Monday, February 4, 2013

Criteria for a Yoga Teacher

Deepavali Anugraha Sandesha

The job of a yoga teacher is highly specialized, and far more demanding than it appears on the surface.  Teaching yoga falls under the category of the “helping professions”.  There are many types of teachers in our world, but very few teaching jobs involve an ongoing interaction with the mind, body and spirit of the students.  To teach yoga well, there are four indispensable criteria: connection, discipline, precision and humility.  

Yoga is a holistic science, therefore a good yoga teacher cannot present it in a compartmentalized way.  For this reason, the number one criteria for a good yoga teacher is that he/she be wholly present and connected; connected within and without, aware of the inner self and consciousness, the greater consciousness that surrounds and sustains us, the body in all its majesty and fragility and the mind as the filter and veil between these dimensions.  This connection allows the yoga teacher to tune into each student’s energy, state of mind, physical health and progression in the practice of asana.  It also facilitates the structuring of each class, from the dharma talk to the sequencing of the postures.  There is no flow without connection.  

Yoga is a discipline to be followed with consistency.  Passion and dedication motivate the teacher and the student to stay with the practice, but even with these, it is impossible to stay the course without discipline.  Therefore, discipline is the second most important criteria for a yoga teacher.  We must show up regularly on our own mats, on our own meditation cushions, applying the principles of yoga in our day-to-day lives, or we will be unable to bring the fruits of our practice to our students.  To practice and teach yoga, discipline is an absolute prerequisite.

Yoga is an art to be perfected over the course of a lifetime.  No yogi dies having completely perfected the practice, because there are so many layers to uncover, something new to discover each time we come to the mat.  This continual evolution does not imply a lack of structure, or imprecision.  There are definite forms requiring skill and concentration to embody.  For this reason, precision is a third essential requirement for every yoga teacher.  Precision in the postures is key in the training of mind and body.  Precision must be distinguished from perfection; a perfect asana practice is not a requirement but our attention to form certainly is.  

Finally, no matter how lofty our aims or intense our dedication may be--if we can’t keep our feet on the ground, if we can’t put our heads in the service of our hearts, if we can’t bow to something greater than ourselves, and to the greatness in our students--then we cannot be of service.  The fourth and final requirement for a good yoga teacher is humility.  Humility prevents the teacher from teaching to meet his or her own needs rather than the student’s needs.  Humility saves the teacher from the trap of the ego and the quest for perfection, in oneself and in the students.  Humility allows the teacher to keep learning, to retain a sincere passion for yoga, to experience the childlike joy the practice can bring. Every teacher must be humble above all else, for there is no service without humility.  

The ultimate role of a yoga teacher is to take the students on a journey, to guide and foster them in walking a path they are also traveling.  The journey begins by connecting with the body in a new way, connecting with the breath, integrating the mind, the body and the breath. The path leads to union, the true meaning of yoga. The path leads to the ultimate realization that we are not separate, but whole.  We are not separate from the Divine or from one another, and the many aspects of ourselves we normally see as separate can be integrated.  A yoga teacher opens the student up to the possibility of integration, within and without.  

Each yoga teacher possesses these enumerated qualities in differing degrees.  We all have our particular weaknesses and strengths.  Even after a thorough teacher training, many teachers must apply more effort to their practice and hone their skills before they can teach professionally.  The teaching becomes part of the practice, and we teach to learn.  Personally, on some level, I do possess each of the criteria I listed: connection, discipline, precision and humility.  In any given month or on any given day, I am more or less connected, disciplined, precise or humble.  Humility is the most natural of these qualities for me.  Discipline is the least natural.  The more disciplined I become, the more time I will be able to devote to my practice, which will in turn help me with the connection and precision.  The way I maintain my connection to myself, to God, and to others, is through my asana and meditation practice, through prayer, and through study of scriptures.  All of these take time and discipline, and with each, humility is also nourished.  The more disciplined and connected I am, the more precise I will become as well.  I know that if I work on becoming more disciplined, I can become a good yoga teacher.  

No comments:

Post a Comment