Teaching anything involves huge responsibility. Whether it's bringing up a child or teaching yoga asana, the very first time we experience something it leaves an impression in the body that will forever remain the seed impression for that experience. A blueprint. It can be re-learnt but never un-learnt.
We can only think about something that we know, something that we have experienced. We can not think about something we don't know or haven't experienced. Everything we think about is assembled through past experiences.
When we teach yoga asana, that very first experience and instruction we give will be the blueprint for the beginner. All their future explorations, curiosities and enquiries will stem from this first experience. It's vital that we give the student the correct knowledge from the very outset.
Through my current training and study, I realise more and more about the importance of continued study. The longer one can hold off from becoming a yoga teacher, the better teacher one will become.
It's a danger that as soon as one gets the paperwork that everything slows down or stops. We need to keep the same intensity, work ethic, self practice, curiosity and excitement that we applied in our training continuing throughout our teaching lifespan, irrespective of any certifications or pieces of paper that are given to us.
As we look back on our life, during our teenage years and early twenties we think we are invincible and that we know it all. It's only through the passage of time that we can develop a maturity to life and reflect on what was and where we are now. The same goes for teaching. It's only through the passage of time that we can experience a maturity in our practice. Only through the knowledge gained from our own body can we start to elevate ourselves from someone who has a piece of paper to someone who becomes a teacher to someone who becomes a good teacher and to someone who becomes a great teacher. If everything stops with the paper work we are finished - game over.
My teacher tells us that if you really want to teach you need to know 100 times more than the person in your class. Not theory, not reading, not philosophy but to really know the body. So when you are a beginner teacher (that period lasts at least 10 yrs!!) if you teach a 60 minute asana class, you need to practice asana for 120 mins before. If you teach 10 hours a week you need at least 20 hours asana practice per week. This way you are really giving the student knowledge and not just getting them to jump through hoops.
You can only teach what you know, without bluffing. Never run before you can walk. This isn't a case of being able to move the body into the asana shapes. It's finding the essence of the asana, being able to maintain the asana without crumbling, finding the balance of flexibility, strength and mental focus. This takes practice. I see students who are body builders, very strong dynamic muscles but they crumble quickly as they have no postural strength. Similarly I see people who can bend into any position but their bodies crumble very quickly, very shaky. In yoga asana it's finding that balance - sthira sukham asanam.
I am by no means a veteran in teaching. But I'm thankful to the duration of my current training course (7 years). Without this, I know it requires a huge motivation and commitment to keep up the learning and practice to the same intensity. I currently practice yoga asana daily between 2.5 to 4 hours. It's a challenge, especially fitting this into my family life with two small children! Every minute is precious and I try to never waste a moment.
We can read all the theory we like. It's important to know the history of our subject in order to understand the intention behind the practice. But reading is only going to feed the brain. The body learns differently and the only way to give the body knowledge is practice, practice, practice.