How To Become (Or Find) An Awesome Vinyasa Yoga Teacher

Certainly this year I have been doing a lot of work on myself and watching my teaching soar from the work I’ve done with Live Love Teach.  So naturally when I saw a class scheduled at Wanderlust called “From Adequate to Awesome” for teacher’s only with Schuyler Grant, I signed up.  I’m not surprised to hear that Schuyler thinks there are so many adequate 200 hr vinyasa teachers, but it stops there.  She says so many yoga schools are sphewing out 200 hr teachers but it’s rare to find an exceptional teacher.  She thinks one of the reasons might be that many vinyasa teachers have never even taken an Ashtanga class.  She thinks whether you are an Ashtangi practitioner or not, as a vinyasa teacher, one should at least be familiar with the primary series because it is the foundation of vinyasa. I’d have to agree. 

Here’s some other tips on what you can do to become an awesome teacher (or if you’re a student, look for these traits in your vinyasa/flow teacher):

1.  Study other styles frequently because regurgitated vinyasa is boring.  Study Iyenger, Anusara, Kundalini, etc… bring these elements into the flow class.  Steal and steal away from other teachers.

2. Teach from your own experience.  As you experience other classes, put it into your own personality instead of being a parrot and regurgitating those yogic catch phrases that are being said over and over by every teacher. Does it have meaning?

3. Be clear and concise with your words.   You can be poetic in your conversation, but try not to use “ing” words.  For example, “reaching your left arm up, stepping your right foot forward…”  Be direct and say what you  mean. 

4. Listen to your own words.  No mushy words and no sexy, zen like yoga voice. 

5. Focus on a theme:  use it as a container with a beginning, middle, and end.

6. The rhythm and tempo of the class is balanced and not jerky. 

7. Vinyasa is a breathing system, a way to connect breath, mind, and body.  Are you connecting breath to movement?  Is there breath in the class?

8. If you practice while teaching, it’s lazy teaching or remedial.  If you’re practicing the whole time while you’re teaching, you’re not present for the class.  All your brain energy is in your own body.  Are you in “doing” mode rather than “being” mode.

9. If you’re not present, then how can you give appropriate adjustments (physically or verbally)?

10.  To be an awesome teacher, you must cultivate a home practice.  Experience what you teach in your own body.

11.  Using music is a cheat.  Although music can be fun, do you use it to hide behind?  Music can be distracting and it can become more powerful than you as a teacher.  Do you want them to come for your playlist or what you offer as a teacher? Do you give enough space and silence?  Does space and silence make you uncomfortable?

12. Speak to the student’s body as you see it. 

13.  Have fun!

Awesome list!  But I already knew all that :).   Live Love Teach ingrained these in me and then some. If you’re feeling exhausted after teaching a class, you are not stepping into your awesomeness.  Chances are you are trying too hard and missing one or more items on this list. But there’s more that Schuyler has not added that will make teaching fun and rewarding instead of feeling like “work.” 

I don’t like to advertise here, but I must because I believe in the work.  Many teachers ask me how I could ever teach 17 classes a week and deliver consistently awesome classes while balancing out everything else in my life.   There’s nothing more encouraging to me than hearing other people say to me, “I want your life.”  And I want you to experience full joy and have endless energy in your teaching.  Come with me to Montana with the Live Love Teach team on September 11 – 15, 2011.  I will be co-facilitating it with two other fabulous teachers and our three mentors.  You will get the opportunity to put all of these skills (and then some more secrets to awesomeness) into action and step up from being adequate some of the time to being AWESOME all of the time!

Ok that’s it on the high horse… if you’re a student, demand these from your teachers.  Give them honest feedback.  Help them grow because when your teachers grow, so do you!

11 thoughts on “How To Become (Or Find) An Awesome Vinyasa Yoga Teacher

  1. nikki, like how you responded re music, so much is in the intention of the teacher, gotta agree

    and “especially” agree about observing the class folk, rather than doing one’s practice, probably just as well off with a dvd, oh, i guess that’s why i like them 😉

    which leads to the issue of a home practice, which i’m beginning to see, is really one’s own practice, always been my base and preference

    i’ve always kinda felt that my own teaching was to get people to see they can do either, or both, home and class practice

    re vinyasa, haven’t done much, still very much a longer-held poses guy 😉 for movement, i think i’ve done and liked jazz and dance aerobic movements so much, esp in a wholeness and interpretation with music, that held poses are my default yogic style, for now 😉

    but, i change, now and then, learn something, take another road, so who knows? i’m certainly open to one day merging yoga moves with dance moves, with and without music

    thanks nikki, good thought for me, glad i went back to read this


    • right.. and no one would know because it’s in the intentions of the teacher. As a student, I sometimes catch myself wanting music to drown out all of my thoughts and want to numb out and other times I feel really inspired by my tunes. So it all depends… being aware of your intentions is the key. Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Loved this post! I’ve had some awesome and some not so awesome yoga teachers in the last several years. Just recently I was at a hot yoga class and the woman behind me was doing a pose totally wrong. (I could see her in the mirror.) The instructor just walked by her. I wanted to step back and help her so that she wouldn’t hurt herself! I was dumbfounded and have since found a new yoga studio. I would love to be a yoga teacher and want to be a dedicated one. I’ll get there. Thanks for your post!

    • What a journey to take… and I love that you said it out loud “I would love to be a yoga teacher and want to be a dedicated one”.. get ready girl!

  3. love this! thanks for sharing this, nikki! i really love the point you make about studying other styles. it adds another dimension to my own practice & invites me to approach my practice from a different perspective! 🙂

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