By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Most of the time, prospective teachers have a very strong foundation in Yoga, but sometimes they originally come from a related field like martial arts, Pilates, dance, gymnastics, or fitness. This is fine, but be prepared for a “learning curve” and do not expect to learn all about Yogic methodology and philosophy in one Yoga instructor certification course. Even if you “lock yourself up” in an ashram for years, you should realize that learning Yogic philosophy and methodology is a life-long journey and not a race.
Now, if you come from a related field; you have a lot more mental work to do than a long-time student of Yoga. Hatha Yoga is physical form of Yogic methodology, but being athletic is not as important as the knowledge a teacher should possess. So, what should you know in order to become a Yoga teacher? Below is the beginning of what a Hatha teacher should know in order to successfully teach classes.
I can remember one anxious intern at orientation night who became upset over the fact that we were outlining Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. After one hour, she announced that she strongly felt that all she wanted to learn was how to do hundreds of poses. Although there are many more aspects to learn, some interns are very anxious to learn about asanas (postures). For this reason, anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology should always be covered during a Hatha Yoga teacher training course. Student safety is especially an important issue for those who will be teaching Yoga.
Students are always physically different and Hatha Yoga practice can be made to adapt to anyone; regardless of age or physical ability. Anyone who desires to teach Yoga should have a complete understanding of how the physical body works.
Asanas are the postures held during Yoga practice. Hatha Yoga instructors do not have to know hundreds of asanas to teach a class, but they should be very familiar with 26 to 100 different postures; depending upon the style they teach. Yoga teachers should be able to design a lesson plan using these postures, their variations, and the many other aspects of teaching.
Yoga teachers should know how to modify asanas for their students. Sometimes this could be advising a student in how to use a block, strap, bolster, chair, ball, blanket, or any other prop for proper alignment and safety. Other times, this might be giving a student an alternative variation of an asana.
Yoga teachers should be familiar with contraindications for asanas; which are cautions that can be related to a specific posture. This is very important when working with students who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have a specific ailment.
Yoga teachers should take the time to be familiar with each student and his or her particular health condition. This means researching health conditions that students have and staying on top of your own continuing education. After becoming familiar with an ailment; learn how you can help, but never give medical advice.
No teacher should ever put a student at risk. The body of a Yoga student cannot be forced into a position that a teacher feels is correct. Instead the body is gently guided to its natural limits, without pain or discomfort.
© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
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