5 practical & almost free ways to become a better yoga teacher

Whether you’ve just graduated from your first teacher training or are simply feeling a little tired of your current flow it can be overwhelming to share something new and valuable with your students. Often when we begin learning the teachings and realizing how deep and wide the root system of Yoga which exists, we also question our place in it. The Bhagavad Gita 2:40 says “On this path no effort goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward (spiritual) awareness will protect you from the greatest fear”. Fear is only the absence of love, and simply the intention of strengthening your relationship with spirit means it is already happening.

You have likely realized that 200 hours is really more of an introduction to Yoga and that there are endless paths worth exploring. It can also be easy to get lost in the superficial layers and misconceptions of western yoga culture, but again it comes down to intention. What do you intend to share? Here are a few (of many) ways to become more aligned with your unique expression as a teacher of one of the most ancient and sacred healing arts.

1. Say yes

If you’re already comfortable teaching one style of asana or spiritual practice it might be time to broaden your understanding and dive into some new teachings–you may find your true path has yet to be revealed, and in a place you would have never thought to look before.

So while staying within the bounds of integrity to your students and the studio or host, when you are asked to cover a class that you don’t normally teach—say YES! It feels weird at first because doing a new thing requires stimulating new neuro connections in your brain, but eventually you can say yes to a wide enough range of classes to keep your fridge full and your rock collection growing.

Hot tip: When filling in for another teacher try not teaching like them, or mimicking your own guru or teachers. Class is not meant to sound scripted. Use your vocabulary, and cue what feels important as you observe your students’ practice moment to moment. Allow the energy of what you are teaching to be projected through your tone, the rise and fall of your pitch, and pronounced breathing as you melodically take your students through an experience. This is your time to light up and expand your community through your unique voice. And don’t put pressure on yourself to figure it out any time soon–it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon that lasts eternity. 

2. The rabbit hole

“We teach best what we need most to learn.” – Richard Bach 

You know when you discover a new teaching, theory, pose, dimension, or music, and next thing you know it’s 3:33 am and you’ve used up most of your data? We’ve all been there. Sometimes it pays to really nerd out on some hot topics coming alive for you. Whether it’s sequencing, mantras, astrology, or Vedic philosophy, even Rumi says “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

You don’t need to be an expert to share what heals you. The chance is if it strikes a chord, there is something worth exploring. The internet, the scriptures, your community, and your own practice are your friends. Do the research, sign up for the workshop or training, open your old manuals, and talk to your guides and mentors.

We can become so filled with the light of knowledge that we feel we might burst if we don’t share it. The information is within you and around you just waiting to live through your voice.

3. Rely on the teachings

The teachings are always there for support–they’re the bones. Svadhyaya Niyama is the study of self-realization through sacred texts, scriptures, and philosophy through this constant evolution toward ourselves. This stuff is thousands of years old; an interconnected Indra’s web of information that all somehow stays relevant even today.

Ask yourself how you can apply these teachings in your classes or over the course of a workshop. Consider infusing mantras, pranayama breathing techniques, using the stories behind pose names, and reading the poetry of the Vedas. Also, think of how the teachings can be applied outside of the studio and possibly begin a dialogue with your students about real-world ways to live heart-aligned. Get used to questioning.

If you struggle to make any sense of it all–like most of us even after years of study there are many helpful resources. Some of our favorites include most translations of the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the Upanishads. And much like poetry, every time one opens the scriptures one discovers new depths and perspectives from the same words.

4. Get inspired

You’re looking for inspo for Friday night’s power flow–you deserve to drop in at that studio with that teacher you love. Sometimes learning one new pose or transition can unravel an entire sequence or series with the genius of Einstein. Take notes, and focus on the feelings, words, or visualizations that arise while you are being a good student. Can’t afford the class? Youtube has about a gajillion for free.
Never. Stop. Learning. Get obsessed. Think of doctors, school teachers, and lawyers; they simply don’t finish their education degree and never again read an article, recent study, or update their practice standards. Think of your teaching journey similarly, it is a lifelong undertaking. And while discipline and consistency are required, so is grace. 

How do you spend your free time? Are you watching reruns or consciously moving your body releasing the mild to major traumas stored in there? What kind of content do you consume? Endless cat videos or perception-altering Dharma talks? Who are your closest people and what are your main themes of conversation?

5. Ask your people

What do your OM-ies really like about your classes? Often this comes as passive feedback after your classes, but don’t be afraid to communicate with your students. Part of our jobs as yoga teachers is relating with our community in an authentic way. Ask your students if there are things you could make clearer or spend more time explaining, theming, or sequencing. You can even pass around paper and a pen in class and ask your students to anonymously offer suggestions of things they long to know more about. You can even give them options, such as Anatomy of the (hips, shoulders, etc), chakras, focus on backbends, mantras, bandhas, etc. If you don’t know about the topics, see ‘The rabbit hole’.

There are many paths to self-actualization and this is sort of a chose-your-own-adventure situation. Ultimately we want to make ourselves available for spirit to act through us, so simply ask to be an instrument of grace and love. And be Patient. 

Author: Marie Boisvert

yoga teacher praying

Marie rooted her Yoga training in 2008 through the Sivananda Organization in traditional Hatha Yoga with a 200-hour YTT. This turned into a deep dive in a vinyasa-based power yoga 300-hour YTT where she learned the foundations of Ashtanga Yoga, anatomy, and creative/informed sequencing.

She continued her lifelong apprenticeship with the Fierce Grace Scholarship awarded by Ryan Lier into a 100-hour Vinyasa-Krama YTT learning how to integrate yoga off the mat and into the world. She is the assistant instructor for the TRU Yoga Teacher Training, happening in April 2023 in Costa Rica.

Other helpful resources:

Inner Path: Yoga Philosophy Practice Deck 

Yoga body, mind, spirit – Donna Farhi

Yoga of the subtle body – Tias Little 

Light on Pranayama: BKS Iyengar  

Secret Power of Yoga – Nischala Joy Devi

Tha Bhagavad Gita Comes Alive – Jeffrey Armstrong