October 16, 2013

5 Questions to Ask a Would-Be Yoga Teacher.

Whether we happen to be long-time practitioners or newbies, finding a new yoga teacher that is the right fit can be a challenge.

However, most of us will have to do this at least a few times in our yoga journeys. After all, people move, teachers retire, we want to try a new style of yoga, etc.

While I have found some of my best teachers by word of mouth or just dropping into their classes, it pays to take some time and do a little research.

Most yoga instructors—myself included—welcome questions from would-be students. (I even make it a point to include my contact information on the website of the studio where I teach so students can contact me without having to come by the studio and catch me before class.)

Below are some questions to consider asking should you find yourself looking for a new teacher:

1. What is your primary teaching style?

Many studios and instructors offer “All Levels Basic Yoga.” However, these classes can vary depending on the instructor. For example, even in a basic class, a teacher with a vinaysa background may have a class that is more flowing in nature. Likewise, someone with an Iyengar-based background may offer a class that places a lot of emphasis on props.

You may even ask what type of yoga the instructor primarily practices themselves since often times, an instructor’s personal preference may influence their teaching style.

Also, ask if you’re teacher makes it a point to single out students. Some teachers like to point out certain students for praise or give feedback in front of the entire class. If you prefer not to be pointed out—even for good reasons—be sure to mention this. A good instructor will understand and respect your wishes.

2. Are you experienced teaching (insert specialty population)?

This is an essential question to ask if you happen to fall into a group like overweight, elderly, pregnant, have elevated blood pressure, etc.

While many studios offer specialty classes specifically for certain groups of people like the ones listed above, many would-be students—especially if they are brand new—may wish to take general population classes.

If the teacher says they are experienced with a specific specialty group, then ask exactly what that means. For example, did they take additional training classes? How many months or years have they worked with this group?

Lastly, if you are concerned about standing out, mention this as well to avoid any possible misunderstandings.

3. Do you do hands-on adjustments?

Some people I know—even fellow yoga instructors—do not like to be physically adjusted. Others don’t consider it a proper class without receiving them.

Likewise, some instructors are very hands-on and others are not.

Make it clear if you fall in one camp or another. Adjustments or lack there of may make or break a class for you. If you are looking for a very hands-on instructor and the teacher you contact says they don’t give a lot of them, s/he may be able to recommend one that will.

4. What can I expect in a typical class?

Is there meditation? Chanting? Any pranayama or breathing work?

One thing I have noticed in my many years in the yoga community is that “yoga class” conjures up different thigns to different people.

I’ve been classes that have included all of the above. I have also been in several classes that had none. The way I see it, is your time and your money. Try to find the class that you believe will be the most fulfilling. (I personally enjoy chanting and meditation, but some just want to focus on the asana and skip that.)

5. What is your suggested donation?

Many studios—even with set rates and package deals—are offering donation-based classes these days. If you are interested in attending one of these, then finding out the average donation may make it easier to determine how much to bring. (When I have attended these, I have always been afraid of giving too little.)

While I have never encountered a teacher who wasn’t anything but gracious for anything they got, it is still good to know these things to avoid that awkward feeling that may result in giving too much or too little.

In closing, it’s good to do a little research before turning up a brand-new yoga instructor’s class. Asking a few questions beforehand and just knowing what to expect may make all the difference in the world or at least take some of the edge off that may come with taking a new class with a new teacher. It may even help you avoid a class or instructor that may be very good but simply not the right fit for you.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. The best time to ask questions is before class begins.


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Ed: Sara Crolick


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