Thursday, August 17, 2006

what makes a good yoga teacher?

I've been doing yoga for about 3.5 years now. I was a late-comer, I put it off for a long time until my roommate convinced me to give it a try. Now I'm hooked. However, in the last 3.5 years, I've had a number of different yoga teachers, and have found certain things that make the experience so much better. Do you agree?

1. Breathing is important! I once had a teacher who decided the whole hour should be devoted to breathing, because we weren't breathing very effectively. This was a luxury, because if all you get out of yoga is better breathing, you are in a very good place. Some yoga teachers just tell you to breathe, then leave you on your own.

2. Use real words! If you use terms like "Oujai breath" and then tell me it means "warrior breath" and then tell me how to do it, and then demonstrate it, you are awesome. If you just say "breathe deeply" I'll wonder...

3. Are you devoted to yogic practice, its spiritual, historic, meditative, and bodily aspects? Or did you just take a yoga/aerobics/kickboxing/pilates 30-hour distance-learning certification course? One of my favorite yoga teachers had trained in India for more than 15 years, and goes back to India every year to further her learning. This was really reflected in how she taught.

4. Does the teacher just lead the class without looking at the students, or does s/he walk around and adjust/fix individuals? If I'm doing a pose wrong, fix me!

5. Does the teacher take individual bodies into consideration? My favorite yoga class always started with the teacher asking if anyone had any specific aches/pains they wanted addressed. In the same vein, a good teacher will always offer you alternatives or adjustments to poses if you have an issue (like a bum knee) that prevents you from doing a pose.

6. This is more idiosyncratic, but I hate cheesy new-age music! Either non-intrusive music, or no music at all!

I would love to hear from other yoga lovers out there about what you all love/hate, what to look for, funny experiences, etc.
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8 comments:

Urban Vegan said...

...And a flexible attitude.

You can tell by my comment that I do not take yoga. But on stressful days at work, I can nevertheless be found doing hte child's pose in my office.]

Village Mama said...

Great blog!!

I totally agree that you have to seek out a good yoga teacher. I've been a student of yoga since 1998, and I've tried almost every studio in the city of Toronto, and have also taken classes in New York City and California. In almost 10 years there are maybe 3 teachers I've been committed to.

I also find that the actual space is important to me. I can't stand it when it's so cramped that people's feet and hands keep brushing mine.

It makes me completely bonkers when people's cell phones ring. I wish they made people leave them at the front desk.

I think these are the top things I look for in a yoga teacher: they make adjustments; they start the class on time so you get your $20 worth!; they have a loud enough voice that you can hear them no matter where you are in the room; they avoid Sanskrit and actually explain the postures in detail, in English; they give a few options per posture that achieve the same function no matter what level you're at.

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