Finding the right yoga practice for yourself can be daunting. In fact, sometimes it feels downright impossible. When I first started yoga a few years ago, it took me a while to find a style and a studio that just felt….right. As I lay in Savasana at the end of a particularly sweaty session, my thoughts wandered to how much I had actually enjoyed that class. Coming in on a particularly stressful day, it was exactly what I needed to soothe my body and soul. And as I pondered while the room filled with the soft breathing of my fellow yogis, I realized that a big part of feeling so at home where I was right then was due to my great yoga teacher.
I hadn’t realized it, but I made the effort to be there for her class, I pushed myself that little bit harder and took every piece of wisdom she imparted to my heart. Sounds like a bit of a girl crush (and yes how she rocked a neon Lululemon tank also appealed), but after the class talking to the other students, we all agreed that she was the bomb. While everyone might have a different view to what makes a great yoga teacher, I found that the following was pretty essential for me in deciding on whether to stick around.
1. It Feels Right
I know this sounds obvious, but trusting our instincts when it comes to choosing someone to lead us in our own practice is so important. How does your body feel around this person? I’ve found that a sign of an immature or inexperienced teacher is that of one who will manipulate the teachings to appear important, to pay tribute to his or her own ego which can distract and deter you from your own goals and journey.
We have such a physical reaction to our intuition at times; we get that ‘gut’ feeling – go with it.
Yoga is one of the most frustrating things I have done in my life because it forces me to stop and pause and take my time with each movement. So a teacher able to have patience while being connected, grounded and balanced is a huge indication for me that I will learn immensely from them. (Especially when I fall out of crow pose for the millionth time – you need some serious patience for that!)
A good teacher knows that everyone has their own journey, their own timing and may need different answers or guides for different people, even contradictory at times. Being grounded in their own knowledge is also something I look for – I’m looking to learn and grow as a person and want them to share with me their experience of their practice. Someone who can do that makes me want to come back and learn from them more.
Having a teacher that can clearly communicate with the class and each person individually is important. I found this especially critical for me when I tried Bikram yoga for example, because I needed that extra guidance (and someone to tell me that I wasn’t going to die of the heat!!). I prefer someone that isn’t afraid of saying it how it is, by constantly guiding and supporting my practice.
Again, this might sound obvious, but a teacher who is personally dedicated to their practice is someone that I am more likely to gravitate to. Like everyone, teachers are also students and lessons are learnt every day. Having someone who is open to the concept of learning and finding answers in their own practice provides a great example to the class.
Most of all, I look that a teacher is FUN. By fun, I mean they mix it up – keep the class lighthearted, happy and create an environment of openness and acceptance. A teacher who yells or embarrasses us is not allowing us to flourish as people and as yogis. It tends to make people close themselves off and not be open to the learning and practice.
It might not be possible to find all of these when looking for a great yoga teacher, but keeping the above points in mind will at least help us go in the right direction.
A teacher, at the end of it is a relationship where we leave aside our own mental constructs and learn from another. And like with all relationships, we need to find the one that complements us, brings out our best side and if we’re lucky, occasionally bring us flowers. Kidding.