5 Reasons I Prefer Older Yoga Teachers. ~ Annabel Lang

Via Annabel Lang
on Aug 6, 2013
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Beautiful mature woman in yoga pose baddhakonasana.

I’m a loyal yoga student.

Once I find a good fit in a teacher, I have little urge to shop around. However, when a shift in my geographic location forces me into practicing with someone new, I’ve developed a rule of thumb that tends to ensure a positive experience on the mat:

I look to practice with teachers over 40.

I hate to be ageist. As a member of the much-maligned millennial generation, I’m particularly allergic to assumptions made about individuals based on the length of time they’ve been breathing on their own. But—perhaps because breathing is central in their arena—I’ve found this aspect of a yoga teacher’s biography to actually be relevant in terms of the quality of my experience.

It’s a guideline, not a doctrine. I certainly make exceptions when I’ve had good experiences with more youthful teachers. But all the very best classes I’ve taken have been with people who could actually watch Alf before it was in reruns.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I seek out yoga teachers over 40:

1. I don’t want to get hurt.

Yes, it’s my responsibility to listen to my body on the mat—and there are some teachers who are better at creating an environment in which their students are less likely to do something stupid. Typically, older teachers have injured themselves before, sometimes badly, and they know what it takes to come back from an injury. That experience has given them an awareness of the body’s fragility as well as its strength, and practicing safely takes primacy in their classrooms.

2. Yoga is very complicated.

There are a lot of moving parts, literally. It takes a long time to understand what’s going on in every pose, and then to understand how to communicate those nuances to students.

3. They have fewer issues.

In general, people who are older have had more time to work through whatever it was that messed them up in their childhoods. Yoga involves softening and opening the heart, both physically and metaphysically. Yoga teachers lead their students into this place of vulnerability and I would rather not be led to such a place by someone with issues, particularly if those issues are the same as my issues.

I’ve been in yoga classes where too many issues unite like low pressure systems, making a tropical storm of issues that rains down on everyone while they practice. It is not good.

4. They have large book collections.

I’m very into the story time portion of a yoga class—the short talk at the beginning or the end, sometimes accompanied by a reading (when someone forgoes it, I feel robbed). Older yoga teachers have had more time to amass an extensive collection of enlightening tidbits.

5. Their pedigrees are interesting.

The longer a yoga teacher is around, the more teachers they have the opportunity to practice with themselves. I really appreciate the way my older teachers have integrated all of this experience into their own classes. It’s incredible to learn from someone who has been a vessel for over a decade’s worth of knowledge.

Recently, I was on a trip to Chicago and availed myself of a ‘first-time free’ class at a yoga studio near the apartment where I was staying (I know those policies are intended to attract students who might become potential regulars, but they didn’t specifically say that on the website. I made my non-resident status known when I got to the studio, and I brought a friend with me who does live in Chicago who wouldn’t have gone otherwise. And I will go there all the time if I ever move to Chicago).

Anyway, I took a really exceptional class with a teacher who looked like she was in her lower thirties. The class was so awesome that I was considering adjusting the parameters of my rule—until we got back to the apartment and my friend’s roommate asked us who taught our class.

“Oh, isn’t she great?” she said. “Can you believe she’s 45?”

Yes. Yes, I can.


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Assistant Ed: Ben Neal/Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Annabel Lang

Annabel Lang is relatively recent college graduate who has spent all of her life in one of the two Carolinas. She is currently looking to make writing, in one form or another, into a career. You can contact her at: [email protected]


32 Responses to “5 Reasons I Prefer Older Yoga Teachers. ~ Annabel Lang”

  1. Nice. Thanks, My sentiments eggzackly.

  2. Rogelio Nunez says:

    loved alf…..thanks for the recommendations for older teachers, the perfect examples are BKS Iyengar and Geetaji and Prashantji, GURUJI, 94 yrs young, now retired but still practices openly, trains his granddaughter, has taught at conventions in china and russia recently…
    What a wealth of experience and knowledge….but you will find in the younger teachers at RIMYI, also very qualified to teach anyone anywhere…

  3. erin says:

    love it! but it depends, too, on how long they've practiced and have been a teacher. I've encountered some new over 40/50 teachers that were terrible.

  4. gdr23 says:

    All of us over 40 yoga teachers thank you!

  5. Ellen says:

    Erin – thanks for your response, it was one I was thinking as I read the article. I know a couple of late-40's gals who took a few classes, "just loved it", took some weekend yoga teacher trainings and now offer classes. I would not take class from these women, their ignorance is frightening. Length of practice is a good yardstick – there are teachers in their late 20s early 30s who have practiced since their teens who offer more than these older newbies.

  6. @MaxZografos says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is why becoming a yoga teacher should not be that easy . . . this is a science.

  7. James Bailey says:

    I teach yoga, and I am 50 years old. I've been practicing since my early 20's. I recall a moment in the very early days of my practice, on my mat, contemplating whether I should teach or not, and I recall the thought coming to me that I would not, or should not, teach until I had grey hairs on my head. Well, I do have some grey hairs on my chin, so I think that counts. Ha! What I meant by that, was that I wanted to practice for 20-30 years before really teaching yoga. Not yoga the exercise, but yoga the yoga. That kind of internal wisdom comes from more than just physical effort and time. It comes from time and time. Life and time. I've been teaching several yoga disciplines for several years, and in my 40's I often wondered if I was really mature enough to teach. Whether I was even walking my talk, much less mastering it. Life is complicated. I agree that older yoga teachers are better, not older people teaching yoga for 2 years, but older practitioners who've been practicing a long time. I would take a great practitioner over a great teacher any time. The wisdom is in what we gain from the practice, not just from the teaching itself. Thanks for the lovely article, and I think we all know exactly what you intended by older teachers. Om!

  8. Myrna McCoy says:

    Thanks, Annabel, I am an older yoga teacher, much older than the 40 year olds. I am 65 and have been teaching for 35 years and practicing yoga for 41 years. I did my teacher training with Swami Vishnudevananda (who has long left us) at the Sivananda Ashram in 1976. We lived the yogic lifestyle for 4 weeks at the ashram. We were immersed in yoga from morning to night. And, no I don't teach senior yoga. I practice Ashtanga Primary Series and love to teach challenging postures. I am still advancing in my own practice!

  9. Annabel Lang says:

    Hi James, Thanks for sharing your experience. I actually had a really similar one when seriously considering whether or not to pursue teaching a year ago. I just, personally, did't feel quite old enough yet.

  10. Alison says:

    It takes a long time and a lot of what life has to hand out to "soften." And this softening is what it takes to truly hold the space filled by students looking to be led. As you say, yoga is way more than a series of postures. Another issue is beautiful body competitiveness, a real danger in today's yoga market. Sadly, I've witnessed way too many practitioners who think of yoga as a workout, first and foremost. I agree that it takes many years to acquire the skill to bring all these elements to the mat. More than just age, it's a matter of time, and experience.

  11. Laura says:

    amen sister and thank you from someone way past 40 and still feeling significant

  12. Gold says:

    Surprisingly educational many thanks, I believe your trusty subscribers may possibly want far more posts along these lines continue the great content.

  13. As an older teacher I love this article! I didn't start teaching until I was nearly 50. Unfortunately I've noticed that drama level has more to do with personality than age. I've known older teachers who were way to busy worrying about if they were "fat" or what was going on in their love life, I've had younger teachers who totally rocked.

  14. Terry says:

    So Ive been doing Yoga for 43 years and recently I took a class from a 21 year old teacher in Fort Collins Colorado. The class was yin and much to my surprise the class was outstanding, the teacher outstanding if i didnt have sight I would have thought him much older. Sometime we need to open our minds

  15. Jennifer Garrett says:

    I hate to break it to you but I'm way under 40 and I have a HUGE book collection and could change your life in a private session with me… My life experiences have brought me the same wisdom as a 40 year old, but you won't receive from me because in your mind I'm "young"… Sorry for you!

  16. Barbara says:

    Your response is exactly why she avoids teachers your age.

  17. raqpoet says:

    Jennifer~just be in your own truth. When we are (you know, all that 5th chakra stuff), there is nothing to prove, defend, or posture around. We're all enlightened, of course but "seasoning" comes with time. We get a bit more tempered and rarely feel "sorry" for anyone, just a sense of understanding and compassion. Blessings to you~

  18. Mark Freeth says:

    Pure blinkered, generalised dogma. I've attended classes with exceptional, inspirational instructors far younger than me (I'm a 52 year old yoga teacher with 20 years studying and 13 years teaching under my belt), as well as having taken class with older, cynical, jaded teachers, laden with 'issues'.

  19. Rhonda says:

    Great article, great subject! As a 40+ er, I can tell you that while I have experienced great classes from younger, well experienced teachers as well as older experienced teachers, there is one main difference I have encountered. This is the Soulful aspect that gets imbued quite naturally by the more-life-lived demographic. It does stand to reason that as we experience more life ourselves, we will not only have more life experience to share, but less hesitation to do so. It becomes ever increasingly clear to me that every day that I live, I find more in common with others…there is so much beauty in knowing this and sharing it…

  20. guest says:

    I LOVE this.

  21. Talisamn says:

    News flash. Yoga teachers can become certified at any age. Just because they are "old" doesn't mean they are better teachers or even more insightful. Realize this. A younger teacher can teach everyday, and absorb herself (or himself) in yoga from morning to night and with in a year or two become much more knowledgeable than an older teacher who has been teaching once a week mindlessly for 20 years. Be open to all teachers, chose who you will for the reason that they connect with you. But do not judge a yoga teacher on their age.

  22. April says:

    Experienced practitioners are qualified by life! I can't think of a finer or more exclusive accreditation.

  23. cassandralanesmith says:

    Thank you for this article….I trained in ballet for 16 years and after coming into the yoga world, I was baffled that people thought they could teach something after a three week workshop. In the ballet world, injuries are so common and the technique is so complex that it takes years and years to come into a place where teaching would be appropriate. Now that my practice has switched to yoga, I too really enjoy classes with more seasoned teachers who understand the intricacies of proper alignment because I know how much time and effort that takes. That being said, I have found many amazing younger yoga teachers who value proper alignment and respect the practice as more than a physical exercise, so I can't say that I agree with your rule entirely.

  24. akeake77 says:

    …And an art. The art of living requires much water of life to flow under the bridge.

  25. Julianna says:

    dear, oh, dear, someone needs to take some advice from that big, huge book collection of hers and chill… the tone of your response implies that you are not ready. yes, age doesn't necessarily equate wisdom, but there's a certain haughtiness in your attitude that is not helpful at all. hopefully, in a few years' time you'll understand what I mean 🙂

  26. anouscka says:

    Thank you for this article. Even though I have yet to meet a really good younger teacher I feel blessed to have been able to train with some of the senior these days called "master" teachers around. Transfer of knowledge from those who also have had a solid long term practice that goes through all limbs of yoga and not just gets stuck at asana practice. Being 43 now myself and having had a life long practice with all ups and downs, I feel I have a back pack of experience to offer students who come to my classes where safety always comes first. And if it means refusing some to the classes because these would not be suitable in their cases than so be it. It has happened before. I'm grateful to my teachers and hope that I am able to share their knowledge in the same inspiring way as they did with me.

  27. Kyle says:

    I will be visiting Chicago in a few months… what was the name of the studio and who was the teacher!?

  28. Susan says:

    I love this. I am fairly new to yoga and have recently realized this. I've been going to a studio owned by two fairly young sisters and have hurt myself repeatedly because what they teach is too fast for anyone without a ton of experience. So glad to know I'm not alone in this way of thinking. I've felt really bad for putting my membership on hold but I'm looking for a new studio.

  29. Marttha says:

    I am over 50. What I will say is that many yoga teachers regardless of age, revel a bit much in the expert role. Red Queen/King yoga may best describe it (Alice in Wonderland, The Red Queen says "All ways are My ways"). As teachers if we spent more time ASKING what we can do for students rather than assuming what we can do TO students, whether some one is old, middle or young would make very little difference. Letting go of what something should look like, and spending more time asking what it could look like opens the teaching practice to much more curiosity, creativity & compassion. Curiosity cannot coexist with judgment, they are mutually exclusive.

  30. Meg says:

    I'm really glad you wrote this. This is everything I've thought for years but been reluctant to say out loud.

  31. Thanks for sharing this article. As an 'older' teacher (45… gasp!) I know that my teaching has definitely morphed over the years. Age, life experience, body changes… all that fun stuff have definitely influenced what and how I teach. But I also beleive that in the end a teacher is simply another human being… we're just people doing what we do. Some do it well and some, not-so-well, like any other human on earth. No matter what the age. For me, life experience, the ablity to move forward, playfullness, compassion and a huge sense of humour are important. Some have this at a younger age and some never really fully grasp it no matter what the age. ~ beso from Tulum!

  32. Heidi says:

    Well, I tend to subscribe to the old adage "with age, comes wisdom" about most things in life, including yoga, however that is not to say that all younger yoginis are automatically less qualified than their more experienced counterparts.

    But what I do find rather annoying is how many of these younger women that display themselves in all of the online social media forums look more like cheerleaders and beauty contestants. They all have the same formula, young and exceptionally good looking, wear cute little yoga outfits (like it is a fashion show) and strut around trying to look sexy. That is not what yoga is about. Sure, they are young and beautiful, (like we used to be), but they are superficial and shallow. Their day will come when they are older and not so cute anymore. Then what?