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10 Qualities of a Great Yoga Teacher

April 18, 2016 | 5 min read

The 2016 Yoga in America study reports there are now 37 million people in this country practising yoga on a regular basis. That’s 16 million more than at last count in 2012. For yogaprenuers and teachers, that should mean more business. However, the studies found that as few as 10% make their living from teaching yoga classes.

This nation-wide survey also asked 147 million Americans from four key audiences (yoga practioners, studio owners, teachers and general public) what they believed to be the most important qualities of a great yoga teacher. To be noticed in a booming yoga economy, therefore requires a few key qualities. Below is the complete ranked and expanded list, to help you achieve greatest and abundance in your teaching and business.

Warm and friendly

Yoga aims to lift the mind, body and spirit.  An amazing yoga teacher inspires by example, bringing an uplifting presence to every class. This top-desired quality is also about customer service. Clients need to believe we care about them, not just the business.

Easily understood or clear with instruction

Clearly, clients and business owners value communication skills. As yoga teacher’s we connect with students on a variety of levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. Clear directions, verbal clues and visualisations that are accessible and relatable and focus on client’s needs is a skill they do value.

Is knowledgeable about the poses

A great teacher really knows their stuff.  A brief overview of the health benefits for a pose or its modifications and variations demonstrates your knowledge, establishing credibility and trust. However, that doesn’t mean as a RYT 200 instructor that you need to be a master yogi. I recently attended a Yoga Alliance online workshop with Joseph Campbell, in which he was asked ‘to what extent a new teacher to know every yoga pose. His reply was insightful, ‘No, but you do need to be in process’.  In other words, you may not have mastered every position, but you will be informed about them.


Being flexible is important to clients and business owners. Taking the time to listens to clients and adjusting your teaching style or plans to cater for those with disabilities, injuries or non-traditional body types shows you care. This is a quality rated highly by clients. It is important, also to note that while many people may welcome hand-on adjustments, others prefer verbal instructions or demonstration.


As yoga teachers we often ask clients to push beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones. This requires gaining their trust and confidence. The best teachers make an effort to be available to their clients either arriving early, or staying after class, to spend some off-the-mat time with clients.

Gives physical corrections to adjust my body

Paying attention to clients, helping them to execute the pose safely and without injury is the mark of a quality yoga teacher. While some instructors provide more challenge in their classes than others, the ability to guide your clients into and out of a demanding pose, means your students will feel supported rather than intimidated.

Knows the “art of sequencing” poses

All people are unique in their own bodies and practice. Our clients, therefore, rely on our knowledge of anatomy; physiology and alignment to help them achieve the yogasanas. Amanda Correa of Spira Yoga & Wellness recommends meeting your students halfway, by beginning with a foundation of poses that is halfway between beginner and advanced.  This way, she suggests you can modify or deepen each pose along the way, while still maintaining the integrity of your structure.

Participates in ongoing learning

You can always tell a yoga teacher who loves what they do. They are always ‘in process’; wanting to learn more, improve and inspire others to do the same.  One of these is Christina Scalera, presenter for a recent online Yoga Alliance business course. To close her presentation, Christine said, ‘99% will do nothing when you leave this course. I challenge you to go out and do one thing every day that will improve your business’.

Is challenging

Challenging will mean something different to each individual, all however will value an instructor who builds in opportunities to explore, go deeper and progress in each class. Top yoga teachers will cater to all levels of practice. For some this may mean monthly class themes or setting individual intentions at the start of each class.

Focuses on the spiritual aspect of yoga

Spirituality does not mean religion. The growing popularity of yoga among the general population would indicate that.  There is however an aspect of yoga, which distinguishes the practice from fitness classes and Zumba. Daniel Aaron, international yoga teacher, writer and Human Potential Coach is an excellent example of best practice in action. His classes combine theories of positive thinking with practice of yoga asana, woven into a narrative that is often framed by a story relating to one of the peak poses.  His classes are powerful, aiming to transform and empower. His monthly themes include those such as love, cleansing and gratitude.

Each and every yoga teacher will bring their own unique voice and style to the practice and teaching of yoga.   Finding that voice and making it work for you and your client is the challenge that will make you a great teacher. The above list of qualities are a ‘wish list’, daunting but achievable, when thought of as ‘in process’. I challenge you to put at least one of these qualities into practice today. Who knows, maybe one of the 80 million people who told the 2106 YJ YA survey they will take their first yoga class this year, will come to your class. .

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