Choosing the right Yoga teacher is a really important decision. And yet, not everyone seriously contemplates this question before joining a Yoga class.
Overall, there are 10 key qualities that make a great Yoga teacher which you should be looking out for:
- Love of Yoga
- Love of Teaching Yoga
- Ability to Connect
- Ability to Communicate
- Respectful physical contact
Read on to get more detail on the desirable qualities of a Yoga teacher and the kinds of questions you could focus on.
Find out whether your teacher has gone through appropriate Yoga teacher training and has a relevant certification. The minimum is 200 hour Yoga teacher training and preferably more than that, including ongoing Yoga instructor courses.
Intensive Yoga teacher training will make sure your teacher has been instructed in all key aspects that are required to prepare and deliver a successful and enjoyable Yoga class.
Check that your Yoga teacher is a diligent and patient instructor, with detailed explanations provided on different poses, breath work and meditation.
You should always expect your Yoga teacher to be there on time and also finish classes at the appointed time. Better still, be there early and leave later so that there is plenty of time to interact with the teacher and get an answer to any questions you might have.
2. Love For Yoga
If Yoga teachers love their Yoga, you will simply not be able to miss that. Yoga will shine from their faces, and they will shine their own personal light on it. Because of that, they inspire their students to do well and to love Yoga themselves.
Yoga teachers who love their Yoga will have their own personal Yoga practice and journey, separate from their teaching. As a result, they will be able to instruct their students with their personal learnings on an ongoing basis and as part of a common Yoga journey.
3. Love For Teaching Yoga
Your Yoga teacher loves teaching Yoga to you – whatever the circumstances!
Your teacher will create her very own energy and atmosphere that will inspire everyone. She will share his unique teachings and insights with the class, creating an enjoyable learning environment.
You should feel the love, and be energized and more positive upon leaving the class.
Each teacher will bring along his very own personality – much like ourselves as Yoga students. Some will be warm, some light-hearted and others more serious and focused on Yoga itself. Explore your own personality: what are you most comfortable with?
In the end, you will look for a teacher who is knowledgeable, calm and centred. You will also look for a teacher with authenticity, passion and dedication to teaching Yoga and the empowerment of students.
Through these qualities, a Yoga teacher will often become a role model in developing our own personality and authenticity in Yoga.
5. Ability to Connect
Look for a special connection with your Yoga teacher. Can you relate to her/him and do you feel welcome and accepted, whatever your background, age and ability might be? Do you feel OK if you are not quite up to everyone else’s level?
A great Yoga teacher will be able to create a genuine connection with each student, no matter whether there are five or twenty people in the room, or what their abilities are. As a result, each student will feel guided in her personal practice and able to participate. Each student will also know how to adjust different poses to prevent injury and apply props wherever necessary.
A Yoga teacher will also have that special ability to connect with those students who prefer to be tucked away right at the back of the class – while respecting their need for privacy.
6. Ability to Communicate
Its great to have a good chat with a Yoga teacher and learn as much as we can from that exchange. Through these chats, we become more familiar and comfortable with our teacher. Once that occurs, we can pluck up the courage to ask any questions.
As a result, a Yoga teacher needs to have compassion and acceptance, and be able to make students feel relaxed and free to talk.
Overall, you should feel at ease to communicate with your Yoga teacher about any matters that concern you. Similarly, your teacher will take the time to understand and talk about these, no matter how difficult they are.
Confidentiality about these issues will be maintained at all times.
Your class is well designed and prepared by your Yoga teacher and appropriate to the fitness level, strength and flexibility of each student. If it’s not, you might consider changing the class or the Yoga style you have chosen. Discuss any issues you have in this context with your teacher who will be able to help you with this.
You should be looking for a class that will follow a structured warm up and warm down phase. The class should allow you to ease into Yoga practice with ease, and follow a carefully considered sequence of poses, breath work and meditation.
Because a Yoga class is such as personal experience, your Yoga teacher aims to understand each student’s personal requirements, issues and limitations from the very first. Here, the student’s responsibility also comes into play. Without you raising these matters early on, your teacher will not be able to make the necessary adaptations to the class in a timely manner.
But once this has occurred, the teacher should be able to give ongoing consideration to these matters and instructs you on how to work with any limitations in a safe manner.
An example is a recommendation of a prop to help you prevent an injury and work towards achieving certain Yoga poses.
9. Respectful physical contact
Physical contact – such as a Yoga teacher touching students to enhance or deepen a pose or to apply a massage can be great for some students but contentious for others. Additionally, it can lead to injury if not done carefully and with too much force.
Expect your Yoga teacher to be respectful in this context and to always ask for permission first.
Remember: this is your choice. If you do not want to have physical contact, make sure you discreetly tell your teacher.
Your Yoga teacher makes you feel comfortable and safe in her/his class. There is an awareness of the possible injuries that might occur as a result of overextending in particular Yoga poses.
The teacher is able to provide and explain alternative, safer versions of the same pose, adaptions using props, or another pose delivering similar benefits.
Your Yoga teacher should create an environment of mutual trust, respect and safety, and be very clear which behaviours will be encouraged or otherwise not tolerated.
There is a respect of the ethics of Yoga and the behavioural code embedded in the Yoga class. Read on to find out more about these
The Behavioural Code Of Yoga
The yamas guide socially ethical behaviour: how we treat others and the world around us. This includes principles related to:
- Nonviolence (ahimsa)
- Truth and honesty (satya)
- Nonstealing (asteya)
- Moving toward truth (brahmacharya)
- Non-greed (aparigraha)
The niyamas relate to a personal inner discipline and responsibility: basically how we treat and look after ourselves:
- Purity (shauca)
- Contentment (santosha)
- Discipline (tapas)
- Self-study (svadhyaya)
- Surrender (ishvara-pranidhana)
Overall, starting a Yoga practice or being engaged in one is very much about empowering yourself and making sure your needs are met.
This process is an intensely personal one, and one that respects our own goals, needs and limitations.
Choosing the right Yoga teacher will definitely be one of your more important life decisions. Get this right and you stand to make a great investment in your life and your future, and grow both as a Yoga practitioner and a human being.
Of course, many, many Yoga teachers have the qualities described above and far exceed them. They become our friends and guides, and can enrich our lives in ways we never thought to be possible.
What is a Yoga teacher called? In short, mostly by their real names! But in Yogic tradition, someone who excels as a student or teacher of Yoga, both male or female, is called a “Yogi”. Further, the specific term “Yogini” relates to a female master practitioner of yoga.
I want to be a Yoga teacher myself. Where should I start? There are many, many schools across the world that offer Yoga teacher training. The generally accepted Gold standard for Yoga teacher training is a certification by the International Yoga Alliance. This often also a key employment criterion for teachers sought by respected Yoga studios.
There are also online programs available, however, they are often not certified programs due to the hands-on training required for some elements. Nonetheless, they can be valuable for Yoga practioners who are simply interested in widening and deepening their Yoga knowledge.