It is normal for many yoga practitioners to reach a point where they want to try their hand at teaching yoga. However, translating this thought to action takes years of steady yoga practice and transition into a yogic lifestyle to its fullest. As stated by three prominent yogis in an interview published in NamaRupa, an Indian Yoga magazine, Desikachar, Iyengar and Patthabi Jois, if teaching yoga is what you want to do then you must first be a good yogi yourself.
The True Essence of a Yogic Lifestyle
Teaching yoga must be preceded by a true yogic lifestyle. A yogi is one who is a role model in terms of living up fully to the demands of yogic philosophy. So, what the three aforementioned great yogic gurus imply when they say for teaching yoga one must be a good yogi first is that teaching yoga starts from within the practitioner.
Teaching yoga effectively should not be treated as a mainstream career path. In its more vivid sense, yoga has become too commercialized. Teaching yoga is not essentially about taking a few training courses and progressing onto teaching yoga in a studio. It is more of a journey of self discovery. According to Iyengar, yoga is a journey of enlightenment which can be achieved by embracing the eight limbs of yoga and making them part and parcel of your life. Only when you fully accept and inculcate these eight limbs, can you move on to teaching yoga.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
C.E Pantajali, considered to be the father of modern yoga has compiled 195 aphorisms called the Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra describes the 8 profound aspects of a yogic lifestyle, also known as the 8 Limbs of Yoga .Teaching yoga requires enlightening yourself first. In order to reach the final stage of enlightenment, one must use these 8 limbs of yoga as a guide to personal development to reach harmony of the mind, body and spirit.
The first limb of yoga is that of Yamas. Yama is the attitude you adopt towards others and the world that surrounds you. There are 5 yamas:
The 5 yamas focus on molding the lifestyle of an individual towards the path of honesty, purity and morality. Having achieved these 5 yamas can bring us one step closer to teaching yoga.
The second limb of yoga needed for teaching yoga is that of Niyamas. Niyama refers to the attitude that you adopt towards yourself. There are 5 niyamas:
- Study of the sacred text and one’s self
- Living with an awareness of the Divine
Teaching yoga successfully requires you to achieve the 5 states of niyama. These states require you to be pure, physically and mentally. They also require you to practice lifestyle of contentment, to self inquire and self examine, and to maintain a profound connection to the Divine so as to achieve a sense of sacredness and wholesomeness.
Asanas are the physical poses of yoga. Teaching yoga requires you to master the asanas of yoga. These asanas are designed to purge the mind and body of tension and stress. The main ideology behind practicing these asanas is to maintain harmony between the body and mind, to rejuvenate, energize and empower the two. Teaching yoga effectively requires you to know these asanas thoroughly and to practice them with ease, comfort, alertness and steadiness and teach them similarly.
Pranayama refers to breathing exercises. The main aim of pranayama is to achieve control of breath. This is essential to teaching yoga as it allows you to achieve a calmer and more focused state of mind. Pranayama allows you to strengthen and cleans the nervous system and boost your energy levels. If you haven’t mastered pranayama yourself, then teaching yoga to others may not be as effective.
Prathayara is not a state which can be assumed instantly. It is one which comes with time. Prathayara refers to a state which occurs during meditation, asanas or pranayama, where you become so immersed in the act you become unaware of what is around you. Your focus at this point turns inwards. Teaching yoga the right way will require you to have reached a point in your yogic life where you have the ability to experience prathayara.
Dharana refers to training the mind to focus without falling for distractions. This is essential to the practice of meditation, which in turn is essential to teaching yoga effectively.
Dhyana refers to meditation, the practice of constant observation of the mind. It is an essential tool to achieving mental clarity and health, two of the strongest pillars of practicing yoga. Teaching yoga requires teaching the correct form of meditation.
Enlightenment is the final and the 8th limb of yoga. It is a state of ecstasy, where the mind and universe are one. It is a state of peace, awareness, completeness and detachment. If you have reached the stage of enlightenment then teaching yoga would become a lot easier.
Enlightenment is when you know you have approached the yogic lifestyle the right way. When you have done something right, teaching it right always comes naturally. Teaching yoga hence, is an inside job.