Over the years I have taken hundreds of yoga classes. Every time I try taking a yoga class with a new teacher I always try to go into class with an open mind about the practice itself and the instructor. However, as a yoga teacher and a long time student there are certain qualities I look for in a yoga teacher.
Being a yoga teacher can be hard especially if you come into class and everyone is telling you they need specific poses to better their practice. The sign of a good yoga teacher is being able to incorporate yoga poses to accommodate a student’s needs in conjunction to the sequence they have prepared for class. If you notice your yoga teach never seems to be able to give her class what they are asking for then it might be time to try someone else.
If you sign up for a beginner or basics class and your yoga teacher has Sirsa Padasana (head to foot pose) or Mayurasana (peacock pose) in their sequence then that yoga teacher could be teaching poses that may harm their students. A basics class should be about building foundations and alignment in each pose. Those classes are for teaching new yogis how to flow through a yoga sequence and about coming back to the basics of your practice. Now the same could be said about an advanced yoga class, those classes should be more challenging for the students. They are designed to teach you to honor your body and what it needs while getting you to explore new spaces. If your yoga teacher can’t tell the difference between a beginner and an advanced yoga class then they are not respecting their students.
At the beginning of class your yoga instructor should inform you if you need any props (blocks, straps, bolsters or blankets). If they don’t, and they are planning to do a lot of work with blocks, then they didn’t consider your needs as a student. They should also notice if during class you need a prop not because everyone is using one but because it would enhance your practice. This means they are watching out for their students!
Nothing drives me crazier than when a yoga teacher tells you to do a pose they have never done. A yoga teacher should never ever teach a pose that they themselves can’t get into. It means they won’t know how to get you into or out of the posture properly and that can be really dangerous.
A yoga instructor should be teaching the class not taking the class. Demonstrating is one thing but doing the whole yoga class along with their students is another. There are exceptions to this, including private sessions and teaching in a stadium. Even so, a yoga teacher should take a break and check in with her students by walking around the room and giving the occasional assist. The class is for the students to experience not the teacher.
I love taking yoga classes with music and taking classes without. I really have no preference but it throws me off when I am taking a class and the music just doesn’t quite sync with what we are doing. For example if it’s a power class there should be music that is motivating and encouraging students to build some heat in their practice. We gotta get the students moving and what you don’t want is soft jazz on repeat…..that would just confuse everyone. I never put today’s hits in my yoga class because not everyone likes that kind of music. Plus, if the music’s message doesn’t match the practice it can take away from the vibe in the room. Selena Gomez has no place putting her hands on people in a yoga class. (Song: Hands to Myself by Selena Gomez)
Is the yoga teacher staying consistent with a theme for the class? If you sit down and opening remarks are about listening to your inner voice and halfway through they start talking about finding your purpose in the world, then there is no theme. Are you supposed to be looking inward or outward; let’s pick one and flow with this theme. It shows a lack of preparedness on your instructors part and it can cause the students to disconnect from what they are doing.
Ugh choppy yoga sequences! NOOOOO! I am trained in vinyasa yoga so I naturally vibe towards a flow. It bothers me when there is no transition from one pose to another. If the yoga instructor has you going from poses that build heat in the body to poses that are designed to cool the body then back to heat building poses that can cause yoga whiplash. This can also cause injury to the students. There should be soft easy poses in the beginning, heat building poses and then a cool down. Just like in everyday exercise you need a warm up and a cool down.
To all my picky yoga instructors! Have some tea and let it be. Relax. You don’t need to have every yoga student to be perfect. Alignment is important but so is letting a student have an off day. If your yoga instructor is hovering over you ready to assist because you’re new or out of practice they aren’t letting you have the space to figure it out. Letting a student have the space to self assist and listen to their body is so important for the practice. I rarely come across this yoga teacher but they are out there. I also don’t like studios with mirrors on every wall. I know some yoga spaces are designed that way, but what you look like in pose is not the most important part of your practice.
The most important one of all! A yoga instructor should be friendly towards all of their students. They should never favor or discriminate. Yoga instructors are there to help you learn not to judge you, make fun of you or put you down. They should never be taking your picture to post on social media unless you have given your permission. An instructor should never talk about their students behind their back. You should never be an example of what not to do. A yoga teacher should be motivating you to get out of your comfort zone, not stay in it. You should never ever leave a yoga class feeling worse about yourself. That is a warning sign of a bad yoga teacher.
These are just a few things you can look out for when trying to find a new yoga class. The best tool you have in yoga is a good instructor that can guide you and support you during your yoga practice. Remember you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea just like not every yoga instructor will be yours.