Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How to Become a Successful Yoga Teacher


By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

How do you measure success? Do you think of physical, mental, spiritual, influential, or monetary success? It is important to be honest with yourself and know that you may be very successful in one area, but not in another.

Therefore, look at your strengths and be honest with yourself about what your goals really are. There have been many successful Yogis, and some spiritual leaders, who had the clothes on their backs as their only possessions. They did not pursue material wealth, but instead, helped others until their last day.

How can I say they were successful? They chose the path that they wanted, and some have had tremendous influence without material wealth. They were men and women of conscience who humbled the powerful.

This is not to say that a teacher must live in poverty to be influential. An oath of poverty to help humankind is noble, but not for everyone. Personally, a balanced approach to physical, mental, spiritual, influential, and monetary success is easier for most of us to live with. Let’s take a look at the five successes and see how you can build on them, help others, and live the best life you can.

If you teach Hatha, Vinyasa, Kundalini, or another physical style of Yoga, your body will be in “good shape.” Many people perceive good shape to mean muscles, but forget about the benefits to the joints, bones, and internal organs. Yoga is good for all of them and is a total health program.




Anyone who takes the time to meditate, and practice pranayama, will have better mental health. As a serious Yoga practitioner, or Yoga teacher, you should practice this daily, even if you do not have Yoga classes today. All of the other forms of success will yield mental health, as well.

Some styles of Yoga are more spiritual than others. In the west, most practitioners only think of Hatha Yoga, but there are many other spiritual Yoga styles. However, if spiritual Yoga does not fit into your lifestyle, prayers will help. Spiritual health is just as important as any other type of success.

The power of influence is a part of teaching Yoga. Therefore, never misuse it and never take advantage of your Yoga students, family, or friends. However, if you see an opportunity that will help the common good, never avoid using the influence you have acquired.

About money: Some people think, “Money is the root of evil.” I totally disagree because money is only a commodity, such as energy. If we misuse it, that is our loss, but if we help others, that is rewarding to all of us. Much like when we use energy, we are only temporary “keepers of money.”

Make use of money, and help those who you can. Strangely, more money will come back to you, as a result of being charitable. This is the cycle of karma, success, and life.

There is nothing wrong with success and self-improvement. When you take each aspect of success, and develop them all in harmony for the common good, that is also a form of Yoga. You might even refer to this method as the “Union of Success,” which could be named “Jayati Yoga.”


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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yoga Teachers Lead by Example (Part 3)


By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Behavior toward neighboring Yoga schools, teachers, and their students, should be cordial. Like the old saying goes, “If you do not have anything good to say, do not say anything at all.” When we speak of other teachers, or former teachers, in a hostile manner, what do we teach our students?

Unfortunately, Yoga teachers are human and behavior is not always optimum. Show respect toward neighboring ashrams by letting the director, master teacher, or guru, know about your events - in the form of a letter or invitation. Do not post your events on their doors, on their cars, and on telephone poles nearby their ashram.




Do not encourage your students to tear down advertisements of other local ashrams in the markets and local coffee shops. Harmonious coexistence with local studios and ashrams is healthy. When Yoga students are encouraged to become sectarian, or elitist, they are being strayed away from the true meaning of Yoga. Always remember Yoga means “unity.”

Avoid moving your studio next door, above, below, or across the street from another Yoga teacher. The world is a very big place. There is no need for us to behave like rivaling businesses. If that were acceptable, Yoga would be just a business, and our true mission is to help others.

Try to maintain good relations with former teachers and their students. Sometimes, there are complications in the student / teacher relationship, but try to be as friendly as possible.

Relationships with your Yoga students should be balanced and kept intact. Yoga teachers should avoid using their position for leverage or special favors. If you are having feelings beyond the usual teacher / student relationship, you should seek qualified advice, do some “soul searching,” or withdraw yourself from the situation.




The studio is not a romantic playground, or part of a dating service, for teachers. As a Yoga teacher, your relationship is founded upon the trust of your students. You also want to avoid “fueling” any distractions from practice.

Lastly, you want to encourage your more advanced students to become independent creators of their own practice. It is nice to be needed, but your Yoga students will grow if they are allowed to be innovators. You can always show them the safest methods to keep them on the right track, but you do not want your advanced students to feel dependent on your existence.

To draw a small comparison: A pair of adult eagles takes wonderful care of their chick, but someday, that chick will grow to be as large as its parents. The solution is to encourage their offspring to fly and become independent. You know, you will not be around forever, so encourage your Yoga students to keep the practice evolving.


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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Yoga Teachers Lead by Example (Part 2)


By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

It is a shame that proper behavior, respect, and ethics do not make great headlines in the newspapers. Just watch the news, and read the newspaper for a week, to confirm what makes “good copy.” It will not take long for you to find a dozen, or dozens, of scandals.

We all make mistakes, and none of us wants to have them in print, but some are preventable. Here are some guidelines for Yoga teachers to consider when teaching their students. As a leader and role model, your ethical behavior will be duplicated by your Yoga students.




There is no need for an air of superiority within the Yoga class. Everyone is good at something, so why waste time and energy trying to impress your students, or the public, about your ability as a Yoga instructor. If students are attending your Yoga classes, they are already impressed, so there is no need to turn your Yoga studio into a “circus act.”

If someone does not practice Yoga, or is not a vegetarian, please do not bolster your ego over the issue. Do not engage in hostile debates over these issues. There is a time, place, and method for convincing people about health issues, but hostility will not convince anyone.

Bias and discrimination are hard habits to break. Sometimes, these ideas exist within families for generations. Yoga teachers should accept students, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnic origin, age, social status, or any other reason we can find to be unjustifiably bias.




In the case of age - children who are too young may have a separate Yoga class, but this depends on the patience of the teacher and the group. Some “Mommy and me” Yoga classes run along smoothly, but some adult students do not want to be in a Yoga class with children.

I teach children four years of age and up, but it is specifically within a “Kids Yoga” class. This is much different from a typical adult Yoga class, and the circus act I mentioned earlier might be fine. Do not be surprised to see children perform difficult asanas, but do not expose them to hazards.

In the course of a week, I teach many Chair Yoga classes, and these are age specific. However, when seniors show up to a Yoga class, at a Yoga studio, or ashram, they should be welcomed and modifications should be taught - if they are needed.




Getting back to discrimination in general: The largest problem with bias is our history of war crimes, holocaust, atrocities, and slavery. Discrimination cannot go unchecked, and it has no place anywhere, especially in a Yoga studio or ashram. If you teach Yoga to a specific religious sect, that is fine, but do not speak harshly of those who are not present.

It comes down to the golden rule, which is very universal to most of the world’s religions, and I will conclude this part with a quote. Most of you will recognize a much similar quote within your own religion. It does shed light on the wisdom of our ancestors.

“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Mahabharata 5,1517


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