How To Find A Good Yoga Teacher: 12 Suggestions.

Via on Dec 17, 2011

Oh! The crafty work behind finding a good yoga teacher, someone who will lead us from darkness to light and do it well.

What a blessing it is to find one!

Lately, I have been doing some self-reflecting on the steps to think about when on the search for a good teacher. What should we keep in mind? What should we notice?

Here are some suggestions that have helped me on the path—while they may not be a good idea to print and carry around, we might want to keep them somewhere in the back of our minds to aid the intuitive process.

Teacher and student is after all a relationship, and that is why number one is perhaps the most important point:

1.- Trust your instincts

A sign of an immature or inexperienced teacher is that of one who will manipulate the teachings to appear important, to pay tribute to his or her own ego.

Our own instincts are critical when walking through this path of finding a teacher. And when I say that I mean: How does my body feel around this person? Good intuition manifests in the body, we either get a gut feeling, or something “does not feel right”, or the opposite happens.

2.-Clear thinking and depth of knowledge

A good teacher will be clear in mind and have vast knowledge, not just of the learned type but also the experience type.  How do we find out? the first part is easy, a clear-minded person will reflect so in their speech. The depth of knowledge (or second part) might be revealed instantly or not.  This is why I always refer to point one.

How do the adjustments feel? Is there a light quality about the class? Do you feel you can be present? Or are you worrying about things just by being in the teachers’ presence?

3.-Teacher continues practicing / studying / has a teacher

A teacher is also always a student, someone who keeps practicing, searching, and, as a consequence, has its own teacher or lineage. A teacher who seems to know it all already would send alarm flags down my own nervous system.

Whichever path you chose to follow to learn about the far reaching science of yoga, I would always look for a teacher that is deep in practice him or herself.

4.-The teacher is balanced, contented, patient

A good disposition in a teacher not only makes for a space of trust, it also shows me that their yoga is working.

I would be distrustful of a teacher that screams, or criticises others or gossips, or even worst, talks badly about students behind their backs or in public.

On the ‘patient’ front, I know in my case any teacher has to be patient with me.  A teacher will always plant new seeds but then trust that they will sprout in their own time.  My timing as a student needs to be respected.  A good teacher will know that different students have different timings and therefore there might be different answers or guides for different people, even contradictory at times.

5.-A good teacher will be grounded

Grounded in his or her own experience and not be easily swayed into hysteria.  Because a good teacher knows the benefits of the practice, has experience them and is rooted on the long term benefits of a wholesome practice.

A good teacher will be inmersed in what IS, in reality, and not project its fears or aspirations onto students.  Nor will it feel threatened on his or her knowledge and try to manipulate everyone into thinking how he or she thinks.

6.-Anyone claiming to be a guru raises red alerts

When a teacher becomes self involved to the point where his or her own grandeur casts a shadow over the relationship at hand, then delusion ensues. Grounding is lost.

7.-Keeping our own projections in check

It is easy to project images of grandeur into a teacher.  Therefore, it is important to keep reality checks with ourselves, make sure we are not putting anyone on a pedestal.

It is OK to be inspired, to learn, to be wowed by a teacher, that is the nature of the relationship.  But keeping a grounding base as a student is also a requirement.

8.- Someone that encourages and allows us to keep our heart open

I find that the best teachers I’ve come into contact with have been light hearted, happy, creating an environment of open search yet keeping it to the point, and the point is the teachings of yoga.

Any restrictive teacher, someone that may snap out or yell or embarrass us is not allowing us to flourish.  Although there may be cases where this works, I find that when I was embarassed in front of a class once, way back in 2009, it made me close my heart rather than feel expansive.

9.-Boundaries

Any teacher that suggests sexual relationships, for example, with a student, is a red flag. We all know this I suppose, but it is important to keep it in mind.

The relationship between teacher and student has the goal of freedom. The teacher helps the student in the most important task of his or her life, that of becoming, that of being present for what is, that of ultimate freedom.  Any funny business will interfere with this.  Point one applies more than ever.

10.- Trickster

Anytime we as students may think we have it all figured out, we identify with the good teacher and get even a bit cocky about it, it is the duty of the teacher to do anything necessary to break that image, help us come back to the present moment and learn to live with not knowing.

This is what separates the good teachers from the excellent teachers.  Take for example, one conference in which the students were actively asking Sharath (Lineage holder of Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore, India) about what to do in the ‘real world’ when you have no money, or the issue of your girlfriend, should you not be ‘attached’ to her? or you had doubts, or, you know? what we think of as ‘real’ issues.  He kept bringing the answer to a basic ‘do your practice’, for every question, the bottom line answer was this: ‘do your practice’.  This encourages us to get deeper into the practice and find the answers for ourselves.  It is what I needed to hear at that time, and I am pretty sure everyone else.

11.- Listens

With full attention, and takes an interest. If I was looking for a teacher I would see if there is listening involved.

And notice it does not mean I need to go into ‘monologue mode’ and have the teacher hear me out for hours. That is not it. It might be that on a first class a teacher may want to ‘observe’ the student’s practice as to not force things, but rather, to meet the student where he or she is.

Listening means that the teacher will meet the student where he or she is. At this time, in this moment.  Without projections, fears or insecurities.

12.- Student’s Responsibility

So, if you are searching for a teacher, get in the process, be present, do the resarch, ask questions if you need to, but not 100 questions, see if you can do most of the interviewing from the level of intuition and listening, then if you feel you need to ask some more, go ahead and ask.

“It is the teacher foremost duty to give you back your intelligence, to return to you your heart, to encourage you to access yourself. They do this by being who they really are and by being completely honest and compassionate with you” – Richard Freeman

What would you add?

SEE ALSO:

21 Things to Know Before Starting Ashtanga Yoga {Free Book}

Am I Projecting? Trying To Control Things? 7 Ways in which I Check

About Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama). Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English. She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at ClaudiaYoga.com And you can follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ClaudiaYoga

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33 Responses to “How To Find A Good Yoga Teacher: 12 Suggestions.”

  1. Thaddeus1 says:

    Thank you Claudia…I always enjoy your lists.

    They offer such a nice way of breaking apart what can appear at the beginning to be complicated issues. While for me all of the points you raise above, one stands out above the others…that is "Whichever path you chose to follow to learn about the far reaching science of yoga, I would always look for a teacher that is deep in practice him or herself." This seems to be one of the aspect most lacking today, but if one is lucky enough to have such a teacher connected to the long line of teachers going back in time, then whatever faults he or she may have the moment, one can rest assured that are bound to disappear due to the power of the practice.

    Posting to Elephant Ashtanga. Like Elephant Ashtanga on Facebook.

    • Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

      Hi Thaddesus1 I agree, personal practice is critical to be a teacher, otherwise there is nowhere to draw experience from. And yes, lucky the one who finds a lineage in a teacher!

  2. Andy says:

    Seems like there are a lot of teachers out there today who are only casual practitioners themselves. It's understandable – it seems like the best way yoga studios make money is by offering Teacher Trainings open to anyone. So there are tons and tons of yoga teachers just being pumped out into the world – "teaching" the same sort of "Vinyasa" yoga that is prevalent today. (Which I love to practice btw, don't get me wrong). I have just found that my favorite teachers are the ones who practice a lot themselves – who have devoted their lives to it.

  3. Maria says:

    Great Post Claudia. thank you

  4. melita says:

    this is a must read for anyone looking for a yoga teacher. OR for current yoga teachers to make sure they are on track. hugs & namaste!!

  5. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Great list, Claudia!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  6. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

  7. [...] huge blows, and my familiar life suddenly seemed foreign to me. During a low period, I returned to yoga to nourish my life with consistent helpings of [...]

  8. Banana says:

    I wish you had chosen a gender or referred to the teacher as the teacher, constantly saying his or her is annoying, at one point you call the teacher It.

  9. melissa says:

    "A good teacher will be inmersed in what IS, in reality, and not project its fears or aspirations onto students. Nor will it feel threatened on his or her knowledge and try to manipulate everyone into thinking how he or she thinks."– good also teachers allow others- their students to rise, grow and blossom- giving them freedom to move on– and feel guilty when they find a new teacher when the time is right. growth on both ends.
    thanks for sharing. well thought out.
    Best,
    melissa http://www.elephantjournal.com/author/melissa-smi

  10. [...] How To Find A Good Yoga Teacher: 12 Suggestions. [...]

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  12. [...] becomes a problem if the teacher is insecure and needs reassurance that they are good teachers. A good teacher is the one who is able to notice and admit when they don’t know something. If a yoga student is disappointed by a teacher who doesn’t know everything, then they need to [...]

  13. cathywaveyoga says:

    good article.
    that wierd trickster element.. I am not so sure about.. most people do nto go to Indian teachers or gurus.

  14. melita says:

    i completely agree with this. i feel like yoga teachers are being pumped out like machines.

  15. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    Yes the issue of the 200 hour is a deep one. Then again, talent always raises… but I agree that yoga is too vast to even begin to comprehend in a month training… it may be a start, sometimes a good start, but that is about it :-)

  16. Rebecca says:

    I feel like people can get very judgmental about yoga teachers in these comment sections. That doesn't seem very yoga-like. It can be difficult for teachers in the U.S. to devote our lives to yoga. Like it or not, we all need money to live here. That may mean working a full time job along with teaching yoga. And not all 200 hour trainings happen in a month. Mine was spread out over ten months to allow time to absorb and incorporate the teachings.

  17. Mo-ching Yip says:

    Yes, attending a TT is just getting out of the starting gate. The best teacher is a practicing student.

  18. Rebecca says:

    Ha ha. :) Sorry, I guess I am a little defensive. I don't teach because I think so highly of myself. I teach because I love it and want to share it.

  19. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    I think that talent always raises. It might be that a teacher is very good with only 200 hours of training, but my gut tells me it would be an exception.

  20. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    Dearbhla, that is a very good point! So glad you shared.

  21. kate says:

    I think a 200 hour training is the starting point for many. Like you said continued education, practice, and a thirst for more is essential, and I'd assume the direction many take. Great article, thanks!

  22. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    Kate, yes totally!

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