What Do You Look For In A Yoga Teacher?

Look beyond the surface when you’re selecting a yoga teacher.
By Paula Hines

Reading time: 3 minutes

What do you look for in a yoga teacher? I asked that question recently and here was the response: “They’ve got that yoga body. It’s aspirational.”

I heard this from someone I know who had never practiced yoga before but recently started attending yoga classes regularly at an exclusive gym.

In this instance, the yoga teacher in question was a slim, tall, young woman who happened to be an ex-dancer. That’s not to say that someone who is any or all of these things can’t be a fantastic teacher, but they don’t automatically make a good one either.

Related to this, I find it intriguing that the thought process for some people is along the lines of: “If I go to that teacher’s class, I will get a body that looks like theirs.” (Despite the fact that yoga asana probably isn’t why the teacher looks that way.)

I can only assume that’s where the ‘aspirational’ part comes in and why it appears that some establishments will only hire teachers who look a certain way. I’m sure no small part of this is linked to ‘fatphobia’ (whether internalised or overt) as well as yoga being placed in the fitness category.

There is yoga, and then there is the yoga industry. I’m personally of the view that what a yoga teacher looks like tells you nothing about the kind of teacher they are. It did get me thinking though, what do you look for in a yoga teacher?

To me, there are so many more qualities that matter. Just a few include:

Someone who doesn’t speak down to anyone in the class

If a teacher is offering a space where people feel truly comfortable then it’s likely that they’re doing their best to be inclusive and they aren’t putting themselves on a pedestal.

Someone who is okay with saying “I don’t know”

It’s not possible to know everything and I tend to be wary of teachers who claim that yoga is a cure-all. I’ve lost count of the times when a student has asked me if I know what is wrong with their shoulder or knee or, well, insert almost any body part here!

Someone who believes there’s no one right way

I feel concerned if a teacher refuses to accept that there can be more than one way of doing things. If a teacher attempts to force you to do anything, you always have the autonomy to leave. Whatever you look for in a teacher, do look beyond the surface.

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher, writer and the author of the new book, Rest + Calm (Green Tree, Bloomsbury Publishing). Find out more at:

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