Becoming An Advanced Yoga Teacher

Honestly, that is a senseless title. What exactly is an advanced teacher anyway?

listening attentively in YTT
listening attentively in YTT

On many occasions I’ve been asked by studio owners or managers to sub a yoga class for them because they were in a bind. If I couldn’t, I referred it out to some of the teachers I’ve trained or other teachers that I know. The first response I get from these employers is, “are they advanced teachers?” I reply, “of course! If I didn’t think they were qualified, I wouldn’t have suggested them.” Later on I find out that the employer did not like my preferred teacher because so-and-so didn’t have such-and-such years of experience.

Does the number of years practicing or teaching make one an advanced teacher?

It takes more than the right words, the right cues, and the right pose to teach a class.
It takes more than the right words, the right cues, and the right pose to teach a class.

I’ve been in many classes with a so called advanced teacher and left feeling unsatisfied, imbalanced, frustrated and even disempowered. On the other hand, I’ve also been in many classes with a so called less than advanced teacher and left wanting to come back.

So what makes an advanced teacher so “advanced?”

We have no business comparing our bodies to another person's body when there are differences between our left side and our right side within our own body.
We have no business comparing our bodies to another person’s body when there are differences between our left side and our right side within our own body.

I had the honor to mentor this new group of Yoga Teachers and have never been so touched, inspired, and loved by any others as I have by these yogis.

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You know your teacher loves you when they are willing to put aside their differences and still choose to walk beside you on your own path.

Each one brought their own unique definition to what it means to be an advanced teacher. Here are twelve qualities, one for each trainee,  that would make every student feel ever so lucky to be in their class.

An advanced teacher:

  1. knows who they are and has the courage to be vulnerable so that they can share their voice, even if it’s shaky and especially if it is.
  2. is committed to all aspects of yoga which includes not only asana but also pranayama, meditation, and self reflection.
  3. knows how to give people space to reveal their expression of the pose instead of trying to stuff every student into an ideal pose.
  4. is skillful in creating purposeful, mindful, and accessible sequences that are challenging enough but also inclusive rather than complicated, fancy, or esoteric.
  5. is concerned about helping people find balance in their body and mind instead of succumbing to superficial goals.
  6. is curious about continuing their studies as a student and asking more questions to reveal the Truth that lies beneath the veil of practice.
  7. understands the rationale behind everything that they teach rather than trying to memorize the cues or the anatomy and reciting them back and if they don’t understand, they will seek the answer.
  8. loves connecting to their students as human beings and sees them beyond the surface of their asanas.
  9. is not concerned about looking good, being liked or popular.
  10. is able to share their own humility instead of teaching from a pedestal.
  11. is ever so patient and compassionate because they remember how difficult yoga was as a beginner.
  12. often “accidentally” makes a huge impact in their students lives not just because they read their books and passed their certification requirements but because they stood up tall and taught from a space of love… see #1.
Mountain Up!
Mountain Up!

Thank you trainees for sharing your yoga practice and especially for sharing your hearts with me. I feel very honored, lucky, and humbled that you choose me. I feel inspired by your willingness to be vulnerable in what started off as a group of strangers and now we walk away feeling like life long old friends. Thank you for being you… full of creativity, child like innocence, play, curiosity, passion, commitment, and especially full of HEART.

jan2016ytt-wholegroup

P.S. If a room full of 50 students who showed up to your first class doesn’t prove that you’re an advanced teacher, I don’t know what is.

Something amazing happens when there is trust between teacher and student.
Something amazing happens when there is trust between teacher and student.

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