First there’s a difference between a teacher and an instructor in my opinion.
For example, a couple of my favourite instructors run classes which are very simple, repetitive and quite wonderful. While some might say you could get as much instruction from a decent DVD of yoga, these classes with a real person are easy to do. Remember it’s your yoga class and not your instructor’s (despite what they may think). There’s some advantages to taking the exact same class with the same instructions given each time as a way to improve your own practice.
Finding a teacher, that is someone who actually teaches the poses and perhaps some of the philosophy, is rare indeed and not for everyone. But I treasure such teachers.
But while you’re waiting to find that perfect person don’t overlook the very new teacher. Sure some new teachers may make mistakes but often new teachers are much more alert and concerned about your practice than the instructors with more experience.
So very recent graduate instructor shouldn’t be avoided. Often they have some problems remembering left from right (A lot of yoga teachers seem to be similarly challenged. Just remember one side and then the other regardless of what the instructor says when she’s confused.) and mixes up Warrior I and Warrior II but these are minor issues. What’s much much more important is this instructor is actually engaged in her own practice and interested in her students.
I can remember one instructor whose style was to stand at the back of the room and lazily going through a series of instructions. Had another instructor who ran the class like an Army Rangers bootcamp complete with threats and yelling. These are instructors to be avoided.
Another instructor style I dislike is the person who feels they need to bring their personal therapy into the studio. Some instructors like to read lengthy passages from whatever pop culture self-help writer that they currently find fascinating. I’m in my mid-60s. Many of my instructors are half my age. I’ve done my self-help work. While they may find a new age guru as someone to follow I’m not likely to agree and I’d appreciate it if they’d keep the half-baked philosophies to themselves.
One of my pet peeves is the instructor who in an effort to be helpful says something like “Now clear your mind. Don’t think about work!” What! I wasn’t thinking about work until you mentioned it. The other instruction I object to is the one to breathe in the good air and breathe out the “bad” air. I don’t have “good” or “bad” air thank you.
And, best of all in my opinion is the teacher who moves about the room making suggestions here or an adjustment there. One of my favourite teachers would touch me lightly between the shoulders as she walked by thus reminding me to bring them together.
And men, while I know you’ll ignore this suggestion, don’t pick your yoga teach by how “hot” she looks.
Putting teachers on a pedestal, no matter how seemingly well deserved is extremely dangerous. There is a long and apparently unending list of master teachers accused of sexual or financial improprieties when it comes to their students. One entire style of yoga was decimated when most of the management teaching group and almost all of the teachers of this popular form quit following shocking revelations about the sexual behaviour of the top guy. Another guru from India was photographed touching two female students in an extremely inappropriate way. Of course, the images when public via social media. Same guy is alleged to have broken one woman’s pelvis when he used his foot to apply pressure to her pelvic structure. (We’ll talk about yoga injuries in a future post.)
So it comes down that people are people. You are your own yoga instructor. Listen to yourself. Listen to your body. Your gut knows right away what your head hasn’t even thought yet.
We’ll also talk about the different styles of yoga in a future post.