After you have practiced yoga for some time (and the time varies with each individual) you begin to experience and realize that yoga has improved the quality of your life. Whether these changes are dramatic or subtle, you have discovered an internal discipline with yoga that you can return to and take sanctuary in as life’s challenges present themselves. You have found a connection within yourself that you can resort to time and again for sustenance and strength – a connection with the core of your being. It is natural evolution that you want to share this gift with others – to pass it forward and become a yoga teacher.
Yoga is thought to be over 4000 years old. No-one is really sure, but ancient texts and artifacts seem to support this. It wasn’t until around 2000 years ago that the first texts on yoga (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) appeared. The way yoga was taught from time immemorial was verbally from teacher to student and in turn for the student to become a yoga teacher. This teacher lineage is an important part of the tradition of yoga and you’ll find details of Infinite Yoga’s lineage here.
Parampara is the Sanskrit term for this process, and it is usual to acknowledge three levels of teacher or Guru. The teacher, the teacher’s teacher and the teacher’s teacher’s teacher. Guru has unfortunate connotations in the West, but in India it simply means master or teacher. School teachers are identified as gurus – so anyone who has mastered a subject qualifies for this title. The word Gu means darkness; Ru means light, so a Guru will lead you from darkness to light for their given subject.
In Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga we begin each practice with a chant (invocation) that expresses gratitude for all the teachers that have preserved and passed on the knowledge of yoga to make it available to us today. Becoming a guru (teacher) in the East confers a solemn duty. The guru literally takes on the responsibility of educating the student in the chosen discipline – in the case of yoga, to be a guide along the path of self discovery. It is often said that the student finds the teacher rather than the other way around – however, the yoga teacher must also accept the student.
Therefore the first principle of becoming a yoga teacher is to establish your own yoga practice under the guidance of your teacher. Without that, you have no point of reference to pass on. Ultimately, the teacher is yoga and as you become a yoga teacher, you are simply facilitating the gift of yoga in others. You are planting the seed, nurturing it and watching it grow in your students.
Becoming established in your practice doesn’t necessarily mean being super flexible or having the ability to turn yourself into a pretzel in seconds. It is more about maintaining a regular practice; building integrity in your practice; being present in your practice and embracing the principles of yoga. Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga – the style that we practice at Infinite Yoga – is held to have been developed by the ancient seer Vamana as technique that everyday people could use to gain the benefits of yoga. You no longer have to go to a cave and spend years staring at your naval to become a yogi – you just need to practice and experience it.
The second requirement is the ability to communicate. Yoga has to be experienced and students need a lot of encouragement and inspiration to get their first taste of the fruits that come with yoga. If you cast your mind back to when you began, you may recall the discomfort of postures; the unfamiliarity of the studio; the frustrations of not being able to do everything the teacher showed; the extraordinary difficulty of apparently simple tasks like breathing and moving. Teaching requires patience, understanding, compassion and tremendous communication skills. Voice, demonstration and adjustments are the tools of teaching – but first and foremost is voice. Yoga teacher training provides the platform for you to hone these skills.
How do you become a Yoga Teacher?
Once you have an established practice, the next step to becoming a teacher is to take a yoga teacher training program from a senior and experienced teacher. The training course is a rite of passage which will deepen your practice and round out your knowledge. It will test and challenge you and it will prepare you for the new path you have elected to take. When you complete the course you graduate as a teacher and assume the mantle of that role – with the good grace of your teacher.
Not all teacher training programs lead to certification and if you plan to teach professionally this may be important for you. The most widely recognized accreditation program is from Yoga Alliance for whom Infinite Yoga is an accredited school.
First, find a teacher with whom you resonate. Ideally, select someone who demonstrates their knowledge and experience, and who shares it freely. Talk to others that have taken the training and ask about their experiences. At Infinite Yoga our Teacher Training is run by studio director Dana Rae Paré (bio) and the majority of our teachers have trained with her (teacher’s bios).
Acquiring the knowledge and techniques of teaching are essential – and these can be learned by anyone. But what separates a good teacher from the pack is the energy and presence you bring into the room. Much of that comes from the confidence you build from your practice, but a good deal comes from your teacher – your guru.
Completing teacher training is just the beginning. You need to practice your new learned skills and make them your own. Assisting in classes, apprenticing and practicing skills with other trainee teachers and friends all help. Then you need to understand the business of yoga and find a place to teach. The Infinite Yoga 200hr & 500hr Teacher Training programs cover all these areas and provide opportunities for you to continue learning through continual education credits.