Yoga & Ayurveda: Finding the Right Teacher

Last time, we talked about the right practice. We touched on teachers and being assisted by teachers and teachers as guides. But not all teachers are the same. You might need a gentle, beginner class, but a skilled teacher in a challenge class might be just perfect for you. And vice versa.

Yoga Alliance is the credentialing board for yoga. You won’t hear me talk too much about them, but here’s a bit of the scoop on yoga teachers. Credentialing is changing as there are more and more yoga teachers out there. Don’t worry, if you’re in our Yoga Teacher Training programs, we are up to date and go above and beyond the credentialing minimums.

As for more yoga teachers out there, I had a friend say recently that soon there will be more teachers than students and I responded, “That’s great!!” Yoga teacher training is often where students come to deepen their relationship to yoga. It’s not a competition, many students of yoga teacher training do it for personal development and don’t go on to teach. And…more teachers means more classes where we need them most (hospitals, schools, rehab, prisons…the possibilities are endless).

As for types of yoga teachers, the styles are endless. But here’s some basics that are nice to know:

First, there are yoga teachers who have no training. This is happening less and less, but some begin teaching without any training. Just be aware. Some of these teachers are amazing and have a lot of experience (some don’t). They are often our older teachers who have been practicing forever and began teaching before credentialing was really ” a thing”. There is less and less of this, but it happens still. When in doubt: ask. A yoga teacher should be happy to tell you and clear about their training.

A 200 hour yoga teacher is the minimum number of hours required to become a yoga teacher (both a certified yoga teacher OR a registered yoga teacher–this is the minimum). Ask any student, they will probably tell you they feel like they barely touches the tip of the iceberg. A lot of teachers stay at this level and focus on gaining experience teaching. They may take weekend trainings to fill in the gaps and learn more about the pieces of yoga they love. Others will continue on in more formal trainings.

The 500 hour yoga teacher layers another 300 hours of training to a 200 hour teacher (you must be at least a 500 hour teacher to teach teachers, or that will be the case very soon). These extra hours really hone the information, help teachers gain more experience and guidance under a teacher, or teacher(s). These teachers may also begin to niche into a specialty; this is the level where we gain our specialty yoga teachers.

The 1000 hour yoga teacher is the next level…but we won’t worry about that here. It’s fairly new.

Some teachers will focus on a niche through experience or training. The possibilities are endless: yoga therapy, Ayurveda yoga, prenatal, trauma sensitive, twelve step, areal, chair, yoga Nidra, etc. etc. etc. In general, the more opportunities to do harm means the more intense the required training (for example: yoga therapy and trauma sensitive yoga have their own credentialing).

And then there are the fun marketing niches: beer yoga (breweries are one of the few places with loads of open space for yoga), goat yoga, kitty yoga, art and yoga…again, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes, these latter are offered as a sort of karma yoga where a charity is being supported. Yoga happens in a lot of ways.

I would say that it’s experience combined with good training(s) that makes a great teacher. The best teachers have a strong personal practice and teach. Passion and a love for yoga. Yoga Alliance has a minimum number of teaching hours required to become an “Experienced” yoga teacher. Look for the E before the 200 or 500 RYT–and remember to support those new teachers too!

Some teachers don’t register with Yoga Alliance, which is common. In that case, ask them about their experience and training. They will tell you their training and experience. These teachers are certified yoga teachers.

So, what do you need? A teacher you connect to. A teacher who has enough knowledge and experience to keep you safe. Maybe you need a teacher who specializes in your personal imbalance. Maybe you need a class that gets you moving (breaks up stagnant Kapha). Maybe you need a class that grounds you (Vata/Pitta). Maybe you need a healing class to recover from injury or illness (Vata). Maybe you need a cooling soothing heart opening class (Pitta). Maybe you need a combination of the above. Maybe you’re just exploring and having fun.

Choose a teacher based on who you connect with. Someone who offers you exactly what you need from a yoga class and challenges you. Or you may wish to support some of the new students as they learn…a HUGE shout out to my students who have been with me from the beginning when I was still learning how to be a teacher. They helped to build me into the teacher I am today.

It’s very likely you won’t find the teacher you love in the first class you go to (you’re more likely to if you ask around–especially friends who know you best). Don’t hesitate to explore a few classes and teachers; it’s also nice to see what’s out there. Trust me, you won’t hurt a yoga teacher’s feelings for exploring. If you aren’t finding what you’re looking for, ask. Yoga teachers often have a network of other yoga teachers and can point you in the right direction or, perhaps, be able to offer the class you are looking for.

Keep seeking. Keep exploring. Keep growing. You will find the perfect teacher and the perfect style for you.

Enjoy the Journey.

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