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the 8 pillars of teaching yoga

8 Pillars of Teaching Yoga

Welcome to a special episode, the 8 Pillars of Yoga Teaching where I shine a spotlight on the foundational qualities that define exceptional yoga instructors. These essential pillars serve as guiding principles for any yoga teacher who aims to inspire and empower their students’ experience as well as elevate their own teaching and practice.

To learn more and join a community of passionate yoga teachers, visit Elev8 Academy for continuing education, professional development, and ongoing support.

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8 Pillars of Teaching Yoga Transcript

In today’s episode, I want to share with you the 8 Pillars of Teaching Yoga. These are distinctive qualities I’ve seen in well-rounded and successful yoga teachers.

I define a successful yoga teacher as someone who has a major impact on those they teach, who teaches with authenticity and compassion, and checks their ego at the door.

A successful yoga teacher embodies the lessons they impart, and they know and understand that yoga is more than postures, that it transcends the mat.

I don’t put any particular emphasis on one pillar over another. They’re all equally important .

Pillar #1 Teaching Excellence

Yoga teachers are always learning. They’re always bettering their skills and furthering their education so they can be the best yoga teacher for their clients. 

This is where authenticity takes root. New yoga teachers mimic the teachers that came before them. They don’t know what their style is, or how they’re going to show up as a yoga teacher.

I’ve seen this in pretty much every new yoga teacher, and I did it myself. I had to mimic my mentor because I didn’t know any better.

However, over time, all yoga teachers, especially if they’re teaching consistently, within about the 12- to 18-month mark, they have started to figure out what they really enjoy, what their words are, and how they want to show up as a teacher.

This is usually when people start to come up to you regularly and tell you how great of a class you taught and they really resonated with the lessons that you were teaching that day. Or they feel like you’ve done something different than what you’ve done in the past.

Find Your Yoga Teacher Niche

In Teaching Excellence, this is where yoga teachers begin to [define] a specialty, or a niche, a specific problem that you are addressing with your yoga teaching.

Perhaps you had back issues when you started yoga. Then you always had this idea that when you became an certified yoga teacher, you would help others who had back issues too.

Maybe you came into yoga teacher training with no idea of what path you wanted to take.

As you get out there and you’re teaching more, again, listen to the people who are coming up to you. Who are the people that have been inspired by your teaching? Who has been helped by your teaching? What similarities do they have? You may begin to see your path in that way.

All of that contributes to your teaching excellency. You never stop learning. You’re always adding more because you always want to be of service to your clients.

Pillar #2 Techniques Mastery

In Western yoga, it’s unlikely you decided to become a yoga teacher without first falling in love with the physical practice of yoga, the asanas. Whenever you decide that you want to teach, it’s important to continue your own practice.

It’s the most common mistake I see, yoga teachers neglecting their own practice in favor of teaching more. You want to snag every opportunity to teach class, to get better, to hone your skills, and to grow your confidence.

However, you must find that balance between teaching and maintaining your own practice because it’s with your own practice, that, one, you’re going to prevent burnout.

You need your own practice to continue with self-care because you took yoga classes in the first place for some internal self-reason. You don’t want to lose sight of that reason when you become a teacher.

If anything, it becomes more important because you’re giving more of yourself as a yoga teacher, and it’s important to keep refilling your cup.

Build Yoga Teacher Skills

The second reason it’s important to have Techniques Mastery is that’s where you’re going to learn how to translate things for your clients.

If you’re practicing postures, you’ll be better able to describe sensations for your students. By practicing breathing techniques, you’ll better be able to demonstrate those breathing techniques, talk about the benefits of those techniques from firsthand knowledge.

Same thing with meditation or any of the practices of yoga. You have to maintain that for yourself to be a better teacher for your students.

In terms of the 8 pillars, I see no shortage in the first two pillars. Teachers who are really working at refining their teaching skills and also making sure they’re learning more about the techniques that they share with they’re students.

It’s as we move into these next pillars that I begin to see the drop off.

Pillar #3 Adapt Yoga for Every Body

The third pillar is Adapting Yoga for Every Body. A lot of focus in our modern day yoga is on the postures, creating strength, getting hot and sweaty, equating those posture classes to other aerobic types of exercise.

The disadvantage is that there’s only a certain portion of the population that have the ability to do those type yoga classes. It shuts the door on so many other people who could benefit from a yoga practice.

Having taught yoga for 20 years, having practiced yoga for almost 25 years, I started with the hot, fast, vinyasa-type classes.

Now I’m in my early 50s and my body doesn’t move exactly the way that it did at 27 when I was doing those hot, sweaty, fast flow classes. I’m starting to feel aches and pains, and I need yoga that honors and allows me to be gentle with those aches and pains.

We’re [yoga teachers] figuring out we can slow things way down and still derive a lot of incredible benefits from yoga. If anything, we’re finally starting to see the veil drop and other parts of the practice bring just as much benefit.

Teachers are learning about accessibility. They’re learning how to adapt physical elements such as breathing, postures, and meditation for all the less than perfect bodies. Age, size, range of motion, limited mobility, pregnancy, illness, if movement is prohibitive, there is a way that we can all practice yoga.

It doesn’t always have to be about the postures.

Pillar #4 Holistic Living

The next of the 8 pillars is Holistic Living, or living a yogic lifestyle. When we instruct our yoga classes not only are we giving them strategies for being mindful, but we’re also modeling the behavior we hope our students will embrace as well.

In Holistic Living, we are open to investigating the different practices that will support our overall well-being. We like to look at different styles of classes. We also can look at different ways in which we meditate. Again, there’s so many different practices that are out there besides the physical practices.

The more yoga teachers adopt a yogic lifestyle, the more open-minded and tolerant they become because yoga increases their compassion. It increases other positive qualities as well. We learn about the ethical principles, and all of this helps us to more easily adopt those practices.

Living our yoga helps to cultivate mental clarity and self-awareness. When an imbalance occurs in your life, it’s easier to recognize it, and you have these practices on and off the mat that you use to help bring you back into harmony and balance.

Pillar #5 Roots of Yoga

How do we learn about all these different paths, practices, and principles of yoga? We learn about them through yoga’s roots, by studying yoga’s history and philosophy. We study yoga texts like the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

And if you’re a yoga teacher and you’re not sure what those texts are, or your yoga teacher training didn’t cover it, I encourage you to do some research on your own.

As much as many modern yoga schools sanitize the foundations of yoga to make it more appealing to Western thoughts and ideas, the fact of the matter is that too many of the lessons that we can take away from yoga come from yoga’s roots.

The lessons that were outlined in these ancient texts are still relevant today.

Pillar #6 Building a Yoga Career

There are two camps in yoga teacher training. The first camp teaches yoga as a hobby, something they do on the side of a full-time career or as a stay-at-home mom. The second camp takes yoga teacher training as the first stepping stone to building a career in yoga.

And if you’re in the second camp, you’ll find it imperative to increase your business know-how right alongside your teaching skills. You need support and strategy as you’re navigating an incredibly twisting road from an aspiring teacher to a professional one.

Making yoga a career requires flexibility in your brain because you change hats frequently. Your day is filled with so many behind-the-scenes responsibilities from determining what events to do, the appropriate pricing, marketing and filling up your events and workshops, managing finances and taxes, and liability and legal concerns.

Don’t take the route I did, which was building the plane as it was flying in the air. Thankfully, you have a ton more options now than I did when I was building my yoga business 20 years ago.

Pillar #7 Get a Yoga Mentor

The seventh of the 8 pillars that I see successful yoga teachers embrace is mentoring. They know having a mentor who has been there and done that will help them overcome the inevitable obstacles that much faster.

Mentors can take on the role of a coach as well, providing accountability, helping to support you in short and long-term goal setting. They can help refine your skills and grow your confidence because they accelerate the learning curve. They can show you what mistakes to avoid.

A mentor brings invaluable insight and experience. Plus a mentor doesn’t need to be 10 or 20 or 30 years older. They only need to be a few steps ahead of you on that journey.

Pillar #8 Yoga Community

That brings us to the eighth pillar, community. A community of like-minded individuals allows you to connect.

You can share experiences, and seek feedback and advice from other people who get what you’re going through, who understand your struggles as a yoga teacher and what you’re trying to accomplish.

One of my favorites with the community is engaging in meaningful and respectful discussions about different ideas that you learn about as you continue to evolve and grow as a yoga teacher.

A community can also create a space of collaboration and networking, both of which can open doors up to new possibilities. And finally, a community provides a social connection. It’s a chance to develop friendships with others who are just as passionate about yoga as you are.

Wrapping up the 8 pillars of teaching yoga

Thank you for joining me on a fast and furious fly through the 8 Pillars, those eight distinctive qualities that I believe well-rounded and successful yoga teachers embody. As you continue on your journey of growth and transformation, I want to invite you check out Elev8 Academy.

Elev8 Academy is my exclusive membership for yoga teachers to continue their education and professional development without the expensive price tag.

Inside Elev8 Academy, you’re going to get support in all the 8 pillars I just outlined. You’ll find a wealth of resources, classes, basically an all-access pass to all the training that I’ve created over the years.

Whether you’re seeking continued training, mentorship, or the support of like-minded yoga teachers, Elev8 Academy has everything you need to elevate your teaching and deepen your practice.

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