What makes a good yoga teacher?

Little Green Apples Creative Commons License photo credit: orchidgalore

We are all students in life, aren’t we? Be it our yoga practices, meditation, academics or just every day living, we continue to learn as life goes on. Alas, it is impossible to talk about learning without talking about teachers, and what it is that makes them great, as teachers in life take many forms.

My favourite teacher of all time was Mrs. Walsh. Oddly, I had her as a mentor for four years in a row, from grades 4-7. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was a painfully quiet and lonely child, often more stressed than smiling. She recognized that in me and took the time to develop my social abilities, always teaching with a sense of humour, an extraordinarily compassionate spirit and a kind heart. Essentially, she changed my life. So these are the qualities that I look for in all the teachers who help me on the path of learning.

I look for the same characteristics today, in my yoga teachers. Because of my injury, I need a teacher who does not judge me for my lack of ability, and instead, praises the things I can do, despite my disability. I need a teacher who is compassionate of all of the people in the room, because everyone else and their needs are equally as important. I also need a yoga teacher who is patient. During a very intense power yoga class, in which we were all bent into the fiftieth iteration of downward dog, the teacher came up to me (no doubt frustrated for the tenth time of having to tell me to point my fingers forward) and violently twisted my hands into the appropriate direction. Hmm. Not helpful at all. To show for this, my fingers bruised up so badly afterwards that I literally couldn’t wear gloves for a month. And for those of you from the southern Ontario area, you know how vital gloves are in the winter months.

Yes, I need a yoga teacher who is all those things. And perhaps those criteria extend beyond just that of my yoga teacher, but all of the teachers in my life.

So I put this question out to you, the readers; What makes a great teacher? When you think back on your life, to all the people who have touched it, what characteristics did those people possess that made you want to learn from them? How did they contribute to who you are today?

Whatever those criteria may be, never stop learning. Embrace that no matter how much we think we know, we always have more to learn. Even the most learned of yogis will tell you that no yoga practice is the example of perfection. All we can do is find our own way.


0 thoughts on “What makes a good yoga teacher?”

  1. I look for authenticity in my yoga teacher including the ability to laugh at himself or herself. When I’m “in the zone” instead of relaxing I actually find myself tensing up, so when a teacher is able to take a step back and tell me that it’s okay to smile, it really enhances my practice. I like small, subtle corrections to my poses that make a significant difference.

    As a yoga teacher myself, I have to control the urge to worry over whether everyone likes me. I have had to accept the fact that I can’t be everything to every single person in that room. Teaching has taught me to ease up on my teacher when our roles are reversed. 🙂

    I hope you were able to give feedback to the instructor who twisted your hand. I bet future students will appreciate it. 😉

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