I am a yoga teacher. No, not the kind that merely teaches how to stretch or strengthen the body, but the kind that constantly thinks about the variety of students who find me. The kind who teaches a philosophy of life and likewise, leads life accordingly.
A teacher of yoga has a responsibility to help her students not only improve their lives through stretching the body, but also to expand their minds. So, here is what I wonder: Am I really a good fit for each of my students and do they know what they should look for in a yoga teacher that will resonate with them?
When choosing a teacher, you must consider the teacher’s lifestyle and their ability to teach themselves the essentials of living a yoga-centered life of spirituality and peacefulness. The number of certificates on the wall or their ranking in training courses mean little if the understanding of yoga or a particular style of yoga is not fully realized.
In other words, to teach yoga well, living yoga is more valuable in a teacher than the ability to actually perform perfect postures. The importance of the philosophy of yoga must be conveyed to the students with an understanding of the ancient principles to improve oneself and not for self-aggrandizement. When the teacher surrenders to their own transformation and deepens their knowledge, the desire to live this life also deepens.
Again, I must emphasize that while a teacher’s certification is certainly important and their ability to perform postures and teach, the labor involved in transforming the ego is just as significant. Surely, it would be meaningless if, as a teacher, I had all this training and only taught about the body and not include the mind.
Money, Money, Money
You also don’t want to judge a yoga teacher by the dollars they make from their marketing efforts; you may only get a good marketer and possibly a greedy one at that. Of course, marketing is part of the mix of business, but a well-known yoga teacher must have something more substantial than their marketing message. If the teacher has a greedy passion to fill their pockets and being the one-and-only yoga teacher, then you might want to reconsider whether that teacher is the one for you.
Additionally, the attraction of marketing can be a powerful inducement to go to this teacher over that teacher, but seek out the teacher whose marketing message combines the physical parts of yoga with the spiritual guidance. After all, marketing for the spirit is somewhat different than marketing cheese. Moreover, the big differential here is the suitable student for a particular teacher.
Who Am I?
As a yoga teacher, I prefer a student to know in their soul that I am the teacher they need today, instead of standing my credentials against another teacher or merely asking me if I am a good instructor. I cannot teach yoga to everyone; I am not suited to every person’s needs or their personality. I may teach the physical, but also include a focus on insight, awareness of body and mind, or relaxation. If a person’s values and needs are aligned with mine, then the fit is good; if not, the student may be in for a complete and undesired surprise in class if their values are decidedly different than mine. Hence, it’s important that the teacher and student are at least somewhat compatible in their values and expectations of a yoga class; otherwise, the common yoga language may not be formed between us.
Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring?
Interestingly enough, my student today may become my teacher tomorrow; and, likewise, a student will not want my mentoring today, but tomorrow they may seek me out at all cost. In contrast, a student who says I’m the cats’ meow today means just for today, not forever. As we progress in insight, we may need new teachers.
While there is no such thing as a bad student, there is a suitable student. Conversely, while one teacher may be a good fit, there is such a thing as a bad teacher. Oddly, I believe that a good teacher is their own best and most suitable student. Anyone who cannot teach themselves cannot teach anyone else. A teacher must be able to assess themselves and keep a big ego at bay; lest, they be a teacher of only words and not action. Yoga is a gift about teaching the self; the teacher only shows us how to teach ourselves. And, that’s the difference between a good teacher and a bad one.
There are a couple more points I want to share about how to decide whether a yoga teacher is right for you. While the number of workshops a teacher has attended may tell you they’re interested in staying abreast of all things yoga, you may want to learn more than how well they perform a hanumasana. You can gain clues through their life story or if they share any difficulties while on their own road to transformation. Have they had to struggle to change or have they always been quite actualized? Do they seem mature or do they still live in adolescence? Find out if their mind has stretched to the same level as their body, and just hope they learned first-hand instead of just reading about it.
To conclude, let me reveal that I’ve given you a subjective perspective through my own trials of learning the yoga way of life. Surely, I speak to the yoga travelers interested in spiritual transformation and less to those who are merely in it for the calorie burning. Try out my classes or those in your area to see if you are a good fit with the teacher you’ve selected. I enjoy transforming, but my own rebirth has been painful. I feel it’s a privilege for me to teach you this centuries-old discipline, but do not think that I’ve already arrived ahead of you. I have not because it’s a continuing process. In the evolution of transformation, no one is in front of anyone. Everyone is the one and only; it is your discipline, your work. You can teach yourself control and breathing in and out to reach a higher self.
May your path approaching your inner teacher be blessed; may the moment you meet your teacher who will teach you to reach your own guru be promising.