Before finding my teacher in Burlington, I used to think about the quote “When you are ready, the teacher appears.” While there is absolutely truth to that, I’ve coined my own version: “Keep searching for your teachers. You’ll know when you find them.” There are thousands of yoga teacher training programs popping up everywhere and it now seems more than ever, there are yoga teachers teaching every kind of yoga imaginable on every street corner. So how does one choose who to study from and to learn with? It’s an important journey, for both the teacher and student. I suggest that you choose carefully.
Ask about lineage. Ask your teacher where she/he learned from. Essentially, you are learning from your teacher’s teacher, so be sure they learned from someone legit. There are lots of fads out there and it’s important that your teacher is a well trained and wise yoga scholar.
They let go of ego. I know teachers who teach because it’s their mission. They do it from their heart; they do it with purpose and intention. They don’t do it because of the shape and size of their body, no matter how strong and flexible it is. These teachers teach from a deeper part, from a part that goes beyond their asana. They aren’t doing it for outside validation or because they look good in Ardha Chandrasana (half moon). You’ll know when you encounter a teacher like this. You’ll feel it.
You don’t need to impress them.
Excellent teachers care about the safety, alignment, and breath of their students. They don’t want to see students injure themselves by attempting to get into Sirsasana (head stand) incorrectly. Great teachers don’t care if their students spend the entire class in Balasana (child’s pose). Look for teachers that offer alternatives for challenging poses and teachers that offer easy to understand cues instead of leaping into asanas. Additionally, these teachers know how and when to use a soft touch and can help students deeper connect through this method.
They assist. You know that feeling when a teacher helps you really open in a twist or expand in a back-bend? It’s magical. There's art to hands-on-assisting. My teacher once warned me about the weak-assist. Those may be worse than a weak handshake. The best yoga teachers offer adjustments with a powerful, strong hand. These assists are deep, powerful, and shows that the teacher is experienced and not afraid to guide their students. Additionally, my teacher assists me in my life too. She has helped me with career decisions and told me which are good vitamins to take. They are not life coaches, but quality yoga teachers are filled with knowledge about holistic living and can aid in making decisions from a yogic approach.
The sequence makes sense. Students can’t be expected to get into a twist without having warmed up first. Experienced teachers build sequences that are intuitive and fluid, and most importantly are safe. Sequences should follow an arc, and leave the student rested and centered before Savasana. If you’re
feeling rushed, confused, or in any pain during a yoga class, the teacher is probably not prepared to lead a class.
Other cues that you’ve found a great teacher include the stability and quality of her voice, excellent music, but not overly relying on music, a knowledge of sanskrit, incorporates breath work in her class, and a sense that she lives a yogic life of compassion, kindness, and balance. Yoga teachers are inspiring souls and it’s worth the wait to find the best ones. I’ve met yoga “celebrities” and traveled far to meet them, but was left disappointed. My favorite yoga teachers live in my town and also are very real people. It’s easy to put teachers on a pedestal and to worship them. Admire them, respect them, learn from them, but remember that they are very human.
With deep gratitude to all my teachers.