A yoga instructor has a number of functions and obligations that range from preparing lessons for classes and demonstrating poses to less glamorous ones like cleaning the studio. Of course, good instructors will have technical knowledge, but skilled teachers will go above and beyond by combining technical skills with a love for their work. Consider these 12 must-have skills if you want to be a successful yoga teacher.
1. Power of Presence
The power of presence is a skill that every teacher needs. It is what grabs the attention of students from the minute the teacher walks into the room. Yoga teaching requires energy that lifts students and makes them willing to try the most difficult of poses and succeed.
Yoga teaches the art of living in the moment. That is something yoga instructors must integrate into their lives and teaching style. They must be fully present in each and every class and bring their undivided attention to their students.
2. The Ability to Be Empathetic
Yoga is hard, more so for some than others. Therefore, it’s important that a yoga teacher be empathetic to students and patient when explaining and demonstrating poses.
A great yoga teacher will teach using intuition and emphasize the importance of how you feel in a pose rather than how you look — this means that ‘form’ is secondary. While principles of alignment are also critical, yoga instruction is about learning to benefit from the practice rather than achieving the ‘perfect form.’
Empathy also allows you to connect with students and better understand their challenges. The goal of instruction is as much independence as anything else. Teachers want students to feel empowered and to be able to practice at home. That won’t happen if they feel awkward and inadequate during the class.
Yoga teachers lead by example — that concept transcends the studio. Yoga instructors practice leadership by continually training, making healthy lifestyle choices, and bringing their energy to the class.
They can offer shared experiences to give their yoga students a better idea of how the practice can impact their physical and emotional lives. Having that mindset and capabilities shows rather than tells students why yoga matters.
4. Physical Fitness
Again, yoga teachers must lead by example. You should be able to do these poses and talk to your students at the same time without being breathless or difficult to understand.
Physically fit doesn’t mean your body has to fit a certain mold, though. Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. However, it does mean you must be able to practice what you preach. You should be able to do any pose you teach and follow any yoga routine you develop.
You should also be able to answer general questions about physical fitness and following a healthy lifestyle. Teachers represents the art form of yoga, and their lifestyles should follow a healthy path so that students can see the benefits firsthand.
5. Active Listening Skills
Active listening entails more than simply hearing what someone is saying. When you practice active listening, you learn to focus completely on what is being said. You listen with all your senses and give your undivided attention to the speaker.
Yoga teaches the art of living in the moment. Active listening is an extension of that concept. You hear what the students say to you without dividing your attention. You also ask questions if you don’t understand something and avoid making assumptions. It is a practice that will help a yoga teacher build trust and establish rapport with clients.
6. Public Speaking Skills
You have to get up in front of people and provide instruction. That is the very definition of public speaking. A yoga teacher needs to be able to address the class without feeling nervous or awkward. The students will pick up on how the instructor feels. Developing public speaking skills takes practice.
7. Customer Service
Good customer service is the key to most successful businesses. Yoga teachers need to be reliable and willing to help clients understand each pose. In addition, they must be cheerful and able to answer questions.
Customer service extends to others in the class, too. Teachers must be able to handle any situation that might arise between students, such as fighting, disrespect, and crossing boundaries. They need to create a friendly but professional environment.
Flexibility refers to both literally, physically doing the poses and the figurative meaning as well. Naturally, a yoga instructor needs to be flexible to show the best form for each pose, but they also need to be flexible with students. For example: be open to scheduling changes should a student need to cancel a class.
Yoga teachers may also need to be flexible in their teaching style. What works for some students may not be effective for others. Being flexible is what makes someone an excellent teacher.
Of course, not every student will get every pose right away. Some may need more instruction than others. Effective teaching requires the determination to reach every student regardless of their skill level. It is important to adjust without leaving the student feeling badly about their effort to do the pose. You may make the same adjustment class after class, so do it with patience and empathy — and with the understanding that yoga can be difficult to learn.
10. Good Communication Skills
Yoga teachers literally talk their students through the various poses while encouraging them along the way. That takes the ability to be conscious of your wording and to speak clearly in what can be a fast-paced environment.
Any teacher needs to be able to get the point across in a clear and precise manner. Yoga teachers, though, need to be able to do this while doing poses or walking around the studio providing individual instruction.
A good teacher must be able to communicate a body of information and abilities to their students. It is not enough for a teacher to know the material; they must also be able to communicate that information to students in a clear and helpful manner.
Yoga instruction can be hands-on and very personal. That takes a professional approach.
Yoga teachers also need to be able to separate their personal lives from the instruction. Students don’t sign up to listen to a bunch of political opinions or gossip. They want a yoga instructor who knows how to create and respect boundaries, both their own and that of their students.
There is a unique dynamic that exists between a student and a teacher. The things the instructor says can have a big impact. So, the teacher needs to keep things on track to enhance the learning process.
Nothing is more frustrating than to sign up for a class and then have to wait for the instructor. Yoga classes are typically in studios that might host many classes, often back-to-back. If the teacher is late, the student is paying for the time they may not be doing yoga. One late class might throw off the day’s schedule. Instead, the studio might allow only a certain time for the class, which gets cut short if the instructor is late.
Many of these skills you learn when you study to become a yoga teacher at an accredited school. For example, Pacific College of Health and Science is an accredited school that teaches the art of yoga science in depth as part of our associate degree program.
The right education increases both your teaching qualifications and career opportunities, expanding your employment options to health clubs, clinics, spas, resorts, gyms, and yoga studios. You can also have an active and successful yoga practice of your own; be the boss. Our in-depth curriculum trains you in all the different yoga styles, as well as including asanas, pranayama, Ayurveda, and meditation.
Yoga teaching can be a rewarding career choice. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a yoga teacher, earn your yoga teacher associate degree from Pacific College. For more information, visit admissions or contact us today.