What Makes a Good Teacher

After nearly a decade of practicing yoga, Erica Rodefer Winters has had more teachers than she can remember. Here she lists the qualities that for her make an amazing teacher. What would you add to this list?

After nearly a decade of practicing yoga, I’ve had more yoga teachers than I even remember. There are the teachers whose classes I attended out of convenience—they were close by or fit into my schedule.


Then, there were those teachers who were so amazing I’d be willing to get up early on a Saturday, pay twice as much, and give up half of my day just to be in their presence. There are teachers I’d fly across the country to learn from. They are that good!

I recently started teaching again after a hiatus, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a truly amazing yoga teacher. While most yoga teachers understand the poses and know how to guide a class through them, it’s the teacher’s personality, style, and ability to relate to students that really make all the difference for me.

Here are some of the qualities that I’ve noticed really great teachers share. I hope one day I’ll be able to join their ranks.

They have experience living in the real world of full-time jobs and full-time stress.

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

They have confidence in things they know, but the humility to say “I don’t know” when it’s appropriate. And it doesn’t bother them when they don’t have all the answers.

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

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

They share enough of their personal life to connect with their students, but never make class all about them.

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

They are accessible to students outside of class.

They admit their own faults freely.

They welcome all questions—especially the silly ones!

They don’t take themselves too seriously. They laugh when they fall down demonstrating balance poses. They teach you to laugh at yourself.

What are some of the qualities you admire most about your yoga teacher?