Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Input requested: What makes a good yoga teacher?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes someone a good yoga teacher. When I was doing my teacher training at Om Yoga Center, we were told that a good teacher possesses the "Three C's": Confidence, Clarity and Compassion.

I think that those qualities are critical. But being a bit abstract, they don't shed all that much light on what makes a teacher someone from whom we want to learn and enjoy learning.

Some questions I have been thinking about:

1. To demonstrate or not to demonstrate: To what degree should a teacher rely upon her words to do the teacher, rather than demonstrating the poses and the transitions? Is it better for the teacher to demonstrate more? Or better for the teacher to demonstrate less?

2. To adjust or not to adjust: To what degree should a teacher adjust her students? If a student is having a hard time getting the poses, should the teacher spend more time with that student? Or should she give equal time to all? I have heard stories of some teachers simply going down the rows and adjusting each student, one at a time, in whatever pose comes up when it is that student's turn. But doesn't that lead to a sort of mindLESSness to the adjustments? Shouldn't adjustments be purposeful, not incidental?

3. Getting Started...Dharma Talks and Chanting: Do we like them? Or do we just want to get moving? Would it be better ot integrate the talk within the class? To chant at the end?

4. To control or to let go (and despite that the concept of "letting go" is a good one in yoga, this is not intended to be a leading question): If a student is doing "his own thing" in class, should the teacher let him? Or should she try to bring him back to what the other students are doing?

5. The teacher's practice: Do we expect, even demand, that our teachers are significantly more advanced yogis than ourselves? Do we expect our teachers to teach only what they are able to do well? Or do we allow that our teachers will be practicing their whole lives as well? Do we like to see our teachers practicing? Or would we rather not have them as students in class with us?

6. The teacher's gender, age, apperance: Would we prefer that our teacher be female? Male? Younger than us? Older than us? Our peer? Fabulous physique? Visibly flawed physique? How do we feel about learning yoga from our outside-the-studio friends?

7. The flipside: What has really turned you off to a teacher? I know that's broad, but it would be interesting to hear whatever thoughts pop into your head...


I can't wait to hear!!!!



neti said...

To me a good teacher is someone who knows. Not in the sense of what its "supposed" to be or "ideally" should be, but knows it out of experience. Sometimes a student isen't capable of really understanding all there is to know in a practice until many years of practice have passed, This I know from my own experience. So a teacher should be able to guide you on the right path to bring you above and beyond your goals. To make you see beyond your limited view.
I believe that a teacher must have experiential knowledge. Yoga can NOT be learned from watching videos, attending workshops or reading books. Only practice will really show you.
I think the real question should be, What makes a good Student?
Does a good student walk into a class wanting to do his/her own thing? Why go to a class. Practice at home.
BEing a good student means trusting your teacher and taking the time to research your teacher. Do they really have what your looking for? Do they have the patience or even the desire to teach it to you. Whats the relationship? is it one that fosters communication on a possibly almost telepathic level? I believe that being a good student will lead you to a good teacher and eventually being a good student will lead to being a good teacher.
The best teachers were once the best students.
two cents

Susan said...

1.Demonstrations, can be appropriate at times. When introducing a new pose or working on more subtle aspects.
2.Adjustments are amazing tools. I do not think a beginning student should be singled out. An occasional "help" here or there. It actually might make them self conscious about yoga.I think that as a student teacher relationship develops, a teacher should know when a student needs adjustment to be able to go further into a pose
and further their practice.The great teachers I have practiced with understand this.
3. Love the invocation to Patanjali.Makes me feel more grounded.I like the dharma at the end,I feel like a sponge and can absorb it better then.
4. I am one of those students sometimes! I feel like I need a pose and I will do it,or I need to be there longer and I stay. I feel like if a teacher is secure in their method this shouldn't matter. If a student is really in their moment why would you interfere? Let it go(the ego mainly I think).
5. I don't expect that my teachers practice is amazing. A good teacher teaches from their heart and mind and body. I have a great teacher who has injuries and can't do a lot of poses, and she is amazing just the same. Guruji doesn't practice asana anymore.
6. I want a teacher I can connect with. Not a teacher who's hot or flawed. I do prefer a male teachers adjustments as I am 6 feet tall and feel physically "safer" at times.
7. I hate teachers who it's all about their ego. I can tell, and it bothers me when I see newbies in the class who are turned off by it. They think that this is what yoga is. Not all of them are willing to go and try again.

I could go on and on...

Anonymous said...

Well Lauren, this is something that we seem to discuss often and there is no answer. Every student expects different things and doesn't always get what they want or what they need. For me, I like a challenging class, no need for demonstrations and I like when the teacher is advanced. I would rather have adjustments than demonstrations. I think it takes a while for a student to find their ultimate teacher/studio but thats why I think its a good idea to try out as many classes and studios as possible and then get to know the ones that you really enjoy and work for you.

Jill - sister in law

Anonymous said...

i don't think a teacher should demonstrate. verbally walk the student through the pose. otherwise, the student will focus on his/her asana looking like what the teacher demonstrated.

adjust when it makes sense to adjust, and let the student work things out when the student needs to. this comes from experience, both teaching and practicing. personally, i would not study with a teacher who hadn't had a yoga practice for a good period of time (at least 5 years is my feeling) and who knows firsthand the struggles and "aha" moments that come with a steady, long-maintained practice.

if you practice ashtanga, do the opening prayer. otherwise, don't do anything. talking is just more mind chatter.

Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

My photo
Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


Ashtanga Blogs

Thanks for reading Yoga Chickie!