There's a certain kind of magic that happens to you after a great yoga session. That combined feeling of relief, an awake wide-eyed wonder and a personal commitment to living your best life mix and mingle into what people experience as a 'post-yoga high.' What if you want to incorporate operating from this place into a deeper practice in your life? Well if you're looking to do that through becoming a yoga instructor, but don't know just how, then you're in the right place. Every practitioner of this ancient art once began by asking the question of how to become a yoga instructor, and for most, the answer came through guidance and action. This article will help you discover both.
What Is Yoga?
What is the true meaning of the word Yoga? It is an essential question if you're asking how to become a yoga instructor. Patanjali, one of the founders of modern yoga defines yoga as 'the cessation of the modification of the mind.' In practice this involves developing an awareness of your whole body as one being that is fully connected to your breath and the presence of every moment.
Many people think of yoga as a series of poses, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. The poses matter obviously, it's how you can practice, but in essence yoga first means awareness, union, of your full body, and a deep connection to breathing.
What Qualities Do Yoga Instructors Have?
If you've taken many yoga classes you may have noticed that certain instructors have a range of recognizable qualities. There's a beautiful lightness to how they operate. The more westernized classes may feel more like standard work-out classes. But there is still a simple awareness that most teachers tend to exude. It's a calmness and a clear mode of operating that is instantly noticeable if you know what to look for.
It's true that the ultimate execution of a successful yoga class involves strong physical fitness, exemplary person to person and person to group communication, and the ability to motivate those in your class. These qualities are developed through the process of your initial training.
However, if you're beginning this journey to 'attain' something or to 'become' more of something, you may be barking up the wrong tree. Yoga, while incredibly satisfying and necessary, is not necessarily a path to any single quality or state in particular. In fact, the aim is always to come home to yourself during your practice without holding onto anything (thoughts, expectations, or moods). So in this way, some great qualities to cultivate if you want to discover how to become a yoga instructor are acceptance, presence, reverence for life, and a commitment to taking care of your body.
How to Become a Yoga Instructor
After pondering how to become a yoga instructor and beginning a series of teacher training classes, you may begin to realize the deeper meaning of the phrase 'the journey is the destination.' After you've made the investment in classes and recognized that the earning potential of instructors is somewhat meager to start, your continued commitment can only grow stronger.
It can be physically demanding, testing your limits of strength and flexibility. It can also be exceptionally challenging to help yourself tame the 'distracted monkey' that's in your mind, much less help others do the same! But that's what the process is all about: accepting where you're at, celebrating it, and continuing to move through your breath and connecting it to every moment.
You'll also start to develop a greater understanding of the human anatomy, bodily alignment, the sequencing of a Vinyasa, (the movement between the poses) and the core philosophies that yoga espouses.
So what is your ultimate goal in attaining yoga teacher certification? Once you begin the process, the answer to this question may change. It could be that after thinking you would simply deepen your practice as a student, you decide that you would like to pursue a full-time career. Or maybe it goes the other way, and after thinking this would be your sole career path, that you'd like to incorporate it into a life that has more diversity in terms of what you do to make your living.
Managing Your Expectations On and Off the Mat
As a student and beginning yogi, you've probably experienced a teacher reminding you to manage your expectations and take your ego out of your practice. Simply acknowledging what is can be a difficult task sometimes though! Setting firm intentions to growth every single day can help strengthen your resolve when times get tough. How can times get tough?
Well, there are plenty of ways. We hope that when you pondered how to become a yoga instructor you didn't think the process of that transformation would be completely seamless and conflict-free. Indeed, transformation can be a bumpy and potentially messy process as well. Lest we forget, we're talking about a complete transformation of how you relate to your total reality in order to offer this awareness to others that may be just baby steps into their own journeys. You will experience a great deal of insight, but you may also struggle in ways you had not anticipated.
The good news is that the essential principles of yoga can be your guide during every step of your training and then long after you've been officially made a teacher by a Yoga Alliance certified school. Again, there's no 'correct' path. Even if you don't complete the training, of course, the hope is that you do, but even if this doesn't happen what truly matters is what you learn by going through your experience.
Core Tenants of Yoga and Their Application to Training
- Practice, practice, practice. The more you can make daily yoga a habit, the more easily and quickly your body and mind will adapt to maintaining a steady grasp of what it is you're learning.
- In addition to physical flexibility, practice mental, and behavioral flexibility. As a teacher, you may ultimately be teaching at odd hours and hopefully, you'll be interacting with a decent amount of private clients. This takes the ability to pick up on other people's needs quickly and effectively, and then create opportunities for growth, which brings us to this tenant...
- You cannot teach anyone anything, you can only facilitate opportunities and create spaces for growth to happen. You must lead by becoming an inspiring example that your students can look up to.
- Remember to breathe. Again, this is so essential that it bears repeating again and again. The more that you can remember a wholesome relationship to breathing, the more easily your students will do the same.
- Encourage yourself and others to relax more. Even when it's difficult, authentically helping people relax helps promote wellness for all involved. And also, relaxation is a core tenant of a fully realized yoga practice.
- Encourage yourself and others to eat a wholesome diet and maintain optimal hydration. This is why your favorite teachers are remembered for saying 'drink lots of water' and 'take care of yourselves and eat right.' It not only gives your body the energy it needs to practice, it also gives your body what it needs to repair and minimize what it doesn't need (overly processed foods, an excess of refined sugar, etc)
- Encourage a regular practice of meditation. We have not touched on this directive much so far. But it is ultimately the space that any practice exists in. Another way to look at yoga is through experiencing it as a moving meditation. Also outside of yoga, sitting in a comfortable position and simply focusing on breath is another way to practice meditation.
We hope that this article has encouraged you to seek out the right training after you've sat with and pondered the question of how to become a yoga instructor. With any luck, you can remember these ideas and seek out a mentor/teacher who will deepen your understanding even further. And don't be afraid to be picky when choosing the training ground that's right for you. In the end, you won't be learning much of anything if you have no ability to relax and trust in the learning process. And having a space that feels right and a teacher you trust is an indispensable piece of this puzzle.
Also, examine your own thoughts and habits from an even broader perspective. How fully can you become aware of not only this present moment, but how these moments knit themselves together to ultimately form the full tapestry that is your unfolding life? An awareness of this, the vulnerability to accept the flaws in our natures, and the will to grow and thrive every day will eventually contribute to a new you that can continually give the gift of your wisdom every day.