13 Things Every New Yoga Teacher Needs to Know.

Via Anne Falkowski
on Feb 18, 2013
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yoga teacher

You have finished your 200 hour yoga teacher training and bought your teaching insurance.

Now, its time to show the world your passion about yoga and maybe even make a difference in the world; a yoga teacher must not only know how to teach yoga but also how to create an environment conducive to healing and learning.

Here are some tips to help you—most teachers, including myself, have been guilty of not doing some of these things when we first started teaching. Save yourself from making these mistakes so that people will keep coming back to your class and more importantly, you will create a safe space for transformation, not only for your students, but for yourself as a developing teacher.

1. Start and end your classes on time.

Really. We are a busy culture—some of us need to know that we can honor our time commitments like getting to work or picking up our kids from daycare.

2. Speak loud enough—and don’t play music at a volume that drowns out your voice.

You might have something important to say or you might be concerned that you have nothing to say, but it won’t mean a thing if no one can hear you. You come across as unsure of yourself if your voice is too soft. Be aware that when you are in downward dog or some other inversion, your head is facing away from the class—you gotta speak a lot louder if you are going to teach from that place.

3. Open your eyes.

Yes, you. I know it can be scary to look out at all the yogis but you need to be the authority of the class, especially during the centering. You will appear disconnected if you close your eyes for long periods of time. I know it can be tempting to go inside and stay there; I have even had some new teachers tell me that they teach better if they can close their eyes, but most likely they just feel safer not having to look out.

Plus, you will not know how your directions are landing if you cannot see your students, and I guarantee you someone will be wide-eyed staring at your shut-eyed face wondering if anybody is home. Remember: people want a live teacher who sees them. Be present, both inside and out.

4. Do not make teaching your yoga practice.

People are paying to be taught yoga instruction by you, not to do yoga with you. Besides, it’s not a genuine yoga practice; your body might stay in yoga shape but your mental and emotional body cannot go to vulnerable places while you are responsible for holding the safety of a class. A dedicated yoga teacher will get their own yoga practice in outside of teaching.

Don’t overload your teaching schedule. Leave time for your own yoga.

5. Don’t stay on your mat the whole class.

This is a trap for doing your own practice and becoming stagnant. When you stay in one place, not everyone can see you. Move around. Teach poses such as Warrior Two and Triangle from the sides of the room. Even if you are not yet comfortable assisting, get up off your yoga mat and offer people blocks or straps if you see they need them. Engage the whole room.

6. Mirror teach.

Almost all seasoned teachers do this; experienced students expect it. Start immediately so that you can master this technique. (It only takes practice.)

7. Don’t teach to the student with the most or least amount of yoga skill.

Teach somewhere in the middle and make room for all students to take it at their own pace.

8. Don’t let the warm-ups go on forever.

Don’t take students into difficult poses without being properly warmed up or they will rightfully resist you.

9. Don’t show off.

If you can do a handstand but are teaching to a bunch of beginners, don’t bother popping up into one. The students already assume you can do advanced poses—you don’t need to prove it.

However, don’t hold back from being an inspiration either. Demonstrating to students where a pose can go next will serve to ignite their desire to deepen their own practice. Be real…but don’t be obnoxious.

10. If you have students with limitations, offer some simple modifications.

Don’t pretend the stiff tweaky people don’t exist.

11. Teach breathing.

Everyone needs to slow down and take deeper more connected breaths, including yoga teachers. Breathe deeply throughout the whole class—lead by example.

12. If you mess up, don’t over-apologize.

Acknowledge it briefly and move on. Otherwise, it gets awkward and the students feel like they are taking care of you.

13. Come prepared with a class plan but be open to ditching it.

Be structured, yet allow for intuition. Most importantly: be yourself. You don’t have to put your foot behind your head or know the Sanskrit name to every pose. You don’t have to speak like a poet or chant like a goddess. It will make everyone more comfortable to see the real you—no one likes a fake, distant, pretentious teacher.

If you are funny, make some jokes. If you are intense, flaky, energetic, optimistic, etc., let a little of your uniqueness shine through along with a mindfulness about holding space for your students to discover who they are and what they need.

You can speak your yoga truth, plain and simple—and that can be enough.

Teach from your heart and teach from your center; be open to taking some leaps of faith as you learn how to convey the language of yoga in a way that is relative and meaningful.

Not everything you say or do will work each time and there will be some awkward moments, but there will be some gems in each class, jewels that you carved out of the dirt.

Be humble.

Be appreciative.

To teach yoga is vulnerable.

To teach yoga and have others do what you ask them, and listen to you, not only with their minds but their bodies as well, is a gift.

At the end of each yoga class, thank your students for receiving you as their teacher and then make sure to do at least one thing to take care of you sometime during the day; maybe a cup of your favorite tea, take a warm bath, or go for a walk outside.

Nurture the yoga teacher, because that’s what you are.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise



About Anne Falkowski

Anne Falkowski has been teaching and practicing yoga for over 15 years. Currently she is obsessed with Forrest Yoga and can't possibly relax her neck enough. She writes for her blog and owns a yoga studio in Connecticut. Contact her by email


25 Responses to “13 Things Every New Yoga Teacher Needs to Know.”

  1. Mrs. N says:

    This is excellent, thank you!

  2. Noreen says:

    I went through a great training that emphasized most of these points, but as with all teaching, things only make sense as you begin to experience the teacher role. So thank you for reminding me. I will copy this list and refer to it from time to time. My interest piqued when you suggested nurturing myself after class. I like that a lot!

  3. Bryan says:

    I hate when teachers mirror

  4. Anne says:

    Oh I find that interesting. Why do you not like the mirroring?

  5. bonnie says:

    I completely agree with all of your points. This is my philosophy when I lead yoga teacher training and I also include that our responsibility is to "inspire" everyone, to have them take in the experience of yoga where they meet it on their yoga mat. When we create a safe and sound environment for students to find their own yoga experience, and we have inspired them to return to their mat again and again, then we have provided the "seva" service of a yoga teacher.

  6. lisa says:

    this is a great article…for ALL yoga teachers to remember! thanks Anne!

  7. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the great article–helpful to new teachers but also great reminders for those who have taught for a while.

  8. chad says:

    What IS mirroring? I've been doing yoga for years, but am not familiar with the reference here.

  9. Anne says:

    Mirroring is when you are facing the class and you give an instruction such as "raise your right arm," yet you raise your left because when the students look at you, your left arm is on the same side as their right. Confusing to explain and tricky to do at first.

  10. Chelle says:

    Yes, I'm curious to know the answer to that as well. I have encountered a lot of students who can't process left / right verbal instructions quickly, so I have taken to using directional (front / back, top / bottom) when I can. But I do mirror and I find that most students do like it. The only time I don't mirror is when turning is involved, then it just gets confusing, so I turn around for that part and do the same side. So I'd be curious if there are other issues that need to be accounted for with regards to mirroring. To the original commenter, please share so we can all learn.

  11. Mer says:

    Spot-on article – these simple 13 points took me years to figure out! Addendum to #2 – don't play the music so quietly that it just sounds like ambient background buzz. And try to figure volume out beforehand so you're not spending time fidgeting with the stereo system!

  12. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Love your #9 … yoga class isn't Benihana …"the show that's a dinner … the dinner that's a show"

    I come for the dinner, I don't stay for the show …

    Primary home practitioner (perennial advanced beginner) in the house … if I can't pick the teacher's brains from the first minute to the last, I'm outta there … and you will hear from me on Yelp. If I have to I will extol your nearby competitors to the skies, even if I haven't panned you yet .. and I will …

    That includes no gratuitous showing off and wasting my precious time …

  13. MARTHA says:


  14. Marybeth says:

    How wonderful…thanks so much…I think every teacher training should hand this out!!!!

  15. Excelent shoul I translate and post this article in my site http://www.prakritiyoga.com.br respecting all the autors right?

  16. Anne says:

    Yes prakriti. I would be flattered. As long as you include me as author. Thanks.

  17. guest says:

    On mirroring. I'm what you call an "experienced student," and have seen teachers who mirror and those who don't. Personally, I don't like mirroring. I guess I don't really care too much, as in it's not that difficult to figure out what's going on. And isn't the point of a mindfulness practice to be OK with what is, not what we prefer? That aside, the reason I don't like it is that if the teacher is doing some involved pose, I find it easier to look at PRECISELY how their body is, as in 'left leg doing that', 'right arm doing this', etc. rather than having to translate their left leg to my right leg. Maybe some students find it easier to look at the 'left side,' and that's fine, but I can only speak for myself and I find the other approach easier to work with…

  18. Joe Sparks says:

    Great reminders as well! At our studio we require new students to arrive at least 15 minutes before class time. This is great opportunity to connect with them and educate them about yoga. We focus on posture not poses, so they can relax and not worry or hurt themselves. We provide and set up mats for them. The first visit is the most important , so go all out and make your students feel welcomed! As a new teacher this will help you feel connected to your students. Most likely you are just as scared as your new students. This is a great way to not have to fake it. Yoga is a mutually beneficial relationship!

  19. […] just wait to get happy at the end of your journey, when you have finally achieved your goal. Nurture that feeling by spending your resources wisely and enjoying the small victories along the wa…. Making progress should be […]

  20. kjolson89 says:

    Thank you for this, your words are a friendly nudge of confidence and support for the new teacher.

  21. boomshank says:

    no teaching without invoking Siva … and no teaching without final prayer to Siva. that is yoga teaching and yoga class.

    rest is gymnastics, postures and poses.

  22. Karen says:

    Love this! Excellent tips!!!

  23. Gaby G says:

    Mirroring can be a great tool when you take into account every student has a different learning style, some take instruction/verbal cues easily, some are more receptive to a visual b/c they are kinesthetic learners, even as an advanced practitioner. I personally do not like to mirror when I teach more advanced groups, but that is b/c mirroring confuses my verbal cues when complexity arises n instruction. Since I know that, I lead where I can see what is happening so I can offer adjustments and cues that are on-point. Many traditional hatha yoga schools prefer the teacher not be on a mat or practicing poses with the group when teaching, so that the teacher's energy can be focused on supporting the students in advancing their hatha practice. I enjoy this style and find I have more energy to give to my students.

  24. YoginiHuntie says:

    Mirroring is tricky- I do it in the classes I teach, to mixed results. Some people get it right away, others get all confused and in their heads about it. So now when I do it, I don't worry too much about what my students are doing; if they're on the wrong side, I have them go with it and then get the other side when we move on. I find it makes the student more comfortable, in that they're not feeling singled out, and usually they figure out that something is a bit wonky right away and rectify the situation before it becomes an "issue". The other things in this article- yes times a thousand. I'm going to write them down and put them in my "inspiration binder" as a reminder.

  25. Jenny says:

    Anne, thank you for this beautiful article. I just completed my 200 teaching training and have been feeling overwhelmed about the prospect of believing in myself as a teacher. I wrote all of these down and my nerves seemed to calm down a bit. It's always nice to be reminded that teaching is exactly like coming to your mat day after day, it's a lifelong process of change and development! Thank you!