Countless people worldwide enjoy practicing yoga. Be it for mind, body or soul (or some combination of all three), there’s something about it that beckons those of any age or ability, color or creed. However, it takes a special kind of person to pursue the never-ending journey of becoming a yoga instructor.
When you walk into a yoga class, each new teacher you encounter brings something different to the mat — a mantra, a method and a practice that is uniquely their own. As a non-yogi myself, I wondered, how does casual practice evolve into something inherently more fulfilling than a workout, so much so that hundreds of people dedicate hours and hours to the studio? And then even further, why do practitioners decide to take their journey to the next level? The best people to answer those questions are the teachers themselves.
Founder + Teacher at Mountain Soul Yoga
Favorite Style to Teach: Restorative
Julia began her yoga journey at age 10 when she accompanied her mother to a class. She immediately became intrigued by the “little, tiny white-haired lady moving her body in crazy ways,” she jokes. After that first class, though, she realized teaching yoga was what she wanted to do.
Once she moved to New York, she began teaching at a gym, before finding mentorship at Integral Yoga in the city. The six-month application process was rigorous, but worth it. “It felt like home,” she shares. She taught there for 12 years full time before transitioning “out of the city and into the mountains,” as she describes her move to Colorado. There Clarke pursued a master’s degree in Ayruveda. “This felt like my natural path. It changed all aspects of my life,” she says.
Now a seasoned instructor, Clarke feels the biggest difference between teacher and being a student is the mindset. “In personal practice, you can be on your own mat and your own path. When teaching, you must consider the class.” That being said, teaching provides Clarke the space to become clear on her intention. “Teaching helps deepen your understanding of yoga. When you teach, you learn more about yourself and the why behind what you’re doing.”
Teacher at the CU Boulder Rec Center and Shoshoni Yoga Retreat
Favorite Style to Teach: Hatha
Lexi began to establish a deep, spiritual connection with yoga once coming to Boulder for college. The summer of her sophomore year, she participated in a three-week immersion program at a yoga ashram just past Nederland. There she completed an intense but rewarding training, where she learned physical postures and the branches of yoga, engaged in hour-long meditations and even took two written tests.
Her love for yoga only grew as she began to teach as often as possible, wherever and whenever. “Sharing yoga with other people gives me purpose,” she shares. “I’m excited about how other people feel after a class, because I always feel good.” For Reich, yoga practices are her toolkit to expel stress, nervousness and other anxieties. However, she emphasizes a need to know when your cup is full. “It’s all about balance,” she emphasizes.
When Reich takes classes for herself now, she is more critical of what’s going on. “I’m always learning. I try to keep up with classes to offer up-to-date info when I teach others,” she says. Like many yoga teachers, Reich believes she will always be a student first. “Teaching forces you to front and back embody it. You need to understand what yoga is, embed accessible and inclusive practices and really delve into the personal study,” she adds. Reich encourages yogis, both seasoned and new, to seek out authentic teaching that goes beyond the physical practice.
Co-Owner + Teacher at Revolution Power Yoga
Favorite Style to Teach: Power Vinyasa
Tom was introduced to yoga through his wife who wanted him to accompany her. “The first class blew me away,” he explains. “It was more than just physical practice; it was community.” Kiddoo then went on to experience yoga on another level. He attended a week-long training outside Sedona in 2015. “I wanted to stay in that experience forever; it was remarkable,” he says.
As he began to teach more frequently, his main goal was to deliver the practice in the way it was intended. “Teaching has allowed me to empower others. It’s become my outlet to pay it forward,” he explains.
Kiddoo believes there’s a transformation that can occur on the mat that can only be achieved through authenticity. He embodies that same authenticity in his teaching. “I like to think I’m exactly the same in front of the class as I am on the street,” he shares. “It’s just me.”
His classes are intended for students of all levels. There’s no judgement or shaming and room to modify or intensify within each class. Kiddoo believes yoga is for everyone; you just have to find the right class or studio. He’d love to see a cohesive yoga scene born from this idea. “We’re all in this together.”
Teacher at SOL 19 Yoga and the CU Boulder Rec Center
Favorite Style to Teach: Power Vinyasa
Anna began practicing yoga regularly in high school as a workout. But the more she practiced, she began to realize it was much more than just a way to get in a daily sweat session. “I started going nearly every day for the mental clarity I felt off the mat. My physical body transformed, but my mind changed even more,” she shares.
A naturally shy person, Rosenstengel never imagined herself as being capable of becoming an instructor. But as her practiced deepened, so did her confidence. “I saw the powerful transformation that yoga had on my life, and I realized I wanted to share this with others,” she explains. Through teaching, she feels as if she’s found her voice. “It’s really made me step out of my comfort zone.” She signed up for a 200-hour teacher training program at her yoga studio and never looked back.
As a fairly new teacher, Rosenstengel feels she has learned a lot and always continues to do so. “The great thing about teaching yoga is that there are always ways to grow and learn. We are students forever!” she says.
She has also realized she can’t be expected to know everything either. “We often tend to put yoga teachers on pedestals, thinking they can never do anything wrong. But, we’re all human and each one of us makes mistakes. When I make a mistake in class, it is really easy to ruminate on it and question what I am even doing. But, most students have no idea that you messed up,” she adds. “I think that this idea can translate to life off the mat; when you make a mistake, just keep going because no one probably noticed.” Ultimately, she just hopes she can be there for her students and ensure they feel supported and safe.
While the path to becoming a yoga teacher is clearly varied on a person-to-person basis, it seems there is a common thread: teaching yoga is rewarding. There is always something to be gained, from a positive influence on someone’s life to a sense of community to a deepening of one’s own practice. By being authentic to their roots and trainings, yoga teachers bring the best possible experience to their students, likely inspiring many to embark on the journey themselves.