Finding the Right Yoga Teacher

I have always believed that self-practice is critical to stay committed to one’s daily practice.  As such, I started my journey using online videos.  As I deepened my practice, however, I realize that I couldn’t progress without the guidance of hand-on adjustments.  Thus, I started joining yoga classes.  In my previous article, I wrote about things to consider when choosing a yoga studio.  As I attended more and more yoga classes, I realize that it’s also about finding the right teacher.  So how do you find one?

Of course, finding the “one” really varies from one person to another.  In my search for the “right” online videos, I have encountered great yogis who really excel at what they do.  For instance, I admire Kino McGregor, an Ashtanga practitioner.  She is very inspiring and I follow her in social media.  But it is the likes of Esther Ekhart and Kathryn Budig whose videos I actually follow during my practice.  More recently, I have also started “attending” online classes of Nichi Green as I explore Ashtanga.  So far, I have found only a few “online teachers” whose instructions resonate with me, at that particular stage of my practice.

I would imagine that finding the right “live” teachers would be the same.  I have also encountered great yoga teachers, who give very clear and precise instructions.  Yet, one way or the other, I have yet to find the one that I will keep coming back to.  For me, the following are the top 3 things I look for in a teacher:

  • Empathy for students.  I love it when the teacher expresses genuine concern over his/her student’s journey.  Thus, we won’t hear instructions being barked at us (oops!  I did it wrong and I got scolded) nor will we hear instructions being given like a parrot; with no modifications for those whose bodies can’t access the full expression of a particular pose.
  • Offers sound advice.  A teacher who warns students to listen to their bodies earns my respect.  I have seen teachers who push beginners into a relatively advanced pose when clearly their bodies are not yet ready.  It also irks me when teachers would push you to hold a pose for a long period of time and admonish those who take a break.  Such atmosphere places a great pressure on students, encouraging them to listen to their egos and be competitive.  Recipe for injuries.
  • Draws from deep experience.  This is where young teachers seem to fall short of my expectations.  Sure, they can do these amazing poses and are able to give clear instructions.  But yoga is more than just asanas.  To be able to guide students, my “right” teacher draws from experience (either from his/her own personal practice, or through years of teaching many types of students) and provides that proper guidance that will help me in my inward journey.

How about you, what do you look for in a yoga teacher?

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