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Finding the Right Yoga Instructor for You

Tips on getting a Yoga instructor that will help you get the most from your practice

by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound  |  3698 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Many people want to try yoga but don’t know where to start. Perhaps they don’t like to exercise with a video. They may not belong to a health club. Or their health club doesn’t offer convenient classes. Maybe they’ve tried yoga but they felt any number of things that kept them from going back: intimidated, scared, pressured, awkward, pain. There are lots of things to know about yoga but finding the right instructor is a great way to start.

First, like all of us, yoga comes in many shapes and sizes. It has become a fad of sorts with many people starting their own types of yoga, all under the general name of Hatha. You can take a look at the health club description or the types of Yoga studios in your area (and if it just says Hatha, ask for more info on the style) then do some online research into what they mean. You want to know what you’re getting into. If you don’t like the idea of holding poses in a 105°F room then Bikram is not for you.

Second, check out the instructor. There are an estimated 70,000 yoga instructors in the US and of those only 16,168 have been certified according to the Yoga Alliance, the international professional organization that provides yoga teacher certification. People can get a teaching certificate online in a weekend and, even if they’ve been doing yoga for 20 years, it still doesn’t give them the proper instruction they need to teach. In many gyms the yoga teacher has taken a minimum requirement course so they can add another class to their schedule.
A teacher certificate is a good place to start but if you’re coming into yoga with physical issues like      back pain or carpal tunnel, you’ll want an instructor who knows how the body works and who has taken anatomy classes and kinesiology classes. Don’t be afraid to ask about credentials!

Third, you should have a good connection with your teacher. If they make you feel awkward or uncomfortable then you’re not going to benefit from yoga. If they push you beyond your limits then they don’t have your best interest in mind. If there is no eye contact, no compassion, no understanding of who you are, then this may not be the right instructor for you.

Fourth, the instructor should be showing you the poses (asanas) and also watching the students, even walking around and making adjustments if necessary. They don’t have to touch you but should be able to convey verbal cues.

Fifth, if you are new to an instructor then ALWAYS tell them if you have a special condition. They should know if you can’t bend over comfortably or if your hip has been replaced BEFORE class starts. Don’t be afraid to approach them and let them know. If you’re not comfortable doing so in front of others then make sure it’s written down for them to see. You can even write down that you don’t want others to know.

About the Author

Mandy is a voice over artist, yoga instructor and mom to 2 princesses. Not always in that order.

Read more by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound

4 comments so far...

  • The timing of this article couldn't be better! My youngest wants to take yoga, so we've just started looking around for a class for her. I've jotted down a few points, and now I feel much better prepared to go hunting intelligently. Thanks!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 26th October 2007

  • wow! i had no idea there was a certain certification that required more out of the teacher. i will definitly be looking for this! i much prefer a smaller class than the 20+ in a class. i am very bendy in some ways and not others and that always throws the teacher for a loop (so far anyway!) but maybe that's because i havent found the right teacher yet :) thank you for this article!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kate on 23rd October 2007

  • That's great! This applies to pilates, too, and I should have added that to the article! One of my fave instructors teaches both and her understanding of the body is amazing! She can take one look at you and know where you hold your tension and give you the best verbal cues to help you out. She's taught me so much.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 22nd October 2007

  • Mandy - so glad you wrote this. I don't do yoga, but do a lot of pilates. And I remember at first I had a lot of trouble finding the right teacher. At one point I got frustrated with myself and decided that I just wasn't cut out for this. But once I found the right instructor things just worked out really well - and I am loving my classes now!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 22nd October 2007