Who Can Teach Yoga?

This morning I got a call from a woman asking me about the Subtle Yoga Training and Personal Transformation Program. Although she found the idea of the program compelling, her concern was that she wasn’t advanced enough and that she wouldn’t be able to do some of the poses.

Since when do you need to be great at asanas to teach yoga?

If this was the case, then our most cherished teachers would be Cirque Du Soleil artists. The thing is, there is a big difference between contortionists and yoga teachers – and a whole different skill set is required.

What I’m more interested in is this question: “What is it about yoga that inspires you and how do you want to share that with others?”

Beautiful People Teach Great Yoga Classes

A few years ago I had a student I’ll call Anita in one of my programs who was from Mexico and spoke limited English with a very thick accent. I’ve had a lot of experience listening to English in varied and interesting permutations – but Anita’s accent was almost impenetrable. I was concerned that she would have trouble teaching because no one would understand her. So I was worried about how she would do during her practicum, where the students have to teach a class to demonstrate that they’ve integrated the teachings and can sufficiently transmit them.

When it was her turn to teach, Anita sat in front of the class and quietly invited everyone to close their eyes and meditate with her. Then she asked us to open our eyes and when I looked at her, I noticed how radiant she was. She smiled so soothingly and spoke with such a lack of self-consciousness that I forgot I couldn’t understand her very well. Her class was transporting. When it came time for evaluations I almost had nothing to say. I had written very little down – I was basking in the bliss of her vibration. “I couldn’t understand you sometimes,” one of the students said, “But please don’t change a thing! It was such a beautiful class.”

I would much rather take a class from someone who truly cares about me – my safety, my comfort, the inner experience I am having – then from someone who is an expert at performing Yoga Journal cover poses. Wouldn’t you?

People Who Need You to Teach Them Yoga

There are plenty of people out there who can teach athletic, fitness classes at gyms and yoga studios – what we don’t have is an excess of instructors who can teach people who have challenges like obesity, anxiety, inferiority complexes, or who are incarcerated, or don’t get out of their house except to go to the senior center down the street, or to their therapist’s or doctor’s office. What about children in afterschool programs who may not get enough attention at home or at school? Teenagers looking for meaning and mostly finding trouble? Single mothers who could use child care and a yoga class? Homeless people? The mentally ill or addicted?

Everyone needs to do yoga, for sure. But there are many who need yoga desperately. They are all around us and they are significantly underserved.

The woman who called this morning wants to teach yoga to children in the detention center where she works. She is already changing their lives with yoga. She told me that she has taught them just a few simple poses and that they have been so grateful. “One of the kids wrote me a love song,” she said. “I know how much it can help them.”


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