Ashtanga Yoga

What makes an awesome yoga teacher?

I have been so very lucky to have met and studied with maybe 8 or more Ashtanga yoga teachers during the 12 months I’ve been travelling. In each country I visited I tried to seek out new practitioners/teachers to learn from and met some friends for life in the process!

Since getting back to London I have done some reflection on why certain teachers’ styles resonated with me more than others. And I’ve come up with this little list of 5 teaching qualities that are important to me as a student.

It’s clearly somewhat down to personal preference, so I’m interested to see what other yogis think of my rationale! If any of these points do or don’t resonate with you as a student, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

P.S. Obv I approached this from an Ashtanga perspective but I reckon they would apply across the board 🙂 

1) They give great adjustments, but not too many

Who doesn’t love a good adjustment in their asana practice? A poke or a push in the right place from a teacher helps us to get a little deeper in the posture and gives us confidence that our alignment is spot on.

But if we start to rely too much on adjustments to find correct alignment and get a deep stretch, we lose some of the body awareness that is such an integral part of the practice.

An awesome yoga teacher knows when their students need an adjustment and when to give them the space to learn for themselves.

awesome yoga teachers
awesome yoga teachers

2) They empower and inspire you to begin a self-practice

In my opinion, led Ashtanga classes are a great way to introduce people to the practice. But the only person who can really teach you anything about your yoga practice is YOU! Experience cannot be taught.

During a self-practice, you move with the pace of your own breath rather than trying to follow the teacher’s count. You have the chance to explore the postures more thoroughly and become more aware of your body’s weaknesses and strengths. You notice which postures provoke fear and learn how to approach them with softness and surrender.

An awesome teacher will inspire you to explore the practice alone to experience this for yourself. You will be rushing home to begin your self-practice when you find a teacher who embodies the incredible benefits it can have in your life!

3) They practise every day and are students first

Yoga is a practice and we, as practitioners, are lifelong students. We do not reach a certain asana and “complete” our yoga journey, we continue to learn and grow through self-practice. A teacher is not someone who has mastered yoga (impossible!), but someone who has chosen to share their vast experience with others.

An awesome teacher puts their own practice first and builds up more and more experience so they can continue to give more to their students. Self-practice also keeps us humble as we confront our weaknesses on a daily basis – we maintain a student mindset no matter how many years we have been practising.

4) They focus on the practice as a whole (not just asana)

A gymnastics teacher could teach you the external form of the yoga postures; strength, flexibility, alignment and possibly even using the breath as a means to deepen your stretching. But a great yoga teacher will teach you about how to explore the subtle shape of the breath, the dynamics of bandha in each pose, how to incorporate the yoga sutras into your daily life. To overlook all there is to discover beyond just a physical practice would be a huge shame.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my asana practice and have so much fun playing around on my mat trying new postures! But an awesome yoga teacher makes it clear to students how all the pieces of the yoga puzzle fit together to form a complete picture. And they are well equipped to guide the student on that holistic journey thanks to (yep, you guessed it) their own experience in their self-practice.

awesome yoga teachers

Iain Grysak in Bali – an example of an awesome teacher who shares the joys of yoga beyond asana through his teaching.

5) They have fun with you!

Okay enough seriousness now. Yoga is such a transformational practice that we (myself included!) often forget to approach it light-heartedly. An awesome teacher gets the balance just right; they inspire you to concentrate and practise committedly, but they also create a fun, joyful atmosphere that keeps you loving your practice.

And isn’t that why we’re practising in the first place? To cultivate more joy, love and balance in our lives!

Do you agree with my points? Is there anything glaringly obvious missing? Thanks for reading as always 🙂

Love Nat xxx

Cover photo by Justyna Jaworska

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  • Reply
    August 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Hello Nat! You must know that I love your blog and you’re a big source of inspiration, as I work in a bank dreaming about being a travelling yoga teacher. So I am starting my training in octobre!
    Wish you the best.

    • Reply
      Ashtanga Yoga Girl
      August 3, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Hi Clé! What a lovely comment, thank you so much. Great to hear you’re that you’re going to be a teacher too! We will have to attend each others classes one day. Bonne chance et bisous 🙂

  • Reply
    September 19, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    I really enjoyed reading some of your blogs and what a great travel experience you just had experiencing a variety of teachers and yoga shalas! You should swing by Samadi Bali in canggu bali on your next visit to Indonesia! We would love for you to experience the Ashtanga yoga here and mingle with the community.

    P.s you writing is beautiful!


    • Reply
      Ashtanga Yoga Girl
      December 1, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      Hi Quinn, thank you for this lovely comment and apologies for only just now getting back to you! Thank you for the invite, Samadi Bali is definitely on my list – I have heard lots of great things about that space 🙂

      Many thanks and best wishes

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