The literature in yoga states that the average yoga student is looking for a class within a couple of blocks from where they live. However, one should ask themselves certain questions about what they are looking for from yoga, a teacher, and/or a studio or gym. Let the following, guide you in choosing a teacher, even if it means they are not around the corner.
Tips for Finding the right yoga teacher is like finding a good physician. With yoga becoming extremely popular many students are becoming yoga teachers after a few short years. Hence there are many teachers, all teaching a variety of styles. So how do you begin to a find a yoga teacher that is right for you?
Consider the following and ask yourself:Why do I want to take a yoga class? What do I want to get from a class? Do you want to practice to relieve stress, heal from an injury, or gain strength and flexibility?
These are important questions that will help you find the most appropriate style of yoga, the right teacher for yourself, and meet your needs to help you begin a yoga practice. If you are looking for stress relief and to learn how to relax, a class that is fast paced and very physically challenging will not be a match.
If you are a beginner student consider finding a class where the teacher goes slowly and talks about how to get into and out of the postures with the use of correct diaphragmatic breathing.
If you have yoga experience, look for a teacher that lives their yoga and has many years of experience. Make certain the teacher continues to take classes with a teacher that has good training from a reputable foundation or program that is nationally or internationally recognized. This will allow the teacher to assist you in deepening your practice by helping you move your focus inward into areas of your body that need your attention. This guideline can be used for everyone.
Other questions to ask:
What is the background of the teacher, how long has the teacher practiced yoga, how long have they been teaching, and what style is taught? Does the teacher teach in other locations? Does the teacher walk around and adjust students? What is the focus of the class? Is the class a stretch class, focusing on moving from one poses to the next, or on taking time to focus on breathing so you can move into tightness to release into relaxation.
Ask if they are Yoga Alliance certified, how large the classes are, the lengthen of class and if the teacher or studio supply the mat, blankets, blocks, straps, bolsters, etc, or do you need to bring your own, or rent. Since each student of yoga comes with their own set of issues of their body/mind and may need to do the pose differently from another student in the same class, having a teacher who knows the benefits and contraindications of each pose is important. Can the teacher modify the pose for you, or help you to determine if you should not do the pose at all. Maybe another pose should be substituted that will be more beneficial for you.
A finding a teacher that can provide the correct variation of the posture for you and your body is critical
A teacher who understands anatomy can help you not suffer in pain a few days after class or worst suffer an injury from class. Often, I will make an announcement in class alerting new students to the sensations they may feel during the week. Another example is when a student hyper extends their arms and legs as I do in my body. I began yoga as an out of shape teenager in high school in the mid 1970’s. As an adult I had many issues with my shoulders and pelvis that lead me to chiropractors. Teachers did not discuss anatomy nor was my body open enough to truly understand what the teachers were talking about to unlock my tightness. It took me many chiropractors and much soul searching in yoga to help me realize my problem was the structure of my body. Instead of attempting to get into the most advanced modification possible in a pose, I began to go back to the basic posture and learn the proper alignment of the pose for my body. This meant understanding anatomy and the posture itself along with how to breathe into the pose.
Once you decide on a yoga class consider the following:
Talk with the teacher about any health conditions you have no matter how minor you think they are. Make certain the teacher is comfortable working with you. My experience has been that students don’t often stop to think about how the postures affect their bodies and therefore don’t share all their health information. Then in follow up conversations or as they are doing poses it comes up that they have this problem and it effects how they are doing the pose or what they feel in the pose. Often students leave a class thinking yoga is not for them, when really it maybe about how the class is taught.
Once you find a teacher, it is best to study with that teacher for a period of time. Resist the urge to be a yoga junkie and go to many different teachers during the same period of time. This can often confuse the student, since teachers teach differently.
By studying with one teacher it gives the teacher time to get to know you so they can tailor postures and instructions to suit your needs. I have several students who come to my classes to get correct information about poses, but tell me they go to a variety of other classes throughout our area because the day, time or convenience of location is good for them. They tell me they come to my studio to learn the proper technique to use in the other classes. They do themselves a disservice in understanding yoga in their body/mind.
Once in a class never perform any posture in class that feels like “bad pain” especially in the knees, lower back and neck. If you have not exercised in a while know that you will feel some discomfort or what in yoga is called heightened awareness in places like the back of your legs, groin, and shoulders. It is important to discuss any discomfort with the teacher. It is a good idea for teachers to call or email new students a day or two after class to get feedback, answer questions or concerns.
After the class, think about whether you enjoyed the class. Was the teacher friendly, encouraging, and supportive, did the teacher treat you with respect and courtesy? A good instructor makes the class fell secure and peaceful and often you feel a sense of community and/or belonging.
Keeping these ideas in mind when searching for a yoga teacher will help you find the right quality yoga instruction important for your journey in life
Pamela Grubb, LSW, MSW, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT is a yoga therapist and owner of Mindful Yoga Studio in Kenosha, WI. She has been studying and teaching the art of yoga for 40+years. Her specialty is helping her students release into relaxation teaching breath awareness. A background in rehabilitation medicine she has a strong focus working with students on health related issues, anxiety/depression, back, knees and in the overall healing on the mind and body. She also teaches yoga and meditation at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Contact Pamela at 262-859-2151
www.yogainmind.com Email Pamela@yogainmind.com