Best (and worst) qualities of a yoga teacher

I’ve been doing yoga for over a year now. After having tried five different studios, and  practised with numerous yoga teachers, I’ve come up with a selection of the teacher qualities I appreciate the most as a yoga student.

In my yogi-beginner opinion, a good yoga teacher….

  • Makes you aware of your feelings

Almost all the yoga teachers I had tend to do this at the beginning of the class, especially in the London studios. This is the best way of starting for me, as it brings me down to the present moment – the class. Since I tend to run tight of time almost everywhere I go (yoga classes included), having a teacher that makes me stop, sit, breath and think of my intentions for the coming hour, is something that really helps me to change the mindset before the practise.

This is similar to the 5 min mediation we used to do in the Gestalt course I did in 2014, where the teacher always made us ask to ourselves: “how are you feeling today”. Happy, sad, tired, anxious, excited, calm, angry… It is not a matter of changing our feelings, just of noticing and accepting them. This helps me to separate my mental worries from my hour practise.

Something that a few teachers ask us to do as well is to think about a person we want to dedicate the practise to. Someone special, someone we love… it is quite sweet as it always makes me think of the people I love the most and smile to myself, even if it just for a couple of minutes.

  • Introduces you to new and challenging postures

This is one of the reasons that made me fall in love with yoga a year ago. Letting a good teacher show you the infinite world of postures is something I find very, very inspiring. Since I’ve always liked seeing dancers, acrobats and gymnasts in action, seeing those poses in real life just gets me excited and pushes me to learn more and more.

I must say the teacher I will never forget in that sense is Mark Kan from Indaba Yoga. His classes as just amazing, and way to advanced for me too, I must say! Just joining them (ideally near a wall for the inversions), and trying to keep up with the amazing flow of asanas is something worth trying, or at least witnessing. No wonder his classes are always full and his students so graceful and committed.

New and challenging asanas is what keep us evolving as yogis
  • Focuses on breathing throughout the class

I’m not an expert in yoga, but I doubt anyone can be a great yoga teach if they don’t integrate breathing into their class. Inhale, exhale, breath in, breath out… call it how you want it but yoga is really a form of breathing, moving mediation. Breathing in and out as we flow in the postures is what helps the energy move – even if that sounds a bit cheesy!

Filling my lungs helps me calm down and feel fulfilled, while emptying them to the maximum is a way of letting go of all the tension or bad energy that I don’t want. Also, keeping the breathing in mind helps me to be less tired during the class and to manage better any physical effort.

  • Corrects your posture but also gives you freedom

This might sound like opposite qualities, but they are not. For me the best yoga teachers are those who correct and perfect your postures, either by verbally saying how it should be, or by physically aligning your body. This is essential to evolve in our practise and realise of how much we have to improve.

Likewise, I like the teachers who allow me to test and experiment with new postures, even if I’m looking like a human knot or I’m not the most gracious-looking yogi! I appreciate teachers to give me the freedom of trying it out, if that is what I want to do. I smile every time I remember how Jessica Puglie (also one of my favourite teachers), once told me that the challenging twist asana I was doing was “good – now try to smile on it too”. I instantly laughed because I realised of the pain-face I must have had on while trying too hard. It was a funny and compassionate comment, which meant something like: well-done for trying even if it is too early for you, don’t forget to enjoy it!

In contrast, during a class at the Hotspotyoga, the teacher was doing a tricky balance asana that required us to stand on one leg and extend the other forward. As I was doing it, I stumbled a bit, and he asked me to stop trying and just hold my lifted knee. It made me angry and tense, firstly because I was more than capable of doing it, or at least trying to balance (it is not like it was a handstand!) and secondly because I felt he was limiting the freedom within my yoga practise, plus it was in front of everyone else which was quite embarrassing – all in all, not nice.

  • The cherry on the cake! Mini massage with aromatic oils

This is something that only a few teachers from the PowerYogaCompany studio have done, and I loved it so much. It happens at the end of the practise, during the savasana mediation time, when we are all always on a cloud, half asleep half awake. The teacher comes and either gives you a quick shoulder or head massage, or rubs a bit of aromatic oils in what they call “the third eye”. Either way it feels super nice, and because we are so tired/relaxed already, all our senses go into feeling/smelling this extra gift.

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