The Role of the Yoga Teacher

Lovejoy Office Yoga Class with AMAG Pharmaceuticals

Over 36 million people report to practicing yoga regularly, a number that is constantly growing (2016 data from Ipsos Public Affairs). With all these people investing in yoga, the importance of the role of the teacher is becoming more evident. According to a recent survey(citation above), practitioners report the most important qualities of a great teacher are having a warm and friendly demeanor, clarity in instruction, and knowledge of poses. I believe these are minimum requirements. Teachers should invest in themselves to continuously learn through advanced trainings, personal study and practice, and constant revision of verbal instruction.

As an office yoga professional, one my my priorities is “holding space.” This is a term we as teachers hear constantly in yoga trainings and classes, in blogs and articles, but what does it really mean? For me, holding space is creating a space to allow students to have their own experience. This is especially important in a workplace setting, where we never know what people are going through, what they have been through and what is showing up for them. As a teacher, holding space for people during the work day requires being completely and totally present, aware, open-minded, receptive, positive and adaptive. It comes from experience and practice, and is not easily taught.

The emphasis placed on achieving a physical shape in yoga postures, especially in mediums like social media, can be intimidating for beginner students. An experienced teacher knows that a practitioner might have completed some external visual shape, but that doesn’t mean they have cultivated internal awareness or are internally organized (Amy Matthews; Embodied Anatomy).

As yoga teachers, we have a responsibility to convey with our language that achieving a shape is not the end of it. An experienced teacher has the unique ability to connect with all students at all levels; to meet students where they are; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They find sources of internal inspiration and confidence, and the insight to realize the words we use in our classes can completely change a students’ experience.