Friday, December 18, 2009

The Seat of a Teacher

All the discussion online and elsewhere about regulating teacher training programmes has got me thinking: what, really, is a teacher? How do you become one? Who are the best teachers?

I became a yoga teacher by accident. No, really! Out of the blue one day I was asked to lead a small group of yogis, after our teacher left. So I did - and I found that I loved it! Three years later, I finally decided to pursue a teacher training. I guess I did this for two reasons - firstly, to challenge myself to take my yoga knowledge and practice to the next level. And secondly, out of a realisation of responsibility towards my students - especially the responsibility to their safety.

When you put yourself in the seat of the teacher, people innately trust you. In a yoga class, people get into the flow of following instructions. They try things they wouldn't normally (like touching their toes!). And everyone's body is different - I can do something without pain that might injure another person.

So a teacher is someone you trust. In Yoga, you trust your teacher physically to guide you safely through the postures. There is also an ethical dimension to this: you trust your teacher to be professional, to touch you appropriately, to make you feel safe and respected.

A teacher should do this because a teacher is someone who is there for YOU. S/he is not there to hear herself speak. S/he is not there to do her own practice or to show off her asanas. S/he is not there to judge you, gossip about you, or flirt with you.

A teacher is someone who shows you the road, gives you the keys, but lets you drive there at your own pace. A teacher wants you to succeed for your own sake - not for how it will reflect back upon them. A teacher gives you a map but doesn't just hand you the treasure.

Teachers are a gift, and sometimes a surprising one at that. They appear in your life out of nowhere, sometimes staying only a moment, sometimes staying with you forever. If you are open to it, almost anyone can teach you something. :) And maybe without even knowing it, you are teaching people all the time.

So, what does it take to sit in the seat of the teacher? Honesty. Courage. Faith. Humility. A sense of humour!

Please add to this list...


  1. I fell into teaching by mistake as well! It just sort of happened around me without me controlling it. Which I think ties in with the notion that teachers appear when they are meant to.

    A lovely post, I agree with you, especially about the sense of humour!

  2. I like humility. I think it's true--too many people get caught up in leading and being in charge and having everyone look at them. They forget that they really only know just a little bit more than their students, but just have had a lot more practice.

    A humble teacher hasn't forgotten what it is like to be a student. Actually, they probably still are one, since I don't think any of us are ready for guru status, yet.

    Nice thoughts on the subject!

  3. Rachel > I also believe that teachers appear when they are needed... Funny, I've never thought of myself in that capacity lol! I think having a sense of humour is extraordinarily important especially when teaching yoga. It's easy for people to start treating the class like a competitive sport or to judge themselves against others. I am always telling people "by the way, you're allowed to smile!"

    Brenda > An arrogant teacher is enough not to make me want to take the class! I remember one vinyasa class when as soon as the teacher walked in and sat down, his ego filled the room so full I could hardly breathe. It was a great class but I would never go back simply for how dominating his energy was. Wow.

    Thanks for the comments!