Teaching From The Top

An instructor who observes, demonstrates, communicates, and applies pose and practices modifications suited to all students creates an exceptional yoga experience–regardless of the environment.


Ultimately, it is the yoga instructor’s responsibility to create a safe environment for students to explore and discover both their strengths and weaknesses.

A good yoga instructor meets students where they are in their journey.

In order to safely manage levels of practice, it is best to offer classes based on purpose and skill level, such as:

  • Yoga for beginners
  • Inspired practice
  • Advanced practice
  • Yoga for seniors
  • Yoga for kids
  • Pre-natal yoga.

Descriptive class groupings set a clear path for practitioners to follow, based on individual needs.

Non-competition is a simple–yet important–concept instructors can present. This can be communicated through a balance of precise instruction, open-ended inquiries, and skillful use of yoga props.

Precise instruction is communicated in easy-to-follow instructions, taking students safely from point A to point B.

Open-ended inquiries offer students the time to hone their observation skills of feeling and sensing “what is happening now.” As a result, they can respond calmly and steadily as opposed to reacting abruptly.

Access to yoga equipment, such as chairs, blocks, straps, blankets, and/or bolsters provides an opportunity for the instructor to meet and support students where they are. This translates to promoting patience and mindfulness in students so they learn how to accept and grow regardless of the stage of their practice.

This is the art of meeting people where they are–not where they’d like to be, or the student or the instructor thinks they should be.

A confident, present, and skilled yoga instructor knows how to create a safe environment, and use whatever tools are available to see and teach the students, not just lead them through a series of poses. This demonstrates the act of kindness that truly illustrates being of service through yoga.


Everyone comes to yoga to better their life, improve their physical condition, or cultivate a more mindful lifestyle. And most people enjoy being a part of a like-minded community.

Great instructors encourage collective, creative, and fun learning, which includes:

  • Learning students’ names and greeting them with a sincere smile
  • Teaching the people in the room rather than a personal agenda
  • Communicating the acceptance for students to be where they are, and to learn and safely explore the edges of personal growth
  • Teaching useful skills throughout the day so students can continue to take their yoga off the mat, leading to a meaningful and enduring yoga practice
  • Conveying a non-competitive group-consciousness for learning and growing.

The facility supports yoga community-building by requiring front-desk staff to do the following:

  • Learn students’ first names and greet them accordingly.
  • Know what each class offers.
  • Be familiar with each instructor’s teaching style.
  • Direct all students to the appropriate class level.
  • Avoid placing a novice student in an inappropriate class to fill the room. This is a potential recipe for injury.
  • Take a sincere interest in inquiring about students’ experiences after class.
  • Work with the instructors to present yoga events that build community, such as workshops, open houses, and fundraisers.

The effective life of any wellness program rests on the shoulders of those who teach and provide support.

I have intentionally mentioned the involvement of the yoga instructor in all three considerations. Whether you are offering one or 100 yoga classes a week, great instructors are essential in presenting a safe and effective yoga program.

People will change their schedules to practice with effective instructors because they facilitate a meaningful and transformational experience no matter where the class is offered.

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