Why Teaching Yoga and Pilates Is More Like Parenting Than Instagram Stardom

Padma mayurasana. Merging the lotus with the peacock.
Padma mayurasana. Merging the lotus with the peacock. | Source

With so many yogis appearing in ads and magazines holding jaw dropping poses that seem to defy gravity and the usual arm strength while modeling glamorous yoga clothing or lack of it, people seem to have lost sight of what a good yoga teacher really is. A lot of people now think that an amazing yoga teacher is someone who deftly jumps to handstand or folds himself or herself in a way that makes you think that he or she has somehow lost his or her bones in the process of doing yoga.

For Pilates teachers, on the other hand, students expect to see flat bellies and rock hard abs. They also expects teacher who will make them feel the burn by giving them exercises that they can barely do.

Although I have great respect for teachers and practitioners who are far ahead in their practice, I really do not believe that this should be the standard for being a good teacher. A good teacher is someone who treats the students as if they are their children.

A good teacher always keeps the students safe.

This is the first rule in teaching yoga and Pilates. From making sure that the students are properly aligned in doing their poses to prevent back or shoulder pains to helping out students who are struggling with poses or exercises by giving modifications or adjustments to stopping students from hurting themselves in a pose or exercise that they shouldn't be doing, a good teacher keeps the students safe.

This means that throughout the class the teacher should be watchful of every single student in the class just like a mother who doesn't take her eyes off the children who are playing in the playground.

The art of storytelling is very important in teaching yoga and Pilates.
The art of storytelling is very important in teaching yoga and Pilates.

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A good teacher is a fantastic storyteller.

Part of teaching these classes is weaving a wonderful journey that begins with a warm up which leads to the peak pose or exercise and ends with a fantastic cool down that wraps everything up perfectly, soothing the body parts that were stretched out or worked during the workout.

The amazing ones manage to pick a theme and works around it so skillfully that they can make it seem like it's your first time to do a certain pose or exercise no matter how many times you've attended their classes. The reason for this is that they've done their research or have practiced so much that they can bring your focus to different perspectives of the exercise or pose.

Also, storytelling deals with a lot of imagination. A good teacher can string colorful ways of making you feel the pose by asking you to imagine that you are "growing from your roots" or "offering your heart to the skies."

Parents tell children stories. And, most of the time, they do use stories to explain something to their children.

A good teacher goes through an extensive amount of research.

Parents are very good at research. First time parents-to-be stock up on books about child rearing or are up late going through forums, finding out how they can be the best parents that they can be. And then, there are illnesses, weird rashes, favorite foods, ways of making the kids eat vegetables, which school would be good for their kids.... And, so on. A parent's research is unending.

It's the same for a good yoga or Pilates teacher. There is always an unending stream of questions running in his or her head. Which exercise should I do first? How should I explain this pose to them? Oh no! Why can't my student do this exercise? Where should I adjust them? My student has a compressed disc. How do I keep him safe? Yes. A good yoga or Pilates instructor will not think one teacher training is enough to answer all these questions. They will spend their savings attending workshops, advanced teacher training and buying books and journals just to have these questions answered. They will spend a lot of their free time reading or exploring a pose or exercise just to answer these questions.

A good teacher tucks her students in.

There is nothing more amazing than being tucked into bed by your mom or dad at night. Nothing makes you feel safer than that boogie man under the bed check. And, yes, it's quite nice to have someone make sure that there are no crumbs on your bed or to have books and toys removed from your bed so that you would be comfortable.

Whether it's getting you ready for svasanna or helping you relax or release in a stretch or a restorative position, a good teacher should be walking around to make sure that you are comfortable.

A good teacher is a sight for sore eyes.

It's not really about a teacher's appearance. It's about how they welcome you into the class. They know how to make you feel like you belong to a class. Whether you're jittery because it's your first class or you've just been through a horrible day at work, a good teacher exudes this warmth that clears away all the negative emotions. It's like you've coming home to mummy's milk and cookies after a bad day at school.

Yes. A good teacher should have a certain set of skills and a certain level of fitness to be able to teach yoga or Pilates. Fortunately, this is the reason why classes are sorted out by level. It's quite obvious that a good teacher will never try to teach a pose or exercise he or she is not familiar with.

Although I do have great respect for famous yogis and Pilates teachers, I do prefer attending workshops by senior teachers who do not have a high amount of publicity. Why? They're like having simple parents who are reachable, approachable and have time for you as compared to high profile parents who barely have the time to look at you. Yes. Think about how many people join a workshop by some famous yogi. 30? 40? Will you be given proper attention in that crowd?

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