Whether it’s your first yoga teacher or not, you’re not just looking for someone who knows the poses. You want someone who can excite and inspire you — someone who will help you grow. The right yoga teacher can enrich your life in ways you never even imagined.
Each yoga instructor is an individual, Their teaching style may or may not be compatible with the way you best learn, but there are a few qualities that all yoga teachers must have to guide people safely along the path of yoga.
The Ability to Connect
There’s something to be said for a small and intimate class, but there are some yoga teachers who can connect no matter the size of the class. Even in a class of a few dozen, a participant can still feel as if they’ve had some personal attention. Yes, even that shy person in the back. If you attend a yoga class and feel like you’ve connected with the instructor this is a good sign.
Strongly connected to the ability to connect is a sense of presence. Certain people have the ability to draw attention to them. Yoga requires a lot of focus and an instructor who can direct that focus is a wonderful asset. Voice can be an important element of presence, but some direct more subtly through a gentle touch during a pose to correct a problem, or even just a look.
An Energetic Personality
This doesn’t necessarily mean bubbly or hyperactive, though if you like that kind of energy there are yoga teachers who can provide that. Some yoga teachers can express their energy through a sense of humor, or through a lighthearted and cheerful demeanor. Underneath it all, however, should be a calm, focused center — someone who personally embodies some of the many benefits of yoga.
This is a quality some might want and others might not. A lot of people find comfort in knowing what’s going to come next, but others want to have a more spontaneous experience, where the teacher’s plans will change according to the mood of the class. Whatever the case, a good yoga teacher will have at least a little preparation beforehand. He or she will also prepare the teaching environment, arriving early and making sure everything is ready to go.
The Personal Touch
As noted before, each yoga instructor is an individual, as is every yoga student. A great yoga instructor will take that into account. Not everyone has the same level of training or ability, especially in an open level class, where some of the students are just starting out and others have years of training. It can be tough to get started in yoga, and a teacher with the time and patience to train someone new, but the skill to help someone already advanced become even better, is someone worth the time it takes to find them.
This doesn’t mean flexibility of body, though obviously that’s important for yoga, but flexibility of spirit. Each yoga class is an entity to itself and an instructor should be able to adjust for that. If something isn’t working, or if a different tactic will work better, it’s great to have an instructor who’s able to shift course and tackle things from a new approach.
A yoga teacher who can’t perform the poses he or she requires of the students might be good, but won’t be great. No one should be required to do the impossible, but a minimum level of physical skill is a necessity in a yoga instructor. The teacher should serve as a model for the poses.
Love of Yoga
The difference between an instructor who loves yoga and one who is mostly just performing the motions is almost immediately noticeable. Yoga is more than just moving the body — it’s centering the spirit and relaxing the mind. Only a teacher who understands that is worth heeding.
Love of Teaching
Along with the love of yoga should go the love of imparting the knowledge of yoga to others. That doesn’t necessarily mean teaching every lesson in Sanskrit or an in-depth history of yoga, but if a teacher knows all of those things and uses that knowledge as a highlight to the other components of the class, it can really enhance each session.
There are no degrees or certifications required to teach yoga, so you may have to do a little homework on your own to rate a teacher’s training. While most studios require an instructor have undergone training, look into the specifics. If a yoga studio offers bios of all its teachers, that’s a good start. Any great yoga teacher will have learned from some great yoga instructor training of his or her own.
If you feel you can move closer to your goals through following a certain teacher, then that’s the one for you. All you beginners out there could really benefit by looking for a teacher who embodies at least a majority of the qualities listed above.
Written for Wellpark College by Andrew Altaf