The 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow

The 9 rules every yoga teacher should follow by Rob Pollak - Tips for yoga teachers and instructors

Nine simple things that every yoga teacher can do to make class a little bit more awesome.

Rule 1: Pay Attention to me!

Most yoga teachers really like yoga and also happen to be very good at it. These traits, however, do not mean that I’m taking your class to watch you be awesome. If that’s what I was seeking, I’d flip on your youtube channel. Please don’t forget the real, live, disgustingly sweaty people right there behind you. So, goddamnit, pay attention to us!

The best teachers strike a balance between showing off their mad skills and watching students struggle to get the little things right. They use their strength and ability to demonstrate or highlight certain aspects of a pose rather than to show off a one-handed side crow headstand that they’ve been working on in their Super-level 8 goddess class.

If I leave class thinking, “Wow, that teacher was sooo good at yoga,” then something went horribly wrong. I should walk by the treadmills on my way out of the gym thinking, “Wow, I am freaking awesome at yoga. Suck it, runners!”

A Yoga drawing by rob pollak - 9 rules every yoga teacher should follow

Rule 2: Introduce yourself to your students:

Loyal readers of mine will remember that I’m working on introducing myself. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce yourself to me first.

All it takes is a one second conversation in which the teacher comes over and says, “Hey, I’m [insert hippie name]. Have you done yoga before? Any questions? Namaste, bro.” Boom – Instant openness and camaraderie.

However, since we’re preaching mindfulness here, just remember to be mindful of your junk:

Rules every yoga teacher should follow - Rule 2 Introduce yourself.  Tips for yoga teachers by Rob Pollak

3. Ignore Anything You Weren’t Supposed to See.

Look, things happen in yoga classes. Like the time I saw the entire left ball of the guy practicing next to me. Or how every time I jump from a standing fold into a push up, my shirt flies up a little bit, exposing the lower portion of my back (aka the upper portion of my ass). Look, I realize that the teacher is going to see everything that’s going on down there. Maybe he or she will even give it a once or twice over to size me up. Totally cool. There’s just no need to draw attention to the fact that I’ve got a little hair down there. Or that my love handles make twisting poses slightly more difficult.

How about we just agree to keep a few things between us?

In other words, maybe the moment my naked back and partially naked ass are exposed is not the best time for you to do that adjustment. You know the one. It’s when you grab my hips and pull them back or rest your hand on the sweaty small of my back and push with all your might. Yeah, save that for my first down dog. Just before the sweating starts.

I suspect we’ll both be happy with that agreement.

Tips for yoga teachers - Ignore anything you shouldn't see - a drawing by Rob Pollak

4. If you’re gonna Om, Om loudly.

At first, I admittedly did not like chanting “om.” Now, I can tolerate it. Maybe sometimes it’s kind of nice. Oh whatever. You caught me. I like it. So what. This isn’t the place for judgment.

Listen up, teachers: If you’re going to start with an Om, then do so with gusto-mmmm. Trust me, the class will follow your lead. But if you are timid and mousy with your om, then guess what? Your class will be quiet and timid and self-conscious when they holla’ back.

Also — and this is admittedly quite selfish of me — I’m 100 percent tone-deaf, so if you say it loud and say it proud, then I can join in without others noticing that I am the discordant MF’er ruining spiritual bliss.

Tips for yoga teachers - don't acknowledge tone deaf people during Om.  A drawing by Rob Pollak

5. Remember my name and use it.

We’ve already agreed that introductions are key. Well, that’s the easy part. The hard part is remembering those names and then using them throughout class. A deftly timed “Nice job, Bikram,” or “Sweet crow, Baba,” or “Pull your hips back, Tara” really pulls those people into the class.

But surprisingly, even when the teacher refers to someone else by name, I find that I try harder.

I’m all, “I want that too.” “Hey look at me!” “Don’t you think my crow is good?” “I’m trying so hard over here, you guys!”

Even a “whoa, looking a little sweaty, Rob” wins me over. Or, if you want to ignore rule 3, I’ll even take an “I can see a little bit of your ass crack, Rob. Pull up your pants, you disgusting slob.”

Tips for yoga teachers - Remember my name and I'm yours forever - a drawing by Rob Pollak

6. Go easy on the Rumi, okay?

Oh wow, you studied at an Ashram in India! And then you memorized all of Rumi’s quotes? You don’t say! That’s amazing!!! Sincerely.

But you know who doesn’t even know what an Ashram is? Guess who never took English 101 in college and doesn’t understand “quotes”? Oh yeah, that’s right! This guy.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up on Rumi altogether. What it means is that you should feel free to explain things to me. Even the stuff that seem painfully obvious. Because when you say a quote and then say, “well that speaks for itself,” what I’m thinking is “No. That doesn’t speak for itself. I hate this stupid class. I don’t get it. Wah wah wah poor me.”

While I’m thinking that, I’m sitting there nodding my head pretending to look like I have the slightest clue what you’re saying. Then I start thinking, “Damn, I bet she smoked a tonnnnn of a pot in college. That’s so hot.”

Tips for yoga instructors - keep the lessons simple, especially the rumi. A drawing by Rob Pollak

7. Come On, Speak English.

For the first three months I practiced yoga, I mistakenly thought every Sanskrit word meant Savasana. For any non-yoga people reading this, Savasana is a made up word that literally translates to “lie on the floor while thinking about everything you were supposed to do today but didn’t.”

Yoga teachers of America, you know how to fix that problem? Just speak English. We all understand English (except the Latvian woman who sometimes comes to that Vinyasa flow class on Wednesdays), so everyone will be on the same page when you say “Do crow.”

An added benefit: You may avoid that tattoo in Sanskrit. The one you think means, “Peaceful Warrior” but actually means, “judgmental douchebag” Oops!

Tip number 7 for yoga teachers, sanskrit cartoon by rob pollak

8. Be Considerate of Your Diverse Class When Giving Instructions.

So what if your class is usually all hot limber women? I’m here now, and I’d like to feel welcome, too! In order to make everyone feel at home, yoga teachers should give instructions that are mindful of the entirety of the class, not its largest component.

So no more “put this block under your bra strap,” or “you should feel a good stretch in your vagina.”

The bra strap is not an okay reference point - Rules for yoga teachers - a drawing by Rob Pollak

9. Make Class Fun!

This goes without saying, but if I’m having fun, I’m not thinking about how much I hate the teacher for all of the horrible painful things she’s making me do. So make it fun.

One incredibly easy way to make yoga more fun is by sharing this post with everyone you’ve ever met. And then following this blog at www.robpollak.com or on facebook.

The nine rules for yoga teachers - rule 9 make class fun - a drawing by Rob Pollak

(Selfish note:  This also appears at Elephant Journal:  Click the link so they will give me money)

95 thoughts on “The 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow

  1. AWESOME and in my book these “rules” are “right on”. Shared this on my personal facebook and our yoga studio facebook page. Hopefully both students and instructors will take note of your great points!

    #7 especially hits home for me … even though I’m a yoga instructor myself, the fascination with Sanskrit has always eluded me (other yoga instructors please don’t jump all over me … I’ve heard the justifications and get where you are coming from … just not my thing, like Rob I like the English versions). I’m doing yoga for the body work, the stress reduction, the breath work, and the community.

    With that said, this seems like an appropriate place for a shameless plug for our yoga studio in Astoria Oregon … in fact if you are ever in town Rob please accept a free membership as our token of appreciation for this great blog. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RiversZen on the web at http://RiversZenYoga.com … Namaste

    • Thanks, Dave! I never thought I would move to Oregon, but that would be a lot of value to just let slip away. Too bad you aren’t the greenskeeper at Bandon Dunes or something.

  2. This is a great post! I would also suggest as a rule: Child’s Pose is not an acceptable modification to every pose I cannot do.

  3. Being italian, practicing in Italy with an italian teacher, I like VERY much to hear for the original asana name, so, to me, rule #7 is the only one I’m don’t agree with (say Italian instead of english, of course). The rest is top level rules!
    ^_^

  4. Pingback: The 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow | insearchofawe

  5. Hilarious……….I have always thought about that BRA STRAP thing……how can she say that when there are men in the class.

  6. So spot on. I have to say, I’m pretty good with names of students and I never practice while I teach, but I’m the worst om-er ever. I always feel so awkward and pretentious.

  7. Love your posts and your sense of humor. I agree with all rules, except rule number 5. To me, the most important thing in a yoga class is not asana but the sense of self awareness. Praising people during class implies that people do their best to impress the teacher and they would constantly need their teacher’s approval to feel self-confident in their practice. I usually give feedback to my students after class. This way we can compare the way they felt and the way I saw them without me interfering with their practice. Students also can reflect on their practice more consciously and learn to be self-aware and trust their own self without expecting others to confirm they are doing well. A yoga class should make you more aware of who you are and how you feel, and there is no place for praise in it, in my opinion. Appraisals should be done before or after. Namaste!

    • That’s fair! You can still show off that you know everyone’s name by saying “hi, ____” when they show up for your class. It sets a really warm and inviting environment.

      • Yep, for that I totally agree. ;))) I am not sure if in your case it’s more a matter of loving to hear your name said than of warm environment. ;))) kidding.

  8. This made me laugh out loud…. because it is soooo true!!!! I love it… i am a student and a teacher and could relate from both aspects… you will be very famous soon, if not already!!

  9. Your responses to comments are just as funny as the original blog. Loved this! I can’t wait until the day when our teacher asks us all to hold our balls. Hahaha! The best direction ever had in yoga so far was to take “deep breasts” while we were in up dog. All the other peaceful warriors kept their zen while my friend and I fell on the floor laughing like a pair of 12 year old boys (as opposed to the 40 something housewives we are!)

  10. Good lord, how did I get here? I don’t even do yoga anymore!! Why am I sitting here reading every one of these comments and laughing my head off?? Thanks for the nice and funny pictures. Now I’m getting back to work. Geez.

  11. Love it! My husband and I just opened a yoga studio in NYC (uwsyoga.com, if you want to check it out and drop by some day so we can say your name a million times in class), and I think we’re going to print out your blog and put it up where all teachers (including ourselves, natch) can read it, again and again! Thanks so much for sayin’ it, loud and proud. The light in me sees the light in you, babe… whatever that means… ; )

  12. Pingback: The 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow by Rob Pollak - Iris Yoga - Iris Kern-Foster. Yoga Teacher

  13. This is so funny! One of the best things a yoga teacher has ever said is that passing gas was normal while doing yoga. After she said that I felt like the pressure to not release pressure was gone. Class was active. We didn’t fart around. But if some active person farted, it wasn’t an embarrassing show stopper. I have to admit I liked that.

  14. Pingback: What to really expect at your first yoga class | Rob Complains About Things

  15. Hi Rob, one of my Teachers sent this to me and you know what? You are absolutely right. In fact, I cover all of these in my teacher training. Nice job! Come to O2 and you are guaranteed to feel recognized! Peace out and a loud Ommmm, Mimi

  16. Pingback: 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow. ~ Rob Pollak ~ Funny! | Soaring Spirit Yoga Studio

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