Ten qualities of a great yoga teacher – what to look for

What qualities should you look for in a yoga teacher?

My last post gave you ten tips for making the most out of your first yoga class. One thing I didn’t mention was the actual teacher. But since then I started thinking more about the qualities of good yoga teachers, what I learned whilst I was training to become one and what I have learned since then.

So here are ten qualities of a great yoga teacher.

ten qualities of a great yoga teacher
photo credit: myyogaonline via photopin cc

1) They start and end their classes on time.

This is important. We all lead busy lives. You need to know that the class will start and end on time so that you don’t have to disrupt your plans.

2) They vary the tone of their voice, speak loud and clear and don’t let music drown out their voices.

The class needs to hear clear instructions and cues. If the teacher has a quiet voice or the music is too loud you might miss some very important information. When I teach I also try to vary the tone of my voice. That keeps it from getting monotonous but you can also highlight the intensity of some of the moves with the tone of voice with which you explain them.

3) They don’t stay on their mat for the class.

Some teachers are glued to their mats. They don’t move around. When they stay in one place, not everyone can see. If they move around and teach poses such as Warrior Two and Triangle different angles or different sides of the room then the class has a better idea of how to do the moves. On my course they taught us to engage with the whole room and to often walk around and help. And whilst hands on adjustments are a no-no, a good teacher will be able to talk you into the correct posture or alignment.

4) They teach using the mirror technique.

I think this is so important because it lets the class look at the teacher as if the teacher was their reverse, i.e mirror image. So when teaching a pose where the class step back with their right legs, the teacher would step their left leg back. It’s an easy skill to learn – it just plays havoc later when you are driving and have to think the right way round again.

5) They don’t teach to the person with the most yoga skill.

It is easy to focus on the most flexible student. but this approach can make everyone else feel excluded. We were taught to teach somewhere in the middle and make room for all students to take it at their own pace.

6) They get their warm ups just right.

In all exercise a proper warm up is important before you can test your body. In yoga you shouldn’t go into an intense pose without being properly warmed up. In some yoga classes the warm up will simply be several rounds of sun salutations. In others it will be a series of gentle sequences and poses designed to warm up each muscle group. But whilst the warm up is very important you also don’t want it to last for the whole class.

photo credit: DSarle via photopin cc
photo credit: DSarle via photopin cc

7) They don’t show off.

Many people find yoga intimidating. They have a perception is all about very bendy young girls getting into very intense contorted positions. The teacher might be able to do a handstand (I can’t but that doesn’t make me a bad teacher) but showing that to a group of beginners might mean they won’t be back for more.

However, don’t hold back from being an inspiration either. Demonstrating to students where a pose can go next will serve to ignite their wish to deepen their own practice.

8) They teach breathing.

The breath is key to a successful yoga practice. Everyone needs to slow down and take deeper more connected breaths. A good teacher will breathe deeply throughout the whole class and explain when to inhale and when to exhale. And class participants, please please please stay for the breathing relaxation at the end of a yoga class. It’s only 5 to 10 minutes and you could learn so much about how to breathe deeply and become completely relaxed.

9) They come prepared with a class plan but will change it if necessary.

When putting together a class you need structure, yet allow for intuition. A good teacher might change his lesson plan depending upon the mood of the class.

10) They are not fake, distant or pretentious.

Teachers don’t have to put their foot behind their head or know the Sanskrit name to every pose. They don’t have to speak like a poet or chant like a goddess. Everyone is more comfortable to see a real person – no one likes a fake, distant, pretentious teacher.

Your turn: Do you agree with these 10 qualities of a good yoga teacher? They are of course my opinion. If you are a teacher what would you add to my list. If you are a participant what are your thoughts? Please leave a comment by clicking below where it says “Leave a reply”.

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