How Do You Choose The Yoga Teacher That’s Right For You?

 5-BKSIyengar-690
One of the biggest issues yoga students face today is finding a truly great yoga teacher. A teacher in whom they can place not only their trust, but who will also guide them in achieving the ultimate purpose of their life.
Sure, most yoga teachers know something about alignment. Or maybe they can put a good flow together. But very few teachers are practiced and learned in the ways of what yoga truly has to offer. 

There is clear evidence of this in the lack of teachers who understand and teach methodologies such as stillness (Stirha), or the ability to cultivate effortlessness and good space (Sukha). Instead, there are a lot of great classes with awesome playlists, loud music (often so loud you cannot hear the instruction of the yoga teacher), fantastic flows that are so fast and long they leave no time for savasana, and enough backbends to make you feel like you could join Cirque de Soleil after class. 

One time I attended a yoga class at Laughing. The teacher began the class expounding on the virtue of stillness and how yoga was about getting there and then staying there. Moments later, he started his class with a flow that did not stop for 1 hour. In order to keep up and go at a pace suitable with my breath, I skipped every other pose. He made it a point to let me know that if I could not keep up with the class, he would have to ask me to leave.

My bliss had left the building.

To you, the true seeker, the one looking for a true teacher– you are not so easily fooled by those yoga teachers who need the smoke and mirrors to get your attention. You are looking for someone who is not only full of real experience, but someone who is connected to a tradition. Someone who has been led and guided by a real teacher themselves. You are looking for a yoga teacher who has had direct experience with what they are teaching.

Real practice leads to direct experience. And direct experience is ultimately the best source of real knowledge.

Many can dispute and argue what should be the criteria for choosing a teacher. I cannot speak for others, but my three are simply this:

1. Who was their teacher and what is their lineage?

As mentioned above, it is important to note the different lineages and the kinds of teachers they have. Some yoga lineages are not lineages, but more of a name-brand style of yoga. Like McDonald’s and Burger King is for hamburgers, so we have the same for yoga. They are not connected to a tradition or a teacher. There are many in the yoga world who would have you believe otherwise, but do not be fooled.

There are other lineages that have popped up in the last 100 years. You may think that they are ancient in their techniques and lineages, but they are not. Some of those are Iyengar Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga, just to name a few. 

Find out who the teacher’s teacher was, and then who their teacher was, and so on. If what you learn feels right to you, you will know that you have found your teacher. 

2. Are they actually thriving in life? 

I have been surrounded by spiritual leaders ever since I knew how to walk. Many of them amazing, and so many others…well…not so much.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s I lived in Vancouver, Canada, where spiritual leaders seemed to come out of the woodwork. There was a constant theme in all of their lives – they were not thriving. All of them seemed to be simultaneously ending a relationship, a marriage or a partnership of some kind. They were nearly all in debt or financially insecure. There was another theme of heavy drug use or pot smoking. They all gave the illusion they were doing well, and it was all “cool,” but none of them were thriving. It was just an illusion. 

Find an instructor who you are proud to call your teacher. Not because they have a lot of things or live in a big house, but because they are taking care of themselves and their responsibilities. And most importantly, because they do what they say they are going to do. 

3. How content are they?

A great way to gauge if a teacher is right for you is to notice how content they are. Try asking them.

Contentment is an interesting word, and it is a hard one to define. The best definition I’ve heard lately is that contentment means you have no ambition. You have no desire for more. That statement in and of itself demands more explanation.

The way I would define contentment is this – a general overall happiness with one’s life. 

Now I know that is almost too broad of a statement, so I will let you sit with it.

But here is what the opposite of contentment looks like. Someone who is:

  • Perpetually negative or complaining about their life.
  • Needing to have new things all the time.
  • Obsessed with the latest yoga clothes and fashions.
  • Constantly dolled up whenever they show up to class (I knew a yoga teacher who got eyelash extensions to advance stage presence for her yoga career).
  • Surrounded by a lot of stuff and things.
  • Seems restless and agitated.
  • Cannot sit still for very long and fidgets a lot.

The gauge in finding a yoga teacher that is right for you is a difficult path. For some of you, you might go years and even decades without finding your teacher. And for some of you, you will meet them and not even know it.

My best advice is to keep your spiritual ears open, your heart sincere, and stay devoted on your path. Don’t be distracted. Pray every day for guidance. Stay true on the path to enlightenment and the right guru or spiritual mentor will show up and change your life forever.

—————-
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Yogi Aaron, author of “Autobiography of a Naked Yogi.”  Bringing passion and adventure to his teaching, Yogi Aaron guides students to secret and far-flung locales, empowers them to realize their own limitless potential, and makes yoga relevant and accessible for the modern world. Since 2002 he has been traveling and leading retreats worldwide and currently serves as the yoga director at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa in Costa Rica. Follow Yogi Aaron on Facebook.
 Photo credit: Alon Reininger / Contract Press Images

9 comments

  1. I’ve found this to be one of my biggest challenges. I always feel that if I’m working to make it work, I should change instruction. It should come naturally.

  2. True! I’m satisfied with most of the content of this article and do agree on looking into the lineage and contentment theory but there are lots of Yoga teachers who have evolved with their own rigorous effects and deep urge to understand Yogic science and so we shouldn’t be tightwad towards paying our regards and attention towards them. If we consider Adi Yogi or Patanjali, who are supposed to be the earliest Yoga masters who have founded and delivered the science of well-being to the world and there is no name as their teacher which we can associate with them but we need someone to guide us in our seeking and it becomes important for us to research well before we can depute our trust upon someone in the path of Yoga. It is always good to do so!

    Today, there are organisations like Yoga Alliance USA and International Yoga Federation, who are engaged in creating a community of qualified and proficient Yoga teachers who are experienced and highly dedicated to deliver authentic Yoga teachings to the people seeking in-depth understanding and true knowledge of Yoga. They are registered Yoga teachers recognized by these organisations and working with prestigious schools of Yoga as faulty to enhance personal practices of Yoga aspirants and cultivate teaching skills in them so that they can be able to guide others.

    It is a good idea to join some certified Yoga courses like Yoga Teacher Training offered by registered Yoga schools such as Yoga School India (http://www.yoga-school-india.org) to experience the taste of real Yoga teachings.

  3. Yoga teachers are supposed to be highly qualified and contented to keep Yoga aspirants high and motivated both on their mat and outside the class. It is required to look into the lineage and past history of the Yoga teacher before deputing trust upon him or her as mentioned in the post.

    In the current scenario, it is not too hard to track Yoga teachers and it is really easy to know about their qualification and proficiency with the help of their registration with the monitoring body like Yoga Alliance USA who ensure authentic teachings of Yoga by conducting aspiring Yoga Teacher Training programs through registered Yoga schools.

    I have participated in 300 Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh (http://www.yoga-teacher-training-rishikesh.in/) where I have learned some of the complex Yoga postures and advance meditation-pranayama techniques who definitely added value to my personality and teaching skills.

  4. I have never been to a yoga teacher. I have learnt everything from internet, however it took much time me to learn. Presently I am doing Radhey Krishna Yogasana which I found on JKyog.org.

  5. Yoga is the best practice that should be done in day to day life. Yoga is the powerful weapon for the individual who might be suffering from unconcious diseases. It keeps the body healthy and fit. The best advantage of doing yoga regularly is it will help to attain a peace of mind and our body will be active physically. There won’t be any health disorder if we perform yoga regularly.

  6. we need more practitioners not more yoga teachers. And come on. Who really cares if someone wants eyelash extensions or who likes nice yoga clothing!!. Where’s your humanness? And where’s your sense of humor? Don’t the yamas and niyamas teach us how to behave? We should be teaching acceptance and love. We all, (not just Teachers), should live and let live, and we should all try to love and encourage each other – unconditionally, even those eat meat, drink or smoke, or take drugs or take sodding yoga selfies. I admire totally anyone teaching yoga, day in, day out, teaching honestly and honorably, and from the heart, whatever course they’ve done, whatever teacher theyve learned from. It takes passion and dare I say, it takes ambition. Ambition to do better and to be a better human being and to try to make a difference. If you do teach yoga with your lulu lemon pants on and your luscious eyelashes. ( I even wear nail varnish ) you will almost always find criticism comes from those in your own field and from those who you thought should know better. Ignore them. Keep on doing your thing and doing your best. And if you’re not content every day. Ffs. Don’t worry. (We’re not robots. We can have off days)! If you still want to ( have an ambition to ) do more, help more, and develop more, go for it. You rock. I’m off to get some eyelash extensions now, I’m not content with the ones I’ve got and have an ambition to get longer ones, before I have a joInt and a glass of wine, and go shopping for yoga pants. #getasoh. #getalife

Share Your Thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.