Thursday, May 17, 2012

What does it mean to be a teacher?

Some readers may have gleaned from a few posts back that I have been absent from the blogging world because I was immersed in another teaching journey: my Level 2 teacher training! Well, I have returned, my 500 hour certificate in hand (300 hours on top of my original 200), and now I suppose I am waiting for it to sink in.

Which has got me thinking, what does it mean to be a certified yoga teacher? In my case, a twice-certified yoga teacher?  It certainly doesn't mean that I have all the answers, although many things did become clearer along the way!

What it does mean, to me anyway, is related to a quote attributed to Krishnamacharya:

"You must adapt the yoga to the student, not the student to the yoga."

That, I think, is the essence of being a teacher. Far from the presciptive trends in current yoga, Krishnamacharya was said to have taught yoga differently to everyone, depending on their goals, their body type, and their age. (Of course, he didn't warm so much to teaching women, but that's another story I guess).

Being a teacher is about far more than teaching asanas in a certain order, rhythm or sequence. It is about teaching the RIGHT parts of the practice - yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana - to the right people. It is about accepting that no two students are the same, and finding ways to make this beautiful practice accessible to each and every one of them. It is about acknowledging that each body has its own shape, that each life has etched its mark into our physical and mental bodies, and that no two yogas are ever truly alike.

To be a teacher, we have to recognise that yoga is a tool to achieve a goal (happiness - liberation - health... the goal will vary!), not a goal in itself. And at the end of the day, that is what my 500 hour certification brought me - more tools in my toolbox. More ways to understand, explain, modify and adapt this practice to deal with the beautiful, fantastic diversity of the human body.

And that, I think, is the essence of being a teacher - is to also be a student. To constantly be learning new things, constantly deepening our knowledge, constantly pushing outside of our comfort zones to study and practice new things.

What does being a teacher mean to you (whether you are a teacher, a student, or both)?


  1. congratulations!! what a huge accomplishment! :)

    i love what this second stop on your journey has brought you. I understand having more tools in your tool box (it's what we refer to clinical skills in speech therapy land lol).

  2. Dear Breanna,
    I have just entered Google keywords in search of this peculiar Krichnamacharya quote (for my future own homepage ;-)). Your entry was on top, what a nice coincidence! I really appreciate what you write about our training and what it means to us teachers. So true!
    All the best on your journey across the world and in the hearts of your Yoga students.
    Lots of love and a big hug.

  3. @Eco - completely! I think it applies to any field where we are trying to teach or help others. The more tools you have, the better!

    @Martina - thanks for stopping by!! That is a nice coincidence. :) I can't wait to see your homepage when it is done!

  4. Congratulations... that is amazing.

    I think a big part of being a good teacher is giving some aspects of that "tool box" to your students. Empowering them to delve into the practice and explore yoga in general. Really lovely post.

  5. Nice Blog, particularly to see your photos from Langkawi. I am from Penang Malaysia, so it was so nice to see home! Keep up the great work. I am a Yogi, living and working in Nairobi and Port Moresby and loved your blog!

  6. @ Sojii - I completely agree! The best teachers make us feel like we are leading our practice, not just following.

    @Fazilah - Thanks for visiting! I didn't go to Penang but Langkawi is very nice. Funny you mention Nairobi, I am heading there next week!