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.
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.
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.
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?