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Yoga Teacher Certification and Instruction

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
May 30, 2008
The roles and responsibilities of being a competent, and effective, yoga instructor are up to the individual. Teachers should obtain sufficient training and education in yogic philosophy, anatomy, asanas, and pranayama. Reach a competent level in your own practice before taking the step to instruct others.

A strict set of guidelines, for the certification of yoga instructors, has yet to be established in the United States. The implications of this situation are many. What it means, essentially, is that each yoga instructor has a responsibility, that is, the obligation to conduct themselves in a way that represents the yoga community in a positive light. The other responsibility is to safely, and effectively, teach yoga students the correct and healthy way to practice yoga.

Yoga certification guidelines are in place so that instructors don't unwittingly produce injuries to their students. Instruction must be executed with the a sufficient amount of knowledge and personal practice. Hatha yoga instructors must deeply understand the fundamentals of posture and alignment.

Teachers must know how to build, and modify, a pose for a less flexible or beginner student. An instructor also needs to be able to quickly spot incorrect postures. This is so their students do not injure themselves or exacerbate pre-existing conditions, which they already have.

Instructors must be able to accurately verbalize a pose to students in a way that they can understand. In the same way, communication must be clear in the correction of common mistakes. Often, beginners of yoga practice are not as familiar with their bodies, as someone who has been practicing for years. For this reason, you must be able to notice incorrectly executed techniques, then clearly and gently correct them.

Not all students will learn in the same way, when you teach yoga classes. Many students will be able to listen carefully and learn from verbal cues. Others still will further benefit from you personally assisting them with a pose. Visual learners will best learn by observation and will be able to copy a pose by watching you.

Every teacher must be aware of the different learning styles, which individuals may possess. A good teacher will operate accordingly. This means you must be adaptable in your teaching style, while remaining accurate.

There are certain elements that should be taught, in proportion, during each session with your students. The four minimum elements requisite of the Yoga Foundation are asana, meditation, breath, and mantra. The order and proportion is decided by the instructor from their learning and individual class structure. Feel out the class, and decide what rhythm and sequence of poses will best benefit the group you are instructing.

Although we know the benefits of mantra for controlling mind chatter, some students may be resistant to seeing the value of verbal mantra. In this case, teach them the option of mental mantra, or positive affirmation, in their native language.

Another issue to consider, as a yoga instructor, is the ethical side of teaching. The practice of yoga is very intimate, physically and spiritually. The atmosphere, that an instructor creates, needs to be based on the welfare of the students.

Students will experience physical and emotional shifts during their progress. An effective yoga instructor can be there to guide them, but the guidance must be focused on disciplined and ethical alignment. Select carefully the tone of words and music used in the class. Balance of the mind, body, emotion, and spirit, is the ultimate focus of a yoga class.

The role of a yoga instructor can be a very rewarding one. Assist your students with proper yoga techniques and you will see amazing changes. Follow the essential knowledge you have learned in your own training, and you will be able to help your own students find their path. Be patient with the process and treat all of your students with the same level of respect and courtesy. Remember that they are looking to you for guidance on a life long path to optimum holistic health.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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