Finding a Yoga Teacher
A Personal Start
When I started yoga, I looked at a book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. I found this book on Bikram Yoga excellent. At that time yoga studios weren’t as prevalent as they are now, especially not Bikram Yoga studios. I worked on the yoga poses in my home and tried to follow the book’s instructions.
Then I went to an Iyengar Yoga class with a really good teacher which made a huge difference in learning to do yoga. The teacher would point out a misaligned pose and then show how to do it properly, making it crystal clear how it should be done. Instructions were individualized which helped me progress.
I discovered many subtleties to yoga, and how much learning was possible with a real teacher. Iyengar Yoga taught me how to use my body in the poses which gave me a firm foundation for other yoga styles. Eventually the yoga teacher’s voice became a part of my awareness, telling me how to adjust each yoga pose, even when I was practicing on my own. My own understanding of yoga grew, and I owe it to a yoga teacher for showing me how. A teacher makes a huge difference in learning yoga, much more than learning only from a book or from yoga DVDs.
A Group Class with Personal Intention
Where should you look for a yoga teacher? Try asking friends who do yoga or checking out yoga directories which can be found online and in yoga magazines. Seek a yoga teacher close to your location who teaches a style that you think you will enjoy. Find a yoga teacher who is a good fit for your age and level of health and fitness.
A good teacher asks about any injuries and body conditions at the beginning of each class. She can adapt the class to the participants and how they are doing at present time. If you have any health conditions that may be affected by a yoga class, find a small or private yoga class with a teacher experienced in that condition. If you have any question as to whether a yoga class is appropriate for you, consult a physician prior to attending the class.
A really good teacher makes it feel like the class was especially designed for you, even if there are others are in the class. I have a Kripalu Yoga Teacher who manages to do just this. Once I went to class with a stiff neck, and my wrists were tight from computer use. She made a class for everybody that felt like it was just for me. Other people also felt the same way, even though they had different things going on with their bodies.
Your teacher should have a voice that you enjoy listening to and more importantly, should provide clear instructions. She will demonstrate the yoga position, and her instructions will come from the experience she is having in her own body and also from her observations of the students. She should go around the room making corrections either verbally or with a gentle touch, and only with a person’s permission.
She will not touch or speak to you or others in a sexual way. Such behavior is unethical and inappropriate for a yoga teacher.
Guiding You Safely in Yoga
She will help everyone to do the pose to the best of their ability and safely. She will remember injuries and adapt poses to them. She will offer alternatives when something isn’t advised for a particular student, if a pose is too difficult for someone, or if doing it causes discomfort.
What sort of corrections will she make? Usually she will suggest that you move a body part in given direction, straighten out here or there, collapse less in certain places, and extending in others. You will get insight on your posture, how you stand, so that you are more upright and using less energy. An eventual goal is to “hear” your own instructions inside your body while doing yoga. At the same time, you observe how you are doing it.
The teacher should make the class more than just a physical experience. A good teacher will touch on the spiritual aspects of yoga. You will delve into self-knowing, which leads to accessing a deeper part of yourself during the class and in your own practice. A good teacher will encourage you to practice at home.
A teacher should demonstrate the poses correctly and safely. Doing a yoga pose perfectly isn’t required, but understanding how it should be done and explaining it is important. There is not a perfect yoga pose that exists, anyway. Less skilled yoga teachers don’t observe students carefully. They may go through their usual spiel for teaching a pose in a non-interactive way sometimes called “tape recorder yoga.” I recall one such teacher who left the room for a couple minutes and kept talking to the class through the yoga position, calling into the room but not watching the students. This type of yoga teacher will teach from memory, not from the present moment that she is experiencing in her body.
Wisdom of a Teacher
A good teacher knows different ways of doing yoga poses and is flexible, not dogmatic, in how she teaches them. She should have life and yoga experience, including a daily yoga practice. She should inspire you with her words and her presence. She should encourage you to listen to your body and develop your inner teacher.
In conclusion, pick an experienced teacher whose yoga style is right for you, and who teaches at your level. In short, find a good yoga teacher you are comfortable with and with whom you feel safe. You will sense whether the chemistry is right. Ask yourself if you are making progress and are benefiting from the yoga class.
At the end, when you get off your mat from relaxation pose, you leave in a different state than the one you arrived in. A good yoga teacher helps you travel to a wonderful place inside yourself.