There are various professions where people trust professionals to take care of their body, mind, emotions, or integrity.
The doctors have the Hippocratic Oath, the teachers have a strict code of conduct, the lawyers take an oath to protect their clients’ interests.
Similarly, a yoga teacher is not just taking responsibility for a person’s flexibility or strength. Yoga is the medium through which every layer (kosha) of a person is molded. When yoga teachers take such a big responsibility, they need to have some guidelines, some agreements that serve as the guiding light.
These are some agreements that I have made with myself as a yoga teacher:
Build a solid foundation
It’s easy to become a yoga instructor where you teach a sequence, have a script for the class, and you can do an array of yoga asanas. Though, being a yoga teacher means a lot more. What’s your vision of teaching yoga? Have you spent time reading and learning about yoga philosophy and anatomy? More importantly, what have you learned through your experience? Have you experimented with your body-breath before helping your students?
Yoga is more than an exercise routine. Invest time and effort in the science, philosophy, and art of yoga. Make sure your skills, aptitude, understanding, and application of the subject are solid.
Keep learning and evolving
Just like stagnant water putrefies, a stagnant mind rusts. Mastery in any field requires years of learning, practice, and research. Yoga is no different. There is always scope for improvement and learning. As a yoga teacher, you also take responsibility of your students’ practice and improvement. Ensure to keep learning and acquiring more skills.
The day you think there is no scope for growth or upgrading your skills and knowledge, that’s when you leave the best days behind.
Never pretend to know more than you do
There are so many aspects to yoga. It takes a lifetime or more to learn it all. Besides, the more we learn and explore this human-science, the more we realize that there is so much more. Be honest with yourself; know your skill set and know where you can improve. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know.
Don’t take criticism or appreciation too personally
In the last few years, I have been criticized and appreciated by different individuals for the same class. As a teacher, I take my A-game to every class. Though, the students carry a different energy every day. (Remember, some asanas come easily on some days and on some you struggle.) Thus, constructive criticism is fine; though don’t let the good, bad, or ugly shift your energy center.
Be secure in your art and knowledge
There will always be someone who can do something better than you. Some students may do their asanas more effortlessly than you. Another teacher may know more about managing slip discs through yoga. You will always find someone who is better than you. It should not affect you or make you more compulsive. If it motivates you, that’s brilliant. But, don’t look down on yourself or try finding flaws in other people’s techniques. Just tend to your own green grass.
Practice yoga off the mat too!
Your yoga practice is not limited to the time spent on the mat. It includes how you live your life. We may begin with asana practice or pranayama, but yoga has a ripple effect on every layer/aspect of ourselves. It affects our attitude, perspective, the way we emote, and our prana levels.
All the yoga teachings and experiences should be reflected in you! That’s the best marketing you can ever do for yourself.
Leave your mat once in a while and try new workouts, fitness regimes, or interests
We practice yoga to experience more freedom. If your mat or yoga practice anchors you, think again. It’s nice trying a new workout or hobby once in a while. Every thought, every action has an effect on you. Thus, expand your range, challenge your boundaries, try something new while surprising the body and mind.
Do not impose your beliefs, opinions, or experiences as a yoga teacher/practitioner
I have seen many yoga teachers and students, who walk around with a “yoga manual.” Patanjali nor any other teacher has made a handbook on who can or cannot practice yoga, how should a yogi behave, and so on.
We all have different experiences and opinions; avoid imposing them on your students or peers. Every individual is different and their practice serves them the best. Respect the practitioner and the differences.
Leave your ego behind for work, meetings, or classes
When yoga becomes a full-time career, we often work with an array of people. You might be the most experienced, intellectual, or popular yogi, but leave your ego out of the work, class, and meetings. Its humility and compassion that draw one to teaching yoga. Don’t lose the essence. A yoga teacher motivates others to give their best at any point in time.
Let your actions speak louder than words
As yoga teachers, we have so much to say about healthy eating, healthy lifestyle choices, practicing yoga, or doing some movement every day. A more authentic teacher would be someone who practices what he/she preaches. The better way to teach is to demonstrate the goodness of a practice. You don’t need to shout to be heard. It should be reflected in your actions!
I have written these promises down to remind myself of my path and journey. There will be times I fall off the wagon. But I promise myself to get up and get back again and again.
I am not an idealist who wants to change the world. I am a pragmatist who wants to change myself; be a better version of myself, every day. And, that’s what these promises remind me, to be and to do.