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How do you find a good Yoga teacher?

MichaelJ2010-07-04 21:45:43 +0000 #1
How do you find a good Yoga teacher? I know from my martial arts journey that there are many well intentioned but poor quality teachers. Without the experience to make an informed decision, I had to learn by trial and error about who could best assist me with my pursuit. I now know, in a martial arts context, a quality and skilled teacher from a well meaning but otherwise lacking teacher. It took me years of apprenticeship under false masters before I discovered what I was looking for. I’m no longer a young man and don’t want to make the same types of mistakes on my Yoga journey. What kinds of things should I be looking for in choosing a quality Yoga instructor?
InnerAthlete2010-07-04 21:48:01 +0000 #2
Sorry for my delay Michael. I had to re-formulate the nature of my initial reply to conform with parameters of the board. Here is my answer to your question addressing 6 basic areas to examine:

There are several things to consider when selecting a teacher. And I want to be clear, you may not consider or think of these things at all. You may be perfectly served going to the teacher you want, using a cultivated and authentic inner teacher to find the right fit for you.

Perhaps we call this a "connection". And you may just be looking for this first element and the rest may emenate from that. That having been said, here are the things I think are pertinent:

CONNECTION - finding a teacher you trust and feel like you are or can develop a rapport with will allow you to deepen your practice and shift your mind out of a potentially snug belief system.

STYLE - different yoga flavors may lend themselves to different teaching styles. Some teachers modulate their voice and change their approach while others may sound monotone, or have a llilt in their delivery. Some teacher may be stuck in speech habits saying things like "good" or "nice" for seemingly random reasons. In addition, some teachers are hands on and give adjustment when needed while others do not have any tactile contact with their class whatsoever.

INSTRUCTION - this is closely related to style. Instruction though is more about the actualization of an instruction method in the classroom. What is the teaching method? Does the teacher break down the instruction into segments for the student to digest? Is there demonstration? Is there enough instruction or too much instruction? How does the teacher correct if at all? Does the teacher instruct in themes and are the sequences fitting together properly for YOU...I'm asking if when you are in class you are "getting it"?

WISDOM - it is just as much saying to students "I don't know" as it is actually knowing. Every teacher, regardless of the subject, must possess a well of knowledge (hopefully an expanding one) from which to draw the waters. The most basic definitions of "teacher" all include "knowledge" as a foundational component. This well can vary greatly. What I find important when I'm evaluating a teacher is that they are only teaching what they know. I find teachers who teach what they do not know but perhaps were told as transparent, inauthentic, and potentially dangerous. The application of this knowledge is wisdom. Without application it is merely useless data.

LINEAGE - this one is a little tricky as it can swing into pretention when not watched carefully. Who is your teacher and who is your teacher's teacher? It's prudent to know something about the person in whom you are placing your trust. Some teacher may not have formal training and the one's that do, well their lineage may not mean anything to you. And they may still be very excellent teachers. What I have found, from taking classes with over 40 teachers in both Orlando and Seattle is that the teacher of the teacher does matter but it matters in degrees from one teacher to the next.

LIFE - there's an axiom here; "evaluate your teacher by how they live their life not how they do their poses". Would you like to live the way your teacher lives? Would you like to behave how your teacher behaves? Yoga, with the capital Y is a way to move through this world, a way to live, a way to freedom through the discipline of the practice.
vibes2010-07-04 21:54:01 +0000 #3
Inner Athlete as always has some EXCELLENT points.However I disagree with the 'Life' bit. It's good to agree to disagree! Why should we be concerned with the life of the teacher? I wouldn't even like to be like the great Patanjali (mainly because he passed away many years ago). I feel we should not follow in the footsteps of anyone especially not teachers and be ourselves.

Also I would suggest to find a teacher who does not 'correct' their students. To correct is an incorrect way of doing things because you do not allow for experience to teach the nervous system. You are not allowing the feedback to help you. In the same way you cannot correct a baby in his/her learning to walk. We are organized to be able to adapt. This is more important than to self correct. The force to adapt is better than to be able to try & correct and be symmetrical.

Also remember that improvement is better through concentration rather than action. So find a class that is not overly physical as over exerting oneself numbs the feedback processes of the nervous system.
justwannabe2010-07-04 22:31:48 +0000 #4
say a prayer and take action

more than thoughts

InnerAthlete2010-07-04 22:10:48 +0000 #5

Originally Posted by vibes

I disagree with the 'Life' bit. It's good to agree to disagree! Why should we be concerned with the life of the teacher?

A difference in philosophy is always welcome. So of course, hold whatever it is that works for you.

But since you asked...

It is actually quite important to evaluate the integrity of the teacher. And that integrity is weighed by placing what is taught on one side of the scales and what is lived on the other.

I am not suggesting you BE your teacher. Nor am I suggesting you live as Patanjali - though it would likely be better than living as Nikolai Chauchescu. Of course you must find and be yourself. The evaluation is not to be that person but to see how yogic behavior is modeled by your prospective teacher.

A teacher who asserts concepts they themselves do not live is inauthentic. Inauthentic teachers lack integrity and therefore so too lack inner harmony. The proof in the teachings are in the living.

Would you study Brahmacharya from a teacher cheating on his wife? Would you embrace the teachings of ethics from a teacher sleeping with students? Would you delve into satya offered by a teacher who cannot offer honesty to others?

Point being, if you're going to find a YOGA teacher (rather than an asana teacher) it may be prudent to find one who's living what they are teaching. Otherwise it begs the question "from where ARE they teaching?".
JenW2010-07-04 22:07:55 +0000 #6
Indeed, I agree with IA's points about Life. The two yoga teachers that I have really learnt a great deal from are the two who live their lives in a way that is inspiring to me. I do not want to BE them, or even be like them, but their lifestyles and the way they interact with others instill a confidence and optimism in me that is itself a great teacher.

As for the issue of teachers who correct or not - I much prefer those that are tactile and correct me in asanas. I am very flexible and have injured myself from incorrect alignment. My body is obviously not as able to adapt as Vibes's!
lakshmishegar42010-07-04 22:47:19 +0000 #7
What kinds of things should I be looking for in choosing a quality Yoga instructor?
InnerAthlete2010-07-05 00:00:03 +0000 #8
Are you asking for something more than the six parameters I've outlined above?

I do not fully understand your question. What skills should a teacher have?



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