How to find your perfect yoga teacher
Ever wondered why you just don’t gel with your yoga teacher? Rest reassured, there’s nothing to worry about! Read Diana O’Reilly’s perspective, from her teacher’s mat, to find out why
When yoga teachers begin to talk about what they do for a living, what they frequently hear is this: “Oh, I really should start yoga.” What yoga teachers hear less frequently (because people are far too polite, but is undoubtedly a reality too) is this: “I tried yoga once and I didn’t feel it was for me.”
There are many reasons why a first experience of yoga can be off-putting. Or, later down the line, we start to wonder why we’re in the class we go to. But the reality is we change. And our yoga teacher might change too. We are evolving creatures, physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s easy to identify when the time of a yoga class is no longer a fit for us, but perhaps less so when our internal landscape shifts.
The reality is it’s not at all easy to find the right class, but there are several useful tips for successfully discovering the perfect yoga class for you. As an OM reader, you’ll likely know a fair amount about yoga, but if anyone in your family starts asking about classes – be assured, it doesn’t matter how highly they score on the newbie scale, and whatever their age or shape, there’s a class for them. As the saying goes: “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
How do you spot a good class? A well-trained yoga teacher will be able to accommodate all people into their class. If you’re in with a good one, you’ll notice that there are all ages and abilities taking part in the class and most of these people are too busy with their own practice to notice anyone else. It is important, though, to be firm about three things.
1. You want to choose a class that suits your ability and interest. There will be beginners who prefer a physically challenging and strong class, while others, a gentler class. Some will prefer a meditative approach while others will want yoga for athletes. The choice is vast. It’s wise to contact the teacher beforehand to find out about the type of class, let them know what your yoga experience is and any physical issues you have. Good teachers appreciate this interest.
2. It is important to like your teacher. Talkative yoga teachers aren’t for everyone, fast or slow pace is a personal preference – your reason for not enjoying a teacher’s class is never petty. It is your yoga and you and the teacher should be a good fit. Yoga teachers understand they will never suit everyone. A good teacher will develop their own style over time and teach from a place of authenticity. If this means some students prefer another teacher, that is inevitable; they will understand.
"A good teacher will develop their own style over time and teach from a place of authenticity."
3. It is also important your teacher is well-trained. When you contact a teacher about attending a class, ask about their training and how they can accommodate any particular physical conditions you might have. Signs of a good teacher are that they will answer these questions easily and will make new students feel welcome and comfortable. Teachers should know the number of hours of their training, such as 300 hours or 500 hours. A sign of a badly-trained teacher is using competitive or forceful language when teaching. Yoga teachers should want you to practice at your level. Words like ’should’ or ‘push’ are ones that aren’t appropriate in yoga.
Lastly, find a class that you can attend regularly, that way you’ll experience the benefits. You may love a yoga teacher, but the class is located across town at the end of your busiest day. Try as you may, you attend infrequently. It is ideal if you can find another class and teacher that you like as much that is more convenient. That way, you’ll attend classes regularly. You can go to the class or even workshops of that wonderful teacher that is so far away infrequently but still get the benefits from your regular local class.
There are websites that will list local yoga teachers. The British Wheel of Yoga has a register of all its 5,000-plus teaching members across the UK and the times of their classes that you can search by postcode. In essence, shopping around for your perfect yoga class is well worth it. You’ll know when you find it. It will be the one that has you floating out of the class on a cloud. Then you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t start sooner. We all do.
Diana O’Reilly is chair of the British Wheel of Yoga (bwy.org.uk) and a yoga teacher based in Wales.
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.