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Types of yoga teachers in modern times you must know

by Arundhati Baitmangalkar

On day 1 of my 200-hour yoga teacher training program, we begin by exploring the landscape of modern yoga. This includes understanding the various types of yoga seekers& yoga teachers in the modern yoga landscape. Particularly relevant to North America, where I live.

Why you should know this?

Navigating yoga in the modern context can be confusing. Daunting even. By understanding a certain hierarchy of practitioners. You can clearly find teachers that are relevant to your yoga journey & the stage of yoga you’re in. Knowing the distinctions between teachers will enhance your clarity as you grow in your yoga path.

Types of yoga teachers…

Asana Instructor

Every person who is a yoga teacher is first & foremost a yoga student for life. Most people begin their modern yoga journey with asana or the physical practice of yoga. But many yoga teachers in the world today offer yoga as just a way to move, breathe, stretch, or a way to stay fit. Many of these teachers aren’t exposed to other aspects of yoga in their education. This is where yoga is more “fitness” over everything else. This is how the western world largely views yoga if you look at the consumers in yoga studios.

Yoga Teacher

Like the previous explanation but here the yoga teacher understands, studies, and embodies aspects of yoga beyond asana. This includes but is not limited to pranayama, yamas & niymas, dharana, & dhyana. Many qualified yoga teachers are associated with their yoga teachers, lineages, or schools for life. This teacher gains credibility over time.

Yoga Master

Is one who has spent a lifetime in the study, practice & pursuit of the inner goals of yoga. This type of yoga teacher educates you about all aspects of yoga. Way beyond the physical and is immersed in living yoga & the study of yoga shastras (yogic texts). This teacher uses the authentic yogic methodology to groom the student. Focuses on passing on the timeless wisdom of yoga to others.

Classical terms for yoga teachers

In Indian culture, we recognize, honor & celebrate the hierarchy of yoga teachers. It’s an honor to find a yoga teacher who’s ahead of us spiritually. It’s a deep privilege & humbling experience to study spiritual wisdom from these teachers. Some of the hierarchies of these teachers mentioned in classical texts are…

  • The Guru
  • Acharya (the preceptor)
  • Upadhya (the tutor)
  • Adhvanka (mentor)
  • Pradhyapaka (seasoned mentor)
  • Parcarya (senior preceptor)
  • Raja Guru (royal teacher)
  • Loka Guru (world teacher)
yoga teachers

The point I’m making about yoga teachers

Yoga was always meant to be taught with a certain methodology in mind. By that same measure, one needs to learn how to study yoga in the right way.

Many modern yoga teachers are dismissive of yoga’s roots. They cherry-pick what appeals to them. Or worse, what “Sells” best. This causes deep harm to yoga & to people like you, who want to study yoga deeply & rightly.

So choose your teachers, guides, and mentors well. Remember, opinions are not yoga.


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