What makes a good yoga instructor?

A long time ago I drafted a list of characteristics that I believe every good yoga instructor should have. This list was not from the point of view of a teacher, but from the point of view of the student. That is, if the instructor performs these actions, the class, and the resulting energy, always feels more uplifting than awkward.

Well, it’s time for me to revisit that original article. It’s been a long time since that article was posted and I’ve now come to understand a little bit more regarding this art. That is, I still don’t have any ‘formal’ training, but what I experience is, well, what I experience and get to share!

In the original list of items, I left out describing one thing that I now know to be critical with regards to what separates a yoga instructor from one that people stand in line to go see. That trait is:

Share within your personal space as if you’re hugging your students

Understanding your personal space is one thing, but opening yourself up and using that energy in your instruction makes for a great yoga instructor. The instructors that are not afraid to let students into their personal space when they are open and venerable allow for the yoga experience to go beyond the physical and into the emotional aspects of the practice.

This is different than simply approaching a student and making corrections in their posture. Any instructor can suggest a longer stance, or a lengthening, or some other alignment while still protecting their own personal space. But when this is done when the instructor’s personal space engulfs the student, the experience is felt in a very deep way.

What I’m talking about is probably more closely aligned with giving someone a hug. When you hug someone, the intent is to consciously open your personal space. When you do, who you are in the inside flows though and is felt in the emotional level of the receiver.

During yoga, when the physical body is pushed to the limit, the barriers, that people build in order to isolate themselves from the emotional effects of others, are softened. This is the exact time when emotional energies have the greatest impact. This is where a really good instructor can enhance a student’s yoga experience by consciously using the personal space to help release emotional blockages or enhance the flow of emotional energy.

To really make this effective, the instructor must be open at the time of merging. In other words, it is of no use to enter someone’s personal space if you’re going to keep the standard blocks up and active. Picture Mr. Spock approaching a student to make a correction. Sure, you can technically do this, but the experience is far from satisfying.

Thus, one trait of a really good yoga instructor is someone that makes themselves just a venerable as the students – yet knows that when they enter the student’s personal space they will be enhancing the student’s yoga experience in non-physical ways.

So, now, if you look back on my previous article, you’ll see that I’ve added this trait to the list. It’s so important, that I’ve placed it on the top of the list.

Hopefully the words that I’ve written make sense to you. They have helped me realize that it’s not so much the technical aspect of the workout that needs to be perfected, but rather The Being finds its way to the surface when the art of yoga shines through.

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