The studio I co-own , Yoga Elements, is in a vacation/extended holiday area where almost fifty percent of our clientele is from somewhere else. Often we have folks coming to our studio who are trying yoga for the first time, and when they are ready to head back to their homeland I am asked, “How do I pick a teacher back home?” This is a process I have gone through many times myself, since I have moved over 50 times in my adult life. My extensive travels are always with yoga as a priority in my activities. Below is a list of how I decide where and with whom I will practice.
- I ask myself what do I want out of my practice today? It may be trying something new, a class I have never heard of. Another possibility could be anything to give me a little bit of one of my favorite styles of yoga. Something else I may choose to focus on is to soothe my achy back from long hours of travel. There may be a teacher I’ve been wanting to always take a class with. The key thing is I make sure I am really clear on my intention for my practice.
- Does their being certified matter to you? It does to me. Anything to do with my body, I take a lot of care and attention in choosing whose hands and mind I entrust it to. I choose my yoga teachers as careful as my medical practitioners. Before class I will go to the website of the studio and read the bios of the teachers. I look for teachers who have been through a Yoga Alliance certification program. Teacher certification levels are: RYT 200, a teacher that has been through at least two hundred hours of training with the majority of it face-to-face with an experienced teacher.
E-RYT 200, a teacher who has completed a minimum of 1,000 hours of teaching beyond the initial requirements for the 200 hour training.
RYT 500, a teacher who has finished an additional course of training, has taught for at least 100 hours.
E-RYT 500, a teacher who has basically all the above plus another 1,000 hours of teaching beyond the 500 hour training.
You can find more information here.
- Take note how they assist students.
Even after I pick a teacher I continue to observe them. I watch how they assist students, or if they even assist students. I watch for how they approach the student. How they touch the student. If at any point they assist me and it feels not right for me I usually do one of two things. I let them know then, especially if it hurts. If it felt inappropriate but not painful I may wait till after class to share my experience with the teacher. They truly may not know what happened. As a teacher myself I am grateful for feedback that makes me aware of the experience of the students I teach. Either way I reflect afterward to re-consider if their teaching style is a good fit for me before I return.
I can share a real time example of this. I went to a Bikram class, gifted to me by one of personal training clients (when I was training at a gym), with a teacher highly recommended by the client. I felt a little put off when the check-in person (who also happen to be the teacher) barely looked my way as she took my gift certificate. It was obvious her priority was to chat with another young woman sitting near her. I proceeded into the room confused about where to put things. Another student must have seen my confusion and informed me of the proper procedure for storing one’s goods. I set up my mat on the carpeted floor and placed my water bottle in the usual spot. The teacher marched into the room and stepped up onto a small platform. Hmmm. That felt odd. Her mouthed opened and from that moment on I struggled. She barked out the class directions making feel as if I was in a yoga boot camp. I politely asked to stop her adjustment of my body as she tried to tweek me into her version of what a pose should look like for everyone. I could go on, but my point is proven. This was not a good fit for me. I never went back and used the rest of my gift certificate
- A big sign for me about any teacher is how they answer a question posed by a student. If it is obvious they don’t know and make something up that is a big Uh Oh to me. This signals to me there is a level of uncertainty of personal knowledge, and possibly a bit of ego jumping in to the rescue. Versus if they are visibly uncertain, pause and then say something like, “I’m not sure.” This makes me feel more at ease. If they go so far as to say, “I can find out and get back to you on that.” I smile deeply, for to me that is the sign of not only a teacher of integrity but one willing to be of service beyond the mat.
“To watch the universe emerging and subsiding in one’s heart is a wonder.” (Pg. 140 I Am That)
As a yoga teacher myself I feel honored to be an assistant to others exploring their edge. I feel blessed to get to be a witness to the emerging of their potential within their body, sometimes their heart and often their soul self.
ADDITIONAL INTERESTING LINKS:
How Yogic is Your Teacher?