Finding Your Guide:
Elements Of A Great Yoga Teacher
“The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward
When we find a yoga class or a teacher that clicks, we immediately get attached. Given a choice, we know what we'd choose. Something about the experience gets us to feel more able, engaged, or in tune with our body or the communal energy.
Having taken and taught thousands of yoga classes in Toronto, since 2004, Melissa distills what to look for to find your perfect fit. This list is useful for beginners starting out, intermediates who have questions and businesses trying to find an instructor for their corporate wellness program.
Here are twenty characteristics frequently found in the yoga teachers who provide the most physically satisfying, responsibly educational and magical connections.
1. You enjoy the yoga classes. You’re at ease, curious, motivated and engaged. It might even be fun!
2. You learn something new; about yourself, your ability, a yoga pose/sequence, an idea.
3. Balanced movement. Even in a themed class with repetition, there is contrast and opportunity to reset.
4. Variety. Over time, classes cover a range of themes, directions and movements.
5. The yoga class is about the participants, not the person in front of the room.
6. The experience is greater than what you could achieve on your own.
7. What they offer you matches your preferences. What they teach, how they teach it and their tone agrees with you.
8. The class meets you where you are. You get enough instruction throughout the session to manage your practice to suit your needs. Whether first timer or advanced practitioner, you know what to modify or vary to participate with the group at your level.
9. Inclusive. Consideration is made for people of differing size, shape, abilities and backgrounds in regard to cues, verbiage and asking permission to touch if necessary.
10. Cues are meaningful and easy to understand. The communication resonates with you, whether visually, verbally or through touch.
11. Your yoga instructor values effort over achievement. You are encouraged to try your best and value holistic progress.
12. They set expectations high enough to motivate and challenge.
13. Your teacher is informed and intentional. There is a WHY to the elements (cues, poses, sequences etc.) of the class and they understand the material presented.
14. Questions and comments are welcomed. They ask for feedback and will troubleshoot for you. Your success is their success.
15. Your yoga instructor inspires you. In class, this can be through verbal encouragement, physical demonstrations, theoretical or ideological motivation. Out of class it could be through their career achievement, personal practice or lived experience. You sense their passion.
16. Your teacher is human and not afraid to show it. They are approachable, relatable, and find lessons in “mistakes”.
17. They do the right thing. This could be giving credit for the work of others when sharing, or referring students to someone else who can better serve differing tastes or learning styles.
18. They coach from the experience of a student and continue to be a student. Having an ongoing yoga practice preserves beginner's mind in the teacher.
19. Your teacher stays abreast of current industry updates and relevant findings pertaining to what they do.
20. Your yoga instructor stays within their scope of practice. They do not diagnose or treat medical issues, give nutritional advice, sell you items or attempt to be a therapist or life coach.