As I glance outside my window, I see that the trees have already started shedding their old leaves so that in spring they can welcome the new. Autumn is that time of the year; perfect for letting go of the old and making space for the new.
For me, this time of year brings the end of a year-long teacher training with a group of students I very much connect with. Feelings of pride and happiness are always accompanied by a taste of sadness as another chapter ends and we all move on.
As I welcome the new teachers into the global Yoga teaching community, I like to remind them that a good teacher is not necessarily the one demonstrating a perfected handstand. A good teacher is a true yogi: grounded, truthful, humble and authentic.
As yogis, and especially as yoga teachers, we should follow the ethical guidelines beautifully outlined by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras – the Yamas and Niyamas.
1. Practice Ahimsa. Be a gentle, compassionate teacher. Every student is different, our bodies are different. Understand and celebrate these differences. Yoga is a spiritual path, not a means to an advanced asana. Reminding your students of this truth will be beneficial to them in the long term.
2. Practice Satya. Be a truthful teacher. Teach only what you know and what you practice yourself. Students may challenge you with questions you don’t have an answer to. Be honest and say so. Nobody expects you to know everything and you shouldn't expect this from others or yourself.
3. Practice Asteya. Be a humble teacher. We are all inspired by our teachers and the long lineage of sacred teachings. Whatever you teach, always name your teacher(s) and the source of your inspiration. Respect your seniors.
4. Practice Bramacharya. Respect your body. Don’t obsess over your own asana practice. Asana is a tool, nothing else. Use this tool wisely.
5. Practice Aparigraha. Share your knowledge wholeheartedly. Teaching yoga is a calling, not just a job. Offer free classes whenever you can. As teachers we need to share the knowledge we are privileged to, and also teach those who can’t afford a class.
6. Practice Saucha. Live a clean, simple life. A pure heart, pure thought and a clean life will inspire your students and those around you much more than the fact that you can jump into Bakasana.
7. Practice Santosha. Be grateful for what you have; most of us have more than we need. Be grateful for your students and the lessons they can teach you. Be grateful for this amazing gift of Yoga.
8. Practice Tapas. Practice every day. This does not need to be asana practice, but any practice that connects you to your Self. As teachers, we need to walk the talk.
9. Practice Svadhyaya. We never stop learning. Teacher training is like reaching the first floor in a building that is one hundred floors high. Read, study and continue to learn. A great teacher is always a student.
10. Practice Ishvara Pranidhana. Surrender to that which you believe is greater than you. Take responsibility for your actions, but trust life. Life is the greatest teacher of them all.