Becoming an Authentic and Effective Teacher: A Yogi’s Journey


As I finish up a class with a great teacher, and longtime friend of mine, I crack a smile as I settle into my final rest. I had noticed his teaching style had been changing a bit in the past few months, as he had obviously found some new inspiration, and he was now moving into a more alignment-driven focus. This made me reflect on how much my own teaching style has really changed over the past thirteen years.

I feel like we all go through a type of transformation as teachers. Initially we are all drawn towards what we enjoy, but eventually we start to look for a challenge. Some of us seek out information on alignment, others may make the move to a more “devotional” practice, others still may–lead by a teacher that resonates or inspires us–swing back another way. The most effective or “authentic” teachers both teach what they know, and practice what they preach. The only absolute in life is change. As the years go on, we lead our students along with us. We show and teach them what has sparked something inside of us during our journey. We may lose a few, but we may also gather a few more. As long as we are earnestly presenting something that is heartfelt, they will continue to feel connected and that’s what it’s all really about.

Of course, some of us will get “stuck” or fall in love with a particular style–hanging in there for the long haul. This makes me think of some school friends that got “stuck” in the nineties and never grew out of that “grunge thing.” Maybe the nineties were the most beautiful time in their lives, and now they are using those lessons, from that beautiful time, to apply to their growth moving forward. It’s the same idea, just a different intention. For me, during the years I’ve been instructing, I’ve seen a progression: my yoga has transformed. I have been lead in different directions; inspired by different styles and teachers. All have had something positive to offer, all have made me a better practitioner and a better teacher. But eventually I had to ask myself: what am I trying to accomplish with my practice? With my teaching? What should my yoga offer me? What should my yoga offer my students?

As I have gotten older, my practice has transformed. It began as all shock and awe: high energy vinyasa sprinkled with Cirque du Soleil level bends and balances. Then I began to learn about alignment and started to fine tune my practice to create more balance and focus. After that, I began to find my voice, and became better able to express the truer nature of the practice. During each of these changes the injuries came, went, and came back again: a constant reminder that my ego was not serving me in this work, and that I was ultimately breaking my body. I continued to learn, move forward, and learn some more. Maybe I fell back a few times, but each step, no matter which direction, made me a better practitioner and a better teacher. This whole time I introduced each change and each lesson learned to my students.

Even now, almost a decade and a half into this process, I’m still learning and still transforming, hopefully, into something better. These days my practice is both a little slower and a little less hyperactive. My practice is a little more thoughtful and a lot more attentive. I have been moving toward a more “mature” practice and moving a bit away from the “advanced” practice I taught before. I have become more concerned with the health and overall well-being of myself, of others and of the planet.

Your practice should be more than “mat -deep.” Yoga can change people; I have seen it. Yoga can change the world; I believe it. Yoga is a way of life; I live it.

Here in the West, we usually begin our eight-limbed path with Asana and that’s okay. The rest will come: it’s all waiting to be explored, found, experienced and shared. Seeing the transformation in my friends, in my students and in myself is ultimately what it’s all about. Yoga is a powerful gift that is being given every day. Namaste my friends.


Vanessa Van Noy

With a personal Yoga practice that spans over 15 years, Vanessa has trained in several styles and lineages, both nationally and internationally. She does not subscribe to any particular school but rather allows her students to show her what they need from their practice, and find their own spiritual path.
Vanessa is a registered Experienced Yoga Alliance Teacher and has been guiding students in the NY/NJ area for over 12 years. She has worked with all types of yogis from children to the elderly, from professional athletes to those with physical impairments, and everyone in between. Her training as a Certified Thai Yoga Massage Therapist allows her to be very hands on in her classes, helping her students adjust and get deeper within their practice, comfortably and at their own pace.
Her classes are always a little bit different from the last. With music that motivates the body and lifts the spirit. Her class environment is conducive to laughing one moment, or possibly discovering your true inner-self the next. Always applying her philosophy, “That little voice inside all of us is our own true teacher, all I want to do is turn up the volume.” Whatever you need from yoga, it will give you”.
Along with teaching Yoga, Vanessa is an avid runner and has been practicing Muay Thai Kickboxing for over 10 years. She enjoys taking her students on retreats to exotic places throughout the world, as well as helping them to find inspiration in their own backyards. Vanessa is a devoted vegan and believes that being compassionate should apply to all living creatures, not just humankind.
Website: Vanessa Van Noy
Facebook: Vanessa Van Noy


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