Become a Professional Yoga Teacher
Tamara Lee Standard began practicing yoga regularly in 2000. She has taught since 2004 in gyms, street corners, yoga studios, corporations, an army base and runs a yoga teacher training program for people who wish to share the practice with those in underserved communities.
Tell me about your experience teaching yoga.
I started teaching at an army base. I got certified but didn’t feel like I was good enough to teach in a yoga studio right away, so this was a great place for me to begin. I saw how badly the soldiers needed the practice – they were so stressed. They normally ran and did pushups and didn’t think yoga would be hard, but saw just how challenging it was when they started practicing. It felt great to teach in this environment because I could give them a few moments of peace and relaxation to help them through the stress and despair of being at war.
I moved to San Francisco later and taught at 24 Hour Fitness Center, where I got practice teaching all shapes, sizes and ages of people. I taught all over the city. Teaching at the Satori Yoga Studio in the financial district showed me how stressed, depressed and miserable even the most well-off people were and how much they, too, needed yoga.
I taught yoga as a volunteer on the streets of the Tenderloin district, as I saw so many people around me there who would take yoga classes, but had none available nearby. I tried to make the practice more accessible to people that way.
I continue to teach yoga to special groups of people, such as sexual assault survivors and a homeless women’s’ empowerment class for women who are trying to get jobs. Yoga was such a natural fit for this process, as they could do the yogic breathing exercises before their interviews and started to develop better posture, which indicates confidence to employers.
I got a job teaching yoga at Bank of America once, simply by going to the bank.
I felt extremely happy after teaching, which the teller could clearly see. She told me she wished she could practice, but could not make it to my class on time. I told her I could come there to teach if she’d like, so she talked with her co-workers and we started a regular 5:15pm class there right in the lobby!
I like to teach a variety of people and to get as many types of people exposed to the practice as I can. This keeps it interesting for me, especially when I have the chance to inspire people who are resistant to yoga to begin practicing and go within themselves.
What kind of training did you undergo to teach yoga?
I took the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training, a Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, studied Ashtanga Yoga with Pattabhi Jois and took an Anusara Yoga Teacher Training. Each training has helped me develop as a teacher in unique and wonderful ways.
What was the transition from student to teacher like for you?
I was terrified to teach yoga, but then it came so naturally once I finally did. I taught my dad and brother Sivananda yoga right away after my first training there. My dad does the same 12 poses I taught him from that even today!
What challenges have you encountered as a yoga teacher?
Your ego definitely comes up when you’re teaching. I noticed how I compared myself to other teachers, noticing that their classes were more popular than mine. This was a good realization as it helped me realize that teaching yoga is not about prestige or money, but really about service.
What has been the most rewarding part of teaching yoga?
Being able to assist other people into a new freedom in their body and consciousness has been truly rewarding. Being able to facilitate people’s physical, mental and emotional healing has been an honor, because people trust and confide in me. I love having the opportunity to remind others of what’s truly important, to help them grow spiritually, overcome obstacles and see everything in life as a blessing. The connection I have with people through teaching yoga is something I haven’t found anywhere else in my life. I often feel euphoric after teaching, as though there is real divine purpose for my life.
What advice do you have for aspiring yoga teachers?
Be true to yourself. Be authentic as a teacher and less concerned about how others teach. Teach from your heart. That is the true essence of yoga. Try to find a population you want to teach. If you are clear about it, an opportunity or job will come up for you to reach this group of people in the most unexpected of ways. Keep practicing yoga regularly yourself when you start teaching.