Finding the right instructor for you

People ask us all the time, "How do I find a good yoga instructor?" We can't give a simple answer to this question because there are so many different yoga schools, and every instructor is different. No single yoga teacher or yoga school is suitable for everyone. You have to find an instructor who fits your personality and meets your health goals.

Start your search for a good instructor by finding out if the teacher is certified. No single governing body certifies yoga instructors, and you can obtain a certificate with as little as a two-week training course, so receiving certification doesn't mean an instructor is necessarily qualified to teach yoga. But, generally speaking, a certified instructor is better than one who isn't certified. Being certified at least demonstrates a desire to learn about yoga and how to teach it to others.

The best way to investigate a teacher is to judge for yourself. Take a class from a teacher whose style appeals to you. Here are some questions to ponder as you decide whether an instructor is right for you:

1 Did you feel safe in the class? A good teacher is mindful of his or her students' experience level and doesn't ask students to do exercises beyond their abilities.

1 Did the teacher offer modifications to the exercises? Good teachers offer simpler, modified versions of exercises if they suspect or notice that students in the class can't do an exercise. This way, students can get some of the benefits of the exercise without putting themselves at risk for an injury. A good teacher can give guidance to advanced and beginning students at the same time.

i Did the teacher give modifications without directing the instructions to a specific person? A good teacher makes everyone feel at home. Except in praise, calling attention to a single person is inconsiderate. It makes the student feel self-conscious and takes away from his or her ability to do yoga exercises.

1 Did the teacher ask if any new students were in class? Good teachers want to know their students' backgrounds so they can tailor their instructions accordingly. When teachers ask if new students are in class, it shows that they want to meet their students' needs.

1 Did the teacher appear to have eyes in the back of his or her head?

Good teachers seem to know what's going on in all parts of the room, whether there are 3 or 30 students.

No teacher is right for everyone. Get a reference from a friend or health practitioner, and then go and see for yourself. Different people have different personalities and are attracted to different schools of yoga and different yoga instructors. Some like grueling workouts in heated rooms so they fall in puddles of sweat when the classes are over. Others like to leave classes in advanced states of relaxation and repose. Trust your instincts and intuition when you choose a yoga teacher.

When you attend a class for the first time, introduce yourself to the teacher before class begins. Tell the teacher whether you have any special needs, whether you have injuries, if you're pregnant, and what your background in yoga is.

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