Do You Want to Be a Popular Yoga Teacher?

Lately, I’ve been getting comments in regards to my video submission for an opportunity to teach at one of the Wanderlust Festivals.

“wow!  if you win the Wanderlust teaching spot, you’ll be put on the map.”  
“what a great opportunity it would be for you to get your name out.”
“this is how teachers become celebriyogis.”

And I think, “what map? my name out where? and why do I want to become a celebriyogi?”

And then I remember sitting in a class (or was it a speakeasy talk?) with Maty Ezraty.  I’ve never heard of her before when I saw her name on the class schedules but decided to check her out.  Little did I know that she was the co-founder of YogaWorks.  This woman is amazing on all levels.. and I’m thinking, “how come I never heard of her before?”  Maty says, “Do you want to be a good teacher or do you want to be a popular teacher?” 

What a thought provoking question to which my answer is “both.”  I want to reach as many people as I can and teach really good yoga classes.  But then it got me thinking… is there a difference between a popular teacher because s/he is a good teacher and a popular teacher because s/he is just popular?  It’s like high school all over again… you know those popular kids are popular because of the way they look or the families they come from, but deep down they’re not the type of friends you want to associate with…

So I think back… I’ve signed up for classes before because of the teacher’s name on a roster and I’ve heard about the popularity of their classes.  They play good music.  They teach advanced poses.  They can do this.. they can do that… And then I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t go to so and so’s class because they don’t play music or they don’t let me do this pose or they are too strict.”  So I sign up for that teacher’s class.  In the end, the popular class was fun but the not so popular class was enlightening.  The difference?   There was no connection with the popular teacher.  I could barely hear the teacher over the music.  The teacher never looked at me.  We plowed thru sequence after sequence until I could give no more.  The not so popular teacher made me do things I didn’t want to do because they saw that was where I needed to practice.  These types of teachers pull me back when they recognize that I am moving from ego and competition, especially when my body is not ready for that type of pose.  In the end I thanked the not so popular teacher for really seeing me and helping me see what I was ignoring and helping me to really understand what it means to practice.

I’ve asked myself, so why do I want to teach at Wanderlust?  The answer was clearly not to become a popular teacher.  I don’t consider myself a popular teacher.  Since I’ve started teaching, I’ve opted for those not so popular time slots.  In fact out of the 13 classes I teach, I only teach one prime time slot.  I don’t give in to everyone’s wishes.  I don’t offer all the crazy sequencing and postures unless I know you’re ready.  I don’t always play music.  I’ll give you a block and ask you to modify even if you don’t want to… not because I think you can’t do it, but because I care about you and want to see you grow and not continue to stroke your ego.  The number of students in class don’t frazzle me… because I personally know each and every student and if I don’t know you, I want to know you.  This is the type of teacher I’ve become and it won’t change regardless of Wanderlust or not.  

Even though I’ve only met Maty once and took a few of her classes last year, I am inspired by her.  She teaches some really badass yoga and is not afraid to bruise your ego because she loves you.  

These are the qualities a good teacher possesses, some are qualities that will not put them in the popular ranking, but I would sign up for their classes in a heart beat.  Every time I step into a classroom, I remind myself that this is who I am:

1.  A good teacher teaches the importance of how you feel in the pose rather than how you should look in a pose.  Feeling the pose and expressing it outward is much stronger than forcing the pose to look a certain way.  This teacher teaches the student to strengthen their intuition so the practice becomes their own… this teacher is teaching independence for one day the student will no longer need the teacher and the teacher would be so happy to see their student progress without being dependent on them.  

2.  A good teacher leads a healthy and happy life.  It doesn’t mean they have a perfect life, but they practice what they teach. They show us that it’s not always peachy outside, but what matters is how they handle it and how they overcome the difficulties in their life.  They inspire us by simply living their life.

3.  A good teacher has a sharp sense of awareness.  They are present in their life.  Again not perfect, but present.  They have the ability to see themselves and their actions.  Everyone goes down the dark path at some point in their lives, but the person who can see, will see the choices they’ve made did not yield the best outcome and will recreate a new choice.  Because this person is present for themselves, they are present for others.  They will help others see themselves through the lens of compassion.

4.  A good teacher connects with people.  They are genuinely interested in you and your practice.  You’re not just a number in class.   They see your progress and offers suggestions to make your practice easier and more enjoyable.  They celebrate your successes and your falls.  Mostly these teachers help students connect with themselves.  They don’t put themselves on the guru pedestal and would laugh in your face if you refer to them as your guru… because they teach you that you are your own best guru and you don’t need anyone else to bow to except the light that is already in you.

5.  A good teacher has a great sense of humor.  They laugh when they fall.  They may even laugh at you when you fall… not to make fun of you, but because they want to remind you to stop taking the pose so seriously.  You can see that their sense of humor on the mat carries thru into their life and we wonder how this teacher deals with everything under the sun with such grace and ease. 

None of this will change if I win the teaching spot at Wanderlust… because all I care about is connecting with new students and being able to practice all 5 of these qualities in a new environment.    

I would be so grateful for your vote.  Voting ends on May 15th.  Click on the link below and press LIKE on facebook to vote for me:

11 thoughts on “Do You Want to Be a Popular Yoga Teacher?

  1. As you point out, good teachers don’t always do the “popular” thing – but we end up respecting them for teaching us to know our limits, correct bad habits, and above all, stay safe on the mat! But I think #2 is especially important – a good teacher lives their yoga all the time. <3 this post!

  2. Thanks so much for this (much needed!) post. Totally agree with the points you made. I’d add that a good teacher manages to open the mind, open the heart – not just open the chest and hips. If we want to be good teachers, we need to connect not only on the physical level, but this takes time and therefore perseverance on the student’s side as well.

    • Great point. I think I see a pattern…. Physical connection/surface connections appears in many parts of our lives nowadays because we “don’t have time” (but it’s more like ‘we don’t take time’) to really connect and see people. If we do that in our own lives then it’s possible we do that in our teaching. Thanks for your insights.

      • I think a good teacher guides a student to trust and listen to their body.

        A good teacher doesn’t offer comparisons – One thing I find really troublesome is how most teachers single out students – yes even in praise. If a teacher says “look at Jane, she’s doing it perfectly, try to do it like her” In all actuality, you’ll never do that posture like Jane, because you’re not Jane. What is one person’s “perfect” expression of the asana is not another – so i guess that is really tied into guiding a student to trust and listen to their body – abilities and limitations 🙂


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