In order to find a quality yoga instructor, you need to know what to look for. Since there is no universal certification program for yoga teachers, not all of them are created equal as you can see by the following example.
I had been practicing yoga in my home for a while when I decided to take some classes at a local center. I had been using a variety of yoga videos and DVDs that were taught by senior instructors with impeccable form, so I expected the same quality of yoga instruction when I arrived at this class. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. The teacher who taught the class was sloppy in her style as she moved through the poses and it seemed more as if she were doing her own practice, rather than leading the class. She never came around and adjusted the alignment of any of the students, which really annoyed me because that was the main reason I decided to attend the class. Additionally, she was facing one way and the students were facing the opposite way, so it was very difficult to see what she was doing. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed.
I am optimistic by nature so the next morning, I took another class at the same center, but this time there was a different teacher leading the practice. Her style was more of what I was looking for. Her execution of the positions was excellent. She showed the students how to do the pose and then she got up and checked the alignment of the students and made necessary adjustments. She brought attention to those students who did a pose particularly well, and she encouraged others to go a little deeper. I was very happy with the teacher, and even though the class did not fit my schedule particularly well, I attended it on a regular basis.
Although my initial endeavor into the world of taking yoga classes was somewhat hit or miss, by asking certain questions and checking some details, you have a better chance of finding the right yoga instructor for you.
Here are some things to consider.
Decide what your goals are for your yoga practice.
Do you want to practice yoga to relieve stress, heal from an injury, or gain strength and flexibility? If a center offers yoga that is very fast paced and very physically challenging, it probably won’t be the right match for you if you want to learn how to relax.
What style of yoga interests you? Make sure that the center offers that particular style.
Are you interested in a certain level of yoga instruction? If you are a beginner, you probably don’t want to take a class that lumps all levels together. You also don’t want a class that is too advanced where you have a greater chance of feeling discouraged because you can’t keep up with the other students, or worse, you could get injured. You want a class where the instructor takes ample time to explain the postures and also helps students achieve the correct alignment.
Ask out about the teacher’s level experience
Find out how many years the teacher has been practicing yoga and how long he has been teaching. With my experience with the two yoga teachers, I found out that the one that didn’t impress me had just become a teacher, while the one I liked had been teaching for quite some time.
Ask about how many hours of training he has received. Although there is no universal yoga teacher certification, many quality studios require that their instructors complete a minimum number of training hours before they are allowed to teach. If the instructor has 200 or more hours of yoga training, there is a good chance that he has solid skills to work with.
Does the instructor know the benefits and contraindications of each pose? Can he offer modifications for students who have physical limitations? You want a teacher who can provide information about how each pose relates to your unique physical condition.
Also, find out if the teacher has specific training in basic anatomy. I cannot emphasise this point strongly enough. When I was in my early twenties, I took a gymnastics class which was taught by an instructor who had no training in anatomy. Each week he stretched my body in a position that caused me a great deal of pain. If he knew about body mechanics and physiology he never would never used that stretch, because it is almost guaranteed to cause injury. The end result for me was years of pain and permanent injury. If the teacher is not trained in anatomy run, don’t walk, out of the class.
What is the teacher’s personal style?
In order for you to get the most out of yoga, you have to feel comfortable with the teacher. Is the teacher friendly, encouraging, and supportive? Does she treat students and others with respect?
Yoga is intensely personal so it is critical that you like and trust the teacher. She will be touching your body to adjust your alignment, so you need to feel totally safe with her. A good instructor will make the class a secure and peaceful experience for students.
How clean is the studio?
As you look around, do you notice dust or dirt? Is there a musty or sweaty odor? A yoga class encourages you to practice barefoot and breathe deeply. It is very difficult to get the most from your yoga instruction if you are worried about contracting a disease from an unclean studio.
How does the teacher handle your personal beliefs?
A good yoga teacher does not impose her personal beliefs on students. Yoga is not a religion. You should be able to practice any religion, or none at all, and still feel comfortable in the class. You also should not be required to eat or act a certain way to be considered acceptable to the teacher.
Yoga promotes freedom, so you should not be held bondage to someone else’s beliefs. You should be free to live whichever way is right for you.
Quality yoga instruction can be very important for you in your yoga journey. By keeping these ideas in mind when you search for a yoga teacher, you are very likely to find the one that is just right for you.
I am often asked by beginners about how to evaluate a Yoga Teacher ?
The following is the “CALM check list.” These factors are basic criteria that your Yoga Instructor should meet before you continue on to a second Yoga class.
CALM gets it name from four main factors: Communication, Assist, Listen, and Modification. For the right Yoga teacher, you should be answering with a “yes” to all questions.
Does your Yoga teacher talk to you, and other students, in a manner of mutual respect? Can you ask a question during class time?
Does your teacher show compassion for you and other students? Does your Yoga teacher take the time to lead you through a guided meditation or relaxation? Meditation and relaxation are major aspects of Yoga practice.
There are Yoga teachers who just want to get “their workout” done. Beware of Yoga teachers, who are so important, they don’t have time for you.
Some students love this air of superiority and, unfortunately, some people love abuse. If you want to learn Yoga, you need an open line of communication with your Yoga teacher.
Does your teacher care about your form? Will your teacher give you a verbal or physical assist during your Yoga school in Bali? Are props encouraged in your Yoga classes?
Some students never have major problems with alignment and some do, but if your teacher doesn’t give verbal cues, what does that tell you?
Does your Yoga teacher take the time to listen to your feedback? Is your teacher “in the moment” with the class?
Once in a while, there is a Yoga instructor who runs, “The-it’s-all-about-me-show.” You are not going to learn anything from this type of teaching. Beginners will be put at risk, trying to keep up with a seasoned Yoga teacher who doesn’t explain anything.
Does your Yoga teacher allow modifications and props? If your teacher discourages props, you are in the wrong place.
Some students will need props for life depending upon their range of motion. Just because a teacher can do a posture without props, doesn’t mean every student can.
Stay away from abusive Yoga teachers, and if you are attracted to abuse, there is always professional help. Some students crave “the stern, but loving parent” types. They will push you harder, but how much pushing do you really need?
Respect is a two way street, and you deserve as much respect as your Yoga teacher does. Let common sense be your guide. You should feel good after a Yoga class, and you might even feel muscle soreness days after a vigorous class.
Make sure your Yoga teacher meets the above criteria before making a commitment.