How To Find The Right Yoga Teacher For You
Nowadays, with the yoga studio industry being a big market, we hear less about establishing a strong one-on-one relationship with just the right teacher for you. And, I understand why. I, like many, have a hard time committing to a single teacher and trying to fit my schedule into their class times. The cost of private lessons and retreat is also not always within reach. Gym and studio memberships offer financial incentive to just go to whatever classes they offer. But, the down side to that is not getting the depth of training available when you are working closely with the ideal guide for you. But, how do you find the ideal teacher for you? And, is it really worth it to go out of your way to work with them? Let's take a closer look at that.
Well, first let's address this idea that there is one right teacher for you. It is true that one person could provide you a huge wealth of knowledge and understanding. And if you are lucky enough it could happen that you work with a teachers who finds a place in your heart that will never be replaced. So, of course it is possible to have one main teacher for decades. On the other hand, we all go through a huge number of life experiences that require special guidance. For example: training for an athletic event, pregnancy, parenting, a big promotion at work, the death of a loved one, divorce, an injury or adjusting to retirement. We may well need a different teacher for each of these common life events.
It can be helpful to consider what you are needing in your life right now and what makes a great instructor. It can take some time working with a teacher to get a sense of their mastery of the more subtle aspects of yoga and asking questions can help you understand their depth of awareness of these subjects. The virtues and ethics of one's teacher are especially important when going down a spiritual path with them. Here are some fundamental traits to look out for when on the hunt for a yoga/spiritual teacher, but by no means is this list complete. As you read it consider which of these traits matter most to you and which ones are not on this list that are at the top of your list.
Not only should an instructor be knowledgeable about the physical body and subtle energy bodies but, also the intention of each practice.Wisdom usually takes time to cultivate and a lot of dedication. Where a teacher studied, their credentials and experience are all good questions to read up on and ask them about. Finding a great teacher who follows the ethical principles and philosophy of yoga is very important and can be more challenging. Consider what your values are and if they are shared by them. List your goals as well.
It’s important for an instructor to be fully present while teaching, and not just simply going through the motions, which can be easy to fall into with any job. Talented instructors speak with fluency and sound natural instead of scripted. Since deeper learning occurs when one looks at a subject from different perspectives you’ll probably appreciate a teacher who frequently changes up their language and how they talk about the ideas of yoga to fit your needs in the moment.
Ability to Personalize
Does your teacher give you personal attention, like asking you if there are “Any areas you want to work on? Any injuries or areas of pain?” Do they watch you to make sure the poses are done safely.These are just some of the most basic ways you can know if the teacher is really creating a practice suited for you. Being given assistance and offering adjustments can make big difference in your skillfulness going forward. It’s also great when instructors are knowledgeable about modifications for certain poses for those students for whom it’s isn’t available or appropriate to go into the traditional pose.
Confidence and Energy
An instructor’s energy sets the tone for the class. Just like any manager can set the tone for a company, an instructor, as the leader of a journey, should have an energy that is relaxing and positive. Energy radiates onto students and can completely change your experience.
When an instructor makes eye contact and shows up as themselves, it shows they care and are confident in themselves and the practice. It’s so refreshing to take class with a teacher that reveals their personal growth.
Compassion and Equanimity
It is harder to learn from someone who doesn’t express empathy and compassion. These are some of the qualities that make up social grace and one’s ability to connect with another human being. At the same time, having a teacher who has a balanced mind and can see beyond the challenges you are facing in the moments and remind you about your connection to the universe and the bigger picture is just as valuable.
Honoring My Teachers
The tradition of transmitting yogic knowledge within a dedicated teacher and student relationship has been dulled with the commodification of yoga, but there are still amazing people teaching in the world. Opportunities for deeper connection with yourself with the support of a wise teacher abound.
I have been fortunate to work with some teachers who have all of the qualities I listed and more. I can never acknowledge them enough, because they have been a huge part of my evolution. Morehouse was a philosophical community I was raised in. In the many courses and life experiences I had with the members and teachers of the group I was exposed to some of the deepest teachings I have ever pondered, like human’s innate perfection. As a teen Kathleen Generaux was my first yoga teacher. Her big heart, deep knowledge of alignment and encouragement set me on the journey to become a teacher. Later I found senior yoga and dharma teacher Katchie Ananda who brought the Hindu and Buddhist philosophies into the classroom and showed me how I can apply them to my life. For the last year I have considered Will Kabat-Zinn my spiritual teacher. Saraswati Devi has been opening me up to the world of adaptive yoga for people who are differently-abled and Thai massage over the last few years. I can not name the many teachers I have been blessed to learn from.
We will all have different criteria for what we care about most in a mentor. I hope this article can help you to find a strong and supportive teacher or affirm your choice of teacher.