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What Makes a Good Yoga Teacher? Our List of 11 Top Traits

A yoga teacher—and longtime student—considers the qualities that make an instructor truly exceptional.

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When I’d been practicing yoga for nearly a decade, I began to think a lot about what makes a truly amazing yoga teacher. I had started to teach again after taking some time off and wanted to understand what sets some teachers apart.

So I considered what drew me to a particular class. Most yoga teachers can guide a class through a sequence of poses. Some teachers’ classes I attended out of convenience, whether because they fit into my schedule or the studio was nearby. But there were also teachers who were so amazing I’d be willing to get up early on a Saturday, pay twice as much to attend a workshop, and give up half my day just to be in their presence. There were even teachers I’d fly across the country to learn from because they were that exceptional.

For me, a teacher’s personality, style, and ability to relate to students made all the difference—and still do. Here are some of the qualities that I’ve noticed truly memorable yoga teachers share. I hope one day I’ll be able to join their ranks.

What makes a great yoga teacher

1. They have experienced intense situations in life and understand stress.

2. They are able to explain how the lessons we learn on the mat translate into the real world.

3. They have confidence in things they know and the humility to say “I don’t know” when appropriate. (And they appear unbothered when they don’t have all the answers.)

4. They give advice when they’re asked for it but respect boundaries and give students the space to figure out their own way, too.

5. They realize we’re all students and never put themselves on a pedestal.

6. They share enough of their personal life to connect with their students but never make the class all about themselves.

7. They remember their students’ names. They also remember their students’ injuries and challenges as well as their strengths and triumphs.

8. They make class accessible to all students and, when appropriate, make themselves accessible to students outside of class.

9. They admit their own faults freely.

10. They welcome all questions—especially the silly ones!

11. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They laugh when they fall down demonstrating balance poses or garble a cue—and by allowing students to see them laugh at themselves, they teach you to laugh at yourself.

What are some of the qualities you admire most about your yoga teachers? What are the qualities that you seek to bring to your own teaching?

This article has been updated. Originally published January 22, 2013.