The 5 stages of becoming a Yoga Teacher.

Fashionby He

Somewhere into my third year of yoga practice, I decided that I would take a leap into teaching yoga.

I wanted to learn more about yoga as well as my yoga practice. And so, one fateful morning, I signed up for the training program at a local yoga school. The training was part-time, the training took me one and a half years to complete. Those 18 months taught me lifelong lessons about the practice of yoga. It was what I learned and experienced after becoming a yoga teacher that had a greater impact on me.

As a yoga teacher, I went through five stages in my journey—beginning with humility and ending with humility.

Stage one: Self-realization. 

Right smack at the beginning of my training, I realized how much I had to unlearn and then re-learn. So much of what I thought I knew suddenly became myths or only half-truths. I felt humbled. Was I really ready to be a teacher? I became overwhelmed when faced with so much information before me: the anatomy of the human body, the correct alignment, the yoga sutras, bandhas. There was so much that I didn’t know. So much that I was doing wrong. I learned to leave my ego and arrogance at the door. Here, at the beginning of my journey into teaching yoga, I finally found humility.

Stage two: Teaching others.

Once I learned as much as I could, it was time to teach others. The first day that I taught a class, all I could think of was the fear of being deemed not good enough. Would my fellow students understand me? Would they also leave their ego at the door and accept what I taught with an open mind?

As my first hour of my first class ended, I remember heaving a big sigh of relief. It was one thing to learn and another to impart knowledge. As a yoga teacher, the burden is heavy. I wanted to teach the right way in a safe environment. But I also had to balance what I wanted to teach with what my students expected me to teach.

Stage three: Organizing a retreat.

Once I started teaching and found a rhythm, I decided to try organizing a retreat. I had always dreamed of taking my students on a retreat in an exotic location away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I had it all thought out, the location, the itinerary and the travel details. But there were so many hiccups along the way that made my dream retreat become somewhat of a nightmare.

Did I manage to do my own retreat? Unfortunately not.

But I recently came across valuable information on how to organize a yoga retreat, which would have made it easier for me back then when information was scarce. Alas, the time wasn’t right. Perhaps I wasn’t as ready as I thought.

Stage four: Disillusionment.

Shortly after failing to organize my dream retreat, my yoga practice took a turn for the worse. No matter what I did, I couldn’t find the motivation to practice, much less teach. I was lost in a world of disillusionment. It seemed to me that my practice hadn’t moved forward even though I had put so much effort into it. They say that yoga is about the progress, not the result. But, as human nature would have it, I needed achievements. I needed to reach my goals in achieving asanas—and when I couldn’t, I couldn’t see the point of continuing. What is practice with no progress? If I couldn’t progress, what right do I have to demand progress off my students?

Stage five: Step away and then step back again.

I took some time off of teaching to really find my practice again. In the eight limbs of yoga, there is a phrase that has stayed with me—svadhyaya, which means self-study. Among other things it means to reflect on the self. I looked back at myself, my practice and my teaching. How far have I come? How far have I fallen behind? And most importantly, how do I move forward from here?

My teacher once told me that progress is progress, no matter how small. We sometimes can’t see it because we need grand gestures of change. I stepped away from the mat and looked inward. I realized then that ego has brought me to this point. I had once again filled myself with the arrogance that I had when I first learned to teach yoga, so many years ago. My ego demanded that I achieve asana after asana. It demanded that I find fulfillment in my achievement instead of just being.

I learned to be humble again. To be okay with not being able to do a handstand. To accept that progress is not just in asana, it is also in learning to self-reflect. To understand even though I’m a yoga teacher, I will always be a student first.

With this new understanding, I stepped back on my mat. It felt like home again.

Author: Elaine Clara Mah 

Image: flickr/Fashionby He, flickr/Cecille Photography

Editors: Ashleigh Hitchcock; Emily Bartran

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Read The Best Articles of March
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

Elaine Clara Mah

Elaine Clara Mah is an aspiring Ashtangi who tries to get on the mat daily with help from her teacher. She is also a rookie yoga teacher who thinks her students teach her more than she teaches them. She is part of a family of yoga enthusiasts at Book Yoga Retreats and spends most of her day convincing people go on an adventure of a lifetime.