.

I suspect we’ll both be happy with that agreement.

Tips for yoga teachers - Ignore anything you shouldn't see - a drawing by Rob Pollak

4.  If you’re gonna Om, Om loudly.

At first, I admittedly did not like chanting “om.” Now, I can tolerate it. Maybe sometimes it’s kind of nice. Oh whatever. You caught me. I like it. So what. This isn’t the place for judgment.

Listen up, teachers:  If you’re going to start with an Om, then do so with gusto-mmmm. Trust me, the class will follow your lead. But if you are timid and mousy with your om, then guess what? Your class will be quiet and timid and self-conscious when they holla’ back.

Also—and this is admittedly quite selfish of me—I’m 100 percent tone-deaf, so if you say it loud and say it proud, then I can join in without others noticing that I am the discordant MF’er ruining spiritual bliss.

Tips for yoga teachers - don't acknowledge tone deaf people during Om.  A drawing by Rob Pollak

5.  Remember my name and use it.

We’ve already agreed that introductions are key. Well, that’s the easy part. The hard part is remembering those names and then using them throughout class. A deftly timed “Nice job, Bikram,” or “Sweet crow, Baba,” or “Pull your hips back, Tara” really pulls those people into the class.

But surprisingly, even when the teacher refers to someone else by name, I find that I try harder.

I’m all, “I want that too.” “Hey look at me!” “Don’t you think my crow is good?” “I’m trying so hard over here, you guys!”

Even a “whoa, looking a little sweaty, Rob” wins me over.  Or, if you want to ignore rule three, I’ll even take an “I can see a little bit of your ass crack, Rob. Pull up your pants, you disgusting slob.”

Tips for yoga teachers - Remember my name and I'm yours forever - a drawing by Rob Pollak

6.  Go easy on the Rumi, okay?

Oh wow, you studied at an Ashram in India! And then you memorized all of Rumi’s quotes? You don’t say! That’s amazing!!! Sincerely.

But you know who doesn’t even know what an Ashram is? Guess who never took English 101 in college and doesn’t understand “quotes”? Oh yeah, that’s right! This guy.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up on Rumi altogether. What it means is that you should feel free to explain things to me. Even the stuff that seem painfully obvious. Because when you say a quote and then say, “well that speaks for itself,” what I’m thinking is “No. That doesn’t speak for itself. I hate this stupid class. I don’t get it. Wah wah wah poor me.”

While I’m thinking that, I’m sitting there nodding my head pretending to look like I have the slightest clue what you’re saying. Then I start thinking, “Damn, I bet she smoked a toooonnnnn of a pot in college.  That’s so hot.”

Tips for yoga instructors - keep the lessons simple, especially the rumi. A drawing by Rob Pollak

7.  Come On, Speak English.

For the first three months I practiced yoga, I mistakenly thought every Sanskrit word meant Savasana. For any non-yoga people reading this, Savasana is a made up word that literally translates to “lie on the floor while thinking about everything you were supposed to do today but didn’t.”

Yoga teachers of America, you know how to fix that problem? Just speak English. We all understand English (except the Latvian woman who sometimes comes to that Vinyasa flow class on Wednesdays), so everyone will be on the same page when you say “Do crow.”

An added benefit:  You may avoid that tattoo in Sanskrit. The one you think means, “Peaceful Warrior” but actually means, “judgmental douchebag”  Oops!

Tip number 7 for yoga teachers, sanskrit cartoon by rob pollak

8.  Be Considerate of Your Diverse Class When Giving Instructions.

So what if your class is usually all hot limber women? I’m here now, and I’d like to feel welcome, too! In order to make everyone feel at home, yoga teachers should give instructions that are mindful of the entirety of the class, not its largest component.

So no more “put this block under your bra strap,” or “you should feel a good stretch in your vagina.”

The bra strap is not an okay reference point - Rules for yoga teachers - a drawing by Rob Pollak

9.  Make Class Fun!

This goes without saying, but if I’m having fun, I’m not thinking about how much I hate the teacher for all of the horrible painful things she’s making me do. So make it fun.

One incredibly east way to make yoga more fun is by sharing this post with everyone you’ve ever met.  And then following this blog at www.robpollak.com or on facebook.

The nine rules for yoga teachers - rule 9 make class fun - a drawing by Rob Pollak


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Rob Pollak

Rob Pollak plans to get famous via the internet. You can follow his journey, writing and drawings at Rob Complains About Things, Twitter or Facebook.


88 Responses to “9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow. ~ Rob Pollak.”

  1. majerpayne says:

    Every link of the chain is a different madness and every moment a different link

  2. @maythinee says:

    This is so awesomesauce. As a teacher who doesn't take herself too seriously, I really appreciate this. More hilarity needs to be injected into our 'yoga culture'

  3. @ForYogi says:

    These are good rules. I particularly like not to be over-philosophical (although I do realize people have different standards and threshold). I'd like to add a couple things that teachers could do to improve my practice:

    1. Hand out lyrics to longer chants to students who are not familiar with the pronunciation. It's a struggle for me to try to imitate the pronunciation and I know clearly what's coming out of my mouth isn't it.
    2. Body adjustment. In the States, teachers don't often adjust students and when they do, it's a subtle touch. I've always considered this to be a liability issue for teachers. It could also be a sign of favoritism (not that it's bad in any way). Now that I'm practicing yoga in China, I've experienced much more adjustment which are quite helpful. Teachers walk around the studio during practice and actively adjust every student with gentle yet firm actions.

  4. yogalatesblissblogger says:

    SPOT ON!!! Made me laugh. Students really want to DIS-CONNECT. So making them think a lot in a yoga class "what on earth is that pose? Am I doing it right? The fairies at the bottom of the garden say, what?" – then no no no. You have just exhausted them. Less is More. Humor is Fun. Great Post!

  5. mema says:

    The name comes from the Sanskrit words Shava (शव, Śava) meaning "corpse",[3] and Asana (आसन, Āsana) meaning "posture" or "seat".[4]

  6. […] mothers and yoga teachers, we feel the pull to keep our teachings fresh and informative despite how busy we are with the […]

  7. Loved this – I've just recently taken a break from my Bikram yoga – and was so entertained by the advanced yogi's who would get to class early to contort as I just tried to convince myself that I wasn't going to die. I'm sharing this – it's hilarious. I'm a humorist/writer here and on HuffPost and thoroughly enjoy anybody who can make me laugh!

  8. A.M. says:

    Saved this from the newlsetter, finally read it today – and I'm glad to feel that I can adhere to these rules. Yes, man. I dig it. Keep 'em coming.

  9. Malina says:

    Hilariousss!! I laughed at everyone one of these points, and the artwork to go with it. And I LOVE when they ask me my name, remember it, and use it during class. Makes me pay attention more and take them that much more seriously. Thanks Rob!

  10. Rob Pollak says:

    You got it, Malina. I see you took the name lesson to heart.

  11. Rob Pollak says:

    ps check out my personal blog for more…

  12. Rob Pollak says:


  13. adrian says:

    Great, and true….. will share this also

  14. Mel says:

    Rob, you make us giggle! We at The Yoga Recipe (www.theyogarecipe.com) think we would get along well! We will def. be re-sharing this to our Yoga Teacher followers!

  15. steve says:

    what is the 51st state ?

  16. Kelly says:

    I’m a new teacher and totally cracked up! I’d love to have you in class. Great tips to keep in mind for my future and current students! 🙂

  17. Carlyflowr says:

    This is hilarious-laughing to the point of tears! 🙂 Made my day!

  18. Barb says:

    Laughed so hard I'm certain I finally fully engaged those elusive bandhas: the ones I'm trying to remember along with everything else so I can "concentrate" and feel the love and bliss! Ditto on the name issue. I give, I'm guiltily having an affair: practicing at two studios because I don't have a name at one, and I feel connected to Sangha at the other. Once I easily nail some of the more difficult poses, I might have a first name! All opportunities for growth…and being able to lighten up-on ourselves and the process-makes it easier! Very good stuff.

  19. Helen says:

    Bloody hilarious!

  20. Rob,

    Much of what you say is here is useful and relevant, but I have to disagree with you re: using only English names for poses. Sanskrit is the language of asana, just like Italian is the language of music. If you want to be a musician you need to learn and understand all those Italian words used in the notations. Why should it be different for asana practice. I sense a strain of anti-intellectualism here, a serious American disease.

    Sanskrit is also the language we use to communicate across traditions and lineages. Every form and style seems to have there own unigue English translations of the sanskrit names for asanas. For instance urdva danurasana directly translated is "upward facing bow", but I've also heard the pose called "wheel" which in Sanskrit is chakrasana , a very different pose. Very confusing for someone crossing the boundaries of traditions. Knowing the Sanskrit names for asanas also means that if you happen to be taking a class in Latvia, and the teacher uses the Sanskrit names for the poses you'll do just fine.

    When I teach (I've been teaching since 1978) I use the Sanskrit names for the poses, but then if it seems necessary (lots of beginners, a few blank stares) I'll also give the English translation.

  21. Trish says:

    Not sure I would agree that use of Sanskrit is a "pretentious farse". That is the language of yoga, so what's wrong with using it? Fair enough sometimes it's nice to pepper in some english terms, but if you're going for authenticity, why not use sanskrit? Quickly enough students get to know the sanskrit words for postures and recognize them easily. I'm not sure what's pretentious about using the traditional names for the postures?

  22. La Sirena says:

    Thank you, Trish, for saying nicely what I was struggling to say without being angry. Sure, there are Yoga teachers who just think it's cool to use Sanskrit, maybe, but maybe Heather is just intimidated by teachers who are real devotees and take it seriously rather than think it's just an exercise routine?

  23. Jade says:

    As a teacher I forgot my personal practice for some time, and when I made the decision I needed to continue as a student in order to be a better teacher, I was reminded if so many of these rules. I teach off my mat with more frequency than I used to, and I make a point of using people’s names on the reg! I notice how much harder my students work when I notice them on an individual level. Also, these stick figures are effing great!

  24. jason R. uttley says:

    hey, ty rob, i read the page & some comments too, even liked, but i am now going to explain, I'm an self employed gov't employee trying to get my life in order so as to NOT collect anything from the gov't. in the meantime i read & learn all i can & find this article is a mindful insight for many different reasons. as a student in life, i found, we all have something to teach some1, also to learn from those both in life & online 🙂 & a little reminder from time to time is necessary as we all have brain farts that smell…. lmao. so my way of saying ty is to share both on my fb whitch is linked to twitter & on my G+ as well…..I tip whenever possible, not possible today, sorry, but I hope my sharing makes up for my lack of cash. once again, thanks!!! & peace 🙂

  25. This is great! I am a yoga teacher too and agree with all this. True and funny!

  26. Jessica says:

    You. Are. Hysterical!

  27. Rob Cable says:

    Rob, I feel like you wrote this for me!

  28. Rob Pollak says:

    I did.

  29. Rob Pollak says:


  30. Teagan says:

    … and never say 'adjust your balls' when you mean to say 'adjust the balls of your feet'. A slip up I made in a yoga class many years ago. The women in the class nearly wet their pants laughing!

  31. kiley says:

    I agree that we need to use the Sanskrit names as well as offer an English translation for students…I will even go as far as breaking the names down for students…such as Eka meaning one and so forth.

  32. Tina says:

    *the crowd goes wild* this ROCKED my morning! as a yoga teacher, I was relieved to see that I nailed all of these amazing points. LOVE the illustrations, and just may make an om-azing collage of them for my studio wall. Namaste!!!!

  33. Green Globe Surfers says:

    Awesome!! Well done Rob, thanks for the tips, I just graduated as a yoga teacher, and I will definitely use them. Hope you get famous soon. 😉

  34. @theyogahobo says:

    So funny! And love the drawings!

  35. This is brilliant!!! sorry BRILLIANT!!!! as a Yoga teacher, it is how I decided to do my classes, sometimes I throw in the Sanskrit names for the more intellectual students, but this is how it should be and taught.!!!


  36. Elena G. says:

    I'll remember to give the cue "cup the balls" LOL when the time is right.

  37. Elena G. says:

    anti-intellectualism… Now that just sounds harsh. At any rate, I do like hearing Sanskrit words and English words in practice.