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 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 emphasize 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.