What Do You Call a Yoga Teacher?

Whether you’re just getting into yoga or have been practicing it for a while, you may not be familiar with all of its accompanying terminology. One of the things that you may not know is what you call the person who teaches you yoga. It can be confusing, and you want to make sure that you’re using the right term, so we’re going to help you figure it out.

A yoga teacher is called just that; a yoga teacher. People who teach yoga are sometimes also called a yoga instructor, and the terms can be used interchangeably, but they do have slightly different meanings. Yoga teachers can also be referred to as yogis, but that term is not exclusive to teachers.

In this article, we will be discussing what you should call a yoga teacher and why, and how you can become a yoga teacher should you want to. So let’s get started!

What Is a Yoga Teacher Called?

Let’s discuss what one should call the person leading your yoga class and telling you which poses to do.

So you may be wondering, “what do you call a yoga teacher?” You call them either a yoga teacher or a yoga instructor, and for the most part, you can use these terms interchangeably; neither of them is more correct than the other. However, there is a slight difference in what they mean, and thus a difference in the person they are used to describe. This all comes down to the difference between the meaning of the words to teach and to instruct.

The Difference Between a Yoga Teacher and a Yoga Instructor

‘Teaching’ is defined as “causing (someone) to learn or understand something by example or experience.” This would mean that a yoga teacher would show the people in their class how to do each pose by example and then walk around the room to help adjust or correct them if they need it.

Yoga teachers don’t spend very much time on their own mat during the class, but rather walk around and help the people in their class learn how to do the pose correctly or how to make the necessary modifications to make the pose work for their body and any hindrances or injuries they may have.

They give a lot of attention to their ‘students’ and do not use their time in class to practice yoga themselves. While they do get some exercise in showing people how to do the poses, their class’s primary purpose is to help others learn how to do yoga.

However, ‘instructing’ is defined as “to tell or order someone to do something, especially in a formal or official way.” This implies that a yoga instructor tells the people in their class what poses to do without necessarily explaining the fine details of how each pose is performed. They still show the people in their class how to do each pose, but they don’t walk around the room afterward to make any adjustments unless someone is doing something very wrong.

Yoga instructors spend most of the class time on their own mats and go through the yoga flow they have created together with their’ students.’ They use the time in class to do their own yoga practice while also instructing the other people in their class on which poses to do and the basic alignment of each pose.

They have a lot of knowledge about each of the poses they are doing and will often the people in their classes about each pose’s benefits and which muscle groups are engaged during each pose. They do not spend much time giving each ‘student’ individual attention unless they ask for it or the instructor sees that they are doing something wrong.

Where Would Each Style Be Appropriate?

You would most likely find a yoga teacher in a beginner’s yoga class, where the students are not very familiar with the poses they are performing and are just starting to learn how to do yoga. They need more help adjusting their bodies to perform the poses correctly and benefit from the extra attention a yoga teacher provides.

On the other hand, a yoga instructor is more likely to be found in a class of intermediate or advanced students who know most of the basic poses that are performed and have already learned how to perform them properly or make modifications that suit their needs. Whenever there are new or complicated poses involved, a yoga instructor may take on more of a teaching role, but for the most part, it isn’t necessary for the people they are instructing.

Though there are times when one type of guide is more favorable over the other, you’ll often find that the person leading your yoga class moves between a teaching style and an instructing style, which usually makes for the best experience all around, or at least that’s what we think.

Other Names for Yoga Teachers

Yoga teachers and instructors can also be referred to as ‘yogi’s’; however, this term isn’t exclusive to teachers, as anyone who is committed to practicing yoga regularly is known as a yogi.

You could also use the term ‘guru’ to describe someone who teaches and instructs others in the practice of yoga. However, in the yoga tradition, you would be very fortunate to be called a guru, so you should be very careful when using that term, as it is not used as lightly as it is in the westernized world.

Suppose you want to be very respectful towards the person who is teaching or instructing you through your yoga practice. In that case, you could call them Sri (pronounced ‘Shree’), which is the Sanskrit word for the English equivalent of Mr or Mrs, and is used to show respect or veneration and is a polite way of addressing someone whom you admire.

If you are ever in doubt about what to call the person who leads your yoga class, you could simply call them by their name or whatever term of respect is used in your culture.

Traits of a Yoga Teacher

No matter which title is given to the person leading your yoga class, there are a few things that are true of anyone who teaches yoga.

They need to ensure that the space in which they are teaching is and feels safe for their students to be in is relatively distraction-free and soundproof so that students are able to reap the full benefits of their yoga session (especially if there is meditation involved at any point before, during, or after the class has been completed.)

They also need to be able to create yoga training sessions (or flows) that are appropriate for the level at which the people they are teaching are at. Once the flow has been created, they also need to be able to adequately describe and demonstrate the poses that their students are performing.

It is also vital that they can help their students make adjustments to find the right alignment in these poses and make modifications to the pose if necessary. This is especially important when someone in the class has preexisting conditions or injuries, such as heart conditions and back or knee injuries.

How Do You Become a Yoga Teacher?

Becoming a yoga teacher (or instructor, whichever you prefer) is about more than having a piece of paper that says that you’ve completed a teacher training course.

It’s important to note that you don’t only have to do a yoga teacher training certification if your goal is to teach yoga to other people. You can do a teacher training simply because you feel like it or you are interested in learning more about the yoga poses you’re doing and the philosophy behind the practice of yoga.

So in this section, we’re going to discuss what it takes to become a yoga teacher.

Who Can Become a Yoga Teacher?

First of all, becoming a yoga teacher is not just for people who have been practicing for years and years and can do all of the fancy arm balancing poses effortlessly. A lot of what yoga teachers do does not correlate with their experience level and exceptional skills, but more so with their ability to lead others through a sequence of poses.

They need to be able to tell their students how to use their bodies to perform the poses and when and how to move from one pose to the next. Leading people does not come naturally to everyone, and you will most likely learn a lot about it during your yoga teacher training.

Take a Yoga Teacher Training Program

You’ll also need to do some training programs for teaching yoga. There are many different programs you can choose from, including online and in-person training courses. You can also choose which type of yoga you want to do training in; these include vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga, yin, restorative, prenatal, and many more.

The most common format to do this training in is a 200-hour program. However, you can also do 300 and 500-hour programs, though it’s best to start with a 200-hour program. You can complete this program over the course of a month in intensive in-person training or at your own pace with online training.

These courses cover a lot of information in quite a short amount of time, including yoga poses, terminology, human anatomy, and yoga philosophy, to name a few. They also include group or individual training sessions so that your teacher can see your progress. And once you have completed the course, you will be a certified yoga teacher, which is really where the hard work begins.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Now you’ll need to practice teaching yoga. You won’t be able to walk out of your teacher training and be a great teacher right off the bat (unless you’re very gifted). It takes years of practice and experience to find your teaching style and ‘voice,’ so the more often you can practice teaching, the better you’ll become.

At first, you can offer free classes to your family or friends individually, and then work your way up to teaching a group of them until you feel confident enough to start teaching people you don’t know. The more you can do it, both teaching and practicing, the more comfortable you’ll be when you start working with paying clientele.

There are so many options for making money teaching yoga; the obvious one is that you teach classes in a studio or at a gym. However, you could also partner up with businesses to teach yoga to their employees, host a yoga and wine night through a local restaurant, lead a retreat in partnership with other yoga teachers or health and fitness experts, or even teach yoga classes online.

Get a Yoga Insurance

Once you have paying clients coming to you for both individual and group classes, you’ll want to look into getting yoga insurance and having all of your clients sign an indemnity form that exonerates you from being held responsible if they get injured during class.

The insurance will cover you if there is any loss or damage to the space in which you were teaching and might also ensure you in the event that you sustain an injury that prevents you from teaching anymore.

Conclusion

All in all, yoga is a fascinating and ever-evolving topic to talk and learn about, whether you’re an avid yogi or just considering trying it out for the first time. There isn’t really a right or a wrong answer to the question of what you should call a yoga teacher, but yoga teacher and yoga instructor are the two most common terms.

We hope that this article was interesting to you and provided you with the information you were looking for. And we hope you enjoy your next (or first) yoga class!

Sources

Sita

Mother of three and Yogi of 20+ years and 200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. I am also a Certified Thai massage therapist and I have taught Gymnastics for more than 10 years. In the last couple of years, I've been a big promotor of intermittent fasting.

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