Yoga teachers are the focal point for most students during a yoga class. They are usually a picture of health and represent a wealth of yogic wisdom. A confident yogi, with great stature and a calm fluid voice instructing and inspiring the students in class, can invoke motivation to follow a yogic path in search of vitality and mental clarity.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be up at the front teaching a class of yoga students? Perhaps the path of becoming a yoga teacher is one that you aspire to. The role of the yoga teacher can be a fulfilling and exciting career for the experienced yogi. Whether your goal is to stand at the front of the class and teach, or continue on the path of the student, you may be interested to learn what inspires and motivates yoga teachers to practice each day.
As you dive deeper into yoga, you will learn that there are many branches that offer more than just the physical practice, and your yoga teacher will probably introduce you to some of these concepts. These are known as the eight limbs of yoga. The eight limbs (steps) are: Yama – the five universal commandments; Niyama – the five personal observances; Asana, Pranayama, Pratyhara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
The motivation for the disciples of the gurus of India was ultimately to reach Samadhi – a state of union with god, the eighth limb. For us modern day yogis, just aspiring to explore a few of the earlier limbs will help motivate ourselves on the mat and deepen our experience of yoga.
Here are three of the five Niyamas that get yoga teachers motivated and why:
1. Saucha: Purity - Making Healthy Choices
The niyama ‘Saucha’ refers to the purifying or cleansing of the physical body. In a literal sense of the teachings, the purpose of this niyama would mean cleaning the body through means of detox or bodily cleaning techniques such as Jala Neti - pouring salt water in one nostril which would exit through the other. However, this could also mean purifying the body by making healthy choices.
By practicing yoga asana we become more aware of our physical body and how we are feeling each time we stretch and move. This in turn leads us to become more aware of when we make unhealthy choices. If we eat foods that are heavy, fatty or sweet we may feel lethargic and slow, in contrast if we eat light and nutritious foods we may feel agile and energised.
By practicing yoga or meditation, we can become more aware of what affect our choices in daily life can have on our state of being. A stressful day can mean a distracted or agitated ‘monkey mind’ during yoga or meditation. Having a regular practice can awaken us to triggers. Once we have the awareness of our state of being, we can strive towards eliminating the sources of our unease from our daily lives.
2. Svadhyaya: Self Study – Being the Student
The niyama ‘Svadhyaya’ can be translated as ‘study of the self’ or ‘study of the texts’ and the best and most inspiring yoga teachers are the ones who don’t give up on their own personal quest of self-discovery. Study of the self through a regular yoga practice will inspire students and keep the teacher in an ideal state of physical and mental wellbeing.
In the discipline of Ashtanga Yoga, each year during the cooler winter months of October to March, yoga teachers and devoted students alike make a pilgrimage to Mysore, India. Here, new and experienced students and teachers will practice yoga together as one under the teachings of the guru Sharath Jois, the grandson of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji).
Always remaining a student empowers a yoga teacher with empathy and humility. A personal practice is like a never ending journey of self discovery, there is always something more to learn. We are lucky in this world that if a teacher ever feels stagnant, there are a wealth of courses to add new dimensions of inspiration. A pilgrimage to a sacred town in the Himalayas to study the lineage of yoga (parampara); a month of yoga classes in Ubud, Bali; a 40 hour Yin Yoga training in Costa Rica, the possibilities for self study are endless.
3. Tapas: Discipline – Regular Practice
The niyama ‘Tapas’ translates as austerity or discipline and the origin of the word coming from the root Sanskrit verb ‘tap’ which means to burn. Through ‘a tapas’ of regular practice we gradually become more self aware and tap away at, or burn, physical impurities becoming the best version of ourselves.
As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois once said “Practice, and all is coming”.
Tapas on the mat can mean just showing up, you don’t need to have a long practice every day, sometimes just the sun salutations or 10-minutes of meditation can have the power to change your day. The simple act of laying out your yoga mat and taking time to look inwards daily will cultivate personal growth.
Tapas off the mat can be personal goals “to burn the fire”. Do you want to challenge patterns in your life by giving up coffee or wine for a month? Or perhaps your daily tapas could be to say one nice thing to a stranger every day.
The yoga teacher with a strong personal practice is always going to be admired by their students. Their self knowledge and self awareness radiates from them and inspire others. Healthy in body and mind, the teacher is able to show patience and virtue.
As you can see a yoga teacher is always the student, and every student can be a teacher. The motivation to practice yoga comes from exploration on the mat, study and self enquiry. The journey can be a fun and exciting one which will certainly take you to new places. There is always more to learn, to continue to be playful and enjoy your practice.
You may consider yourself solely a student until your very being motivates and inspires someone to follow in your path, just like the ancient gurus of India.
About the Author
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method - a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: vikasayoga.com