There is this saying you often hear in Yoga circles – actually a Buddhist saying. It has certainly been true for my yoga journey. Teachers have entered my life for what seems – in hindsight at least – a very obvious purpose. I also acknowledge that some of these teachers haven’t even been teaching in the formal sense. Some of my teachers have been my own students, friends, children, animals and even trees! some of them have actually not been very good teachers , in the technical sense. But a bad experience is often a very good learning experience.
Having said that, I am acutely aware that there are yogis only just setting out on their paths of discovery who may not know what to look for in a teacher. I am also very aware that more and more newly qualified teachers are emerging from teacher training and beginning their teaching journeys. Compared to when I started teaching ten years ago-when I pretty much knew all of the yoga teachers in Glasgow personally- there is a massive choice of classes, teachers and styles. And realistically, too much choice can be overwhelming.
There are heaps of guides on this subject too. How to choose a yoga style that suits you, how to choose a teacher, what to look for in a teacher, what qualifications to check for, etc. So instead of creating a surplus “guide” I am going to speak from an entirely personal perspective. Enjoy – Jude x
What I look for in a teacher
1. Presence. What I mean by this is not charisma or anything at all like that. What I mean is that the teacher is “present” for his or her students. That they are there. In the Space. Absolutely WITH the teaching. Also the ability to hold a safe space for the work.
2. Knowledge. I want to learn something. So I want to know that the teacher knows something of what they are teaching and more than I do. Generally, for me, this means that they have a. studied it for a reasonable length of time and b. continue to study and see this as a lifelong journey . When teaching asana ( and most Western teachers do) then I want to know that my teacher understands bodies – very well. For me, I trust them even more if they have studied another body work system or at least really know their anatomy, physiology and bio-mechanics. So safety comes into this too.
3. A personal practice. I want to know that my teacher does what they are teaching. Has experienced from their own personal relationship with it.
4. A real human being. I am drawn to teachers who share something of themselves and are honest about their humanity/foibles/mistakes. I also appreciate a sense of humour, a weakness for chocolate and in the case of one of my cherished teachers – a bit of a grumpy streak! basically – no bull***t!
5. Teaches from the Heart. Someone who shares from the heart of love, compassion and honesty.
6. Holds nothing back. There are no secrets or mysteries. They share what they know. All of it. With love. They are also honest about what they don’t know. I don’t want to be fobbed off with half-truths or pseudo -science.
7. Creates opportunities for growth. A teacher who is able to safely challenge boundaries, comfort zones and physical abilities and to take his or her students into the realm of discovery of what is possible. This is the essence of Yoga.
8. Doesn’t show off. A teacher is not there to show me what the amazing shapes they can get into or to use the time for their own practice. Just…no. It isn’t about them.
9. Communicates with ease. Seems obvious but a teacher should be good at explaining stuff. I don’t want to be confused and if I am, I want them to take the time to help me understand. Even the most esoteric elements of yoga can be opened up by someone who both understands and can communicate clearly.
10. Laughs. Often. At themselves and at the world. But not at me (unless I invite it!)