A yoga teacher is a unique profession and one that involves far more than teaching asana. The career of a yoga teacher is multi-faceted, playing at once the role of a host, mentor, instructor and educator. Instruction on the physical postures of yoga is often accompanied by various disciplines such as meditation, spirituality and emotional wellbeing, offering up a more holistic approach to the practice. While the individual style of a teacher is in part determined by the training they have undertaken, their role in guiding students safely through a yoga practice is a constant.
Yoga Teachers differ from Personal Trainers in that their purpose is not to help students reach fitness goals. Although both professions are part of the health and wellness industry, the goal for their clients is very different. Personal Trainers construct programmes founded on exercise prescription and instruction, often intermixing nutritional advice within this. Yoga teachers focus solely on yoga, nurturing their students toward a general sense of wellbeing without setting specific physical targets. As yoga grows in popularity, these professions can become confused, with more Personal Trainers taking on yoga courses, and vice versa.
Traditionally, yoga teachers will attempt to live by and share yogic philosophy. A fundamental part of this is compassion toward fellow beings; choosing to act in a non-harmful, more mindful way. As such, yoga teachers are viewed as kind and empathetic individuals, willing to listen to the concerns of their students and offer advice. Regular yoga practice can be hugely calming and has been considered to benefit those suffering from certain mental health conditions. It is for this reason that yoga teachers are perceived in the light of therapists. While yoga teachers may offer guidance on constructing a healthier lifestyle, they do not have adequate training to advise individuals on their specific health needs.
All qualified yoga teachers should have been trained in human anatomy, enabling them to teach asana safely. The capacity to understand different health conditions is crucial when teaching practitioners of all different shapes, ages and abilities.
Certain poses have been deemed to improve various physical conditions when carried out correctly, leading to physiotherapists and doctors prescribing yoga as a treatment for specific ailments. It will often compliment other medication or exercises. While yoga teachers can recommend postures to relieve pain and support healthy living, these should be viewed as suggestions and not medical advice. The training undergone by physiotherapists is much more advanced, allowing these professionals to identify and treat physical ailments accurately.
The unique training of a yoga teacher allows them to guide their students through a vinyasa flow, and adjust according to the individual’s needs. Teaching yoga classes require a specific skill-set that can manage and guide the energy of a room. While tempting; yoga teachers should not take on the additional responsibility of therapist, nutritionist, health carer or personal trainer, not being sufficiently qualified to do so. Sharing their passion for yoga, yoga teachers offer a meaningful practice for others to follow.