How to Go From Being a Good Yoga Teacher to Being a GREAT Yoga Teacher

Pattabhi Jois was credited as saying, “Do your practice, and all is coming.”

This often quoted thread of wisdom warrants being tattooed on the front of every yoga mat these days. For the yoga practitioner, nothing is more important than a dedicated, diligent personal practice...because it just takes time.

Whether we like it or not, our growth as human beings requires consistent, steady effort in order to yield results. Malcom Gladwell tells us in the book, Outliers, that it takes about 10,000 hours or 10 years of consistent, steady effort.

Nothing happens overnight.

This concept is particularly important for yoga teachers, as our work is never quite done. Even after an initial teacher training, and a stint as a yoga teacher for a year or two, without steady, consistent time running yoga through our system as students, our expertise as a yoga instructor will always elude us.

It is up to us to harness the personal responsibility required to gain what Gladwell would refer to as “mastery.” Ten thousand hours is no joke—it is apparently the time required for something to rewrite itself into the hardwired coding of our bodies. Until then, we are not embodying the practice.

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you woe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.” —Joseph Campbell

I’m not saying we can’t do a kick-ass job until then. We certainly can. But, on our road to the 10,000 hour mark, it’s up to us to continuously run yoga practice through our bodies, hearts and minds; not only through our daily practice, but also through our continued learning and education in all the diverse aspects of knowledge required of us as modern day yoga instructors—which includes anatomy, physiology, psychology, philosophy, mythology, kinesiology, subtle anatomy and a whole heap of other things. Wherever our area of expertise is lacking, that is a potential area for growth.

Until such time as we cross this threshold (which is not just in Outliers, but also in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika) we are basically cover artists. We learn to play the tune of others that we fancy until we can write our own songs. This is a valid form of practice—in fact, it’s how The Beatles gained their own mastery in music. We do it as yoga teachers, too. We quote the teachers we admire, we repeat the sequence of our favorite classes, we copy the playlists that get us rocking, and we can do it well, so long as at the heart of it, we are putting in the time to practice, practice, practice.

Until one day it comes not through us, but from us. It becomes our own. At that point, we have authenticated the practice. We have practiced in such a way that it has become a personal experience and we understand not only that yoga works, but how it works, and more importantly, how it works on us. Krishnamacharya said, “When you have learned something very well, then the way you express it is different than the way you learned it.”

Because it is now yours.

The twelfth sutra of the first chapter of the yoga sutras talks about this principle of personal responsibility and mastery by highlighting the fact that two things can effectively bring us to a calm state of mind (what Patanjali defines as yoga). The first is practice—which is done consistently over a long period of time (see above). The second is a relinquishment of all attachment to what the practice brings. Because this opens us up to limitless possibilities.

“For everything there is a time, so there comes a time for the unfoldment of the soul - but the period of that development depends upon the speed of the progress man makes through life.”—Hazrat Inayat Khan

When we don’t have expectations, anything is possible. When we show up to our mat or our teacher training with an empty cup, it can be filled to the brim with something revolutionary and epic. If we think we already know it all, how can we possibly have a revelatory moment on the mat, in the cadaver lab or reading a mythology book? Open-mindedness is not just cliche, it’s essential to this kind of dedication in our work.

So, start today.

Because 10,000 hours doesn’t tick it’s own box, and every moment counts. Never get comfortable, because until we know something inside and out it can never live inside of us. And, when yoga lives inside of us—not outside in the hands of other books or teachers—that’s when the real teachings can begin.

By the way: Personal Responsibility is the second tenet of the Kaivalya Yoga Method. To learn more about this revolutionary method and it’s teacher training program, visit

Oh, and until August 13th, you can take advantage of early bird pricing. So hurry. Because the early bird gets the worm. 

Tagged under: Yoga Practice
Alanna kaivalya

Alanna Kaivalya is an artistic and inspiring teacher of yoga. Born with a hearing impairment, Alanna learned through the power of vibration at a young age, and was then naturally drawn to the harmonic practice of yoga. Listed as Yoga Journal’s top 21 Yoga Teachers Under 40 (March, 2008), and now with mor...READ MORE