Since I’ve started teaching, I can’t help but experience the classes that I TAKE completely differently. It’s difficult not to analyze another teacher’s sequencing, or music, or tone, or theme, when those things are on your mind on a daily basis. But there are some qualitie
s in a teacher that truly can’t be learned, they can’t be found in books and teacher trainings, and they are the ones that I admire most.
- Warmth – I recently took a class with a very, very well-known ew York City Yoga teacher. This woman travels the world sharing her remarkable voice. Her 12pm class (typically one of the quietest classes at any studio) was packed from wall to wall. She entered the room and immediately noticed that I hadn’t taken her class before. She beelined straight for me, sat down on my mat, introduced herself, and hugged me like we’d been friends for years. We had a short conversation before she drifted from mat to mat, acknowledging each of her students by name, embracing them and thanking them for coming. Even more impressively, at the end of class, as I thanked her and said goodbye, she remembered what we had spoken about before class, and asked me to come back. I’ll never forget it.
- Creativity – I’m a Yoga teacher. I spend most of my waking hours (and some while I’m asleep) thinking about Yoga, practicing Yoga, writing about Yoga, and sharing Yoga with others. While I’m constantly learning, I’m not surprised incredibly often when I take a class. I have no problem practicing foundational poses, I don’t always need to be upside down and inside out, but Warrior II isn’t exactly the novelty it once was. What really impresses me in a class is when we getto a pose in an unexpected way. Sequencing is the opportunity for a teacher’s creativity and uniqueness to shine through, and the teachers I love are constantly surprising me in that way. I love that “ooh” moment when I teacher calls an unexpected pose, say, Crow to Warrior I (just learned that one), and am constantly impressed by the teachers who mix it up.
- Attention to Detail – There are some Yoga teachers who truly operate like surgeons. They have the ability to notice and correct the most minute anatomical misalignments that make all the difference in the world. For example, I once went to a trusted teacher because I was having nagging pain in the right side of my neck. She had me walk across the room and within 10 seconds said, “Of course you’re having pain in your neck, look at your feet!” She had noticed that I distributed weight unevenly as I walked, favoring one side and resulting in an imbalance that eventually tightened the muscles of my neck. She had me engage different muscles in super-basic poses (triangle, forward bend) and within a few weeks my pain was gone.
- Meaningful Compliments – Most students have the ability to see through their teachers incredibly well. Students notice when teachers toss out compliments constantly, and they know when they’re genuine. I admire when a teacher compliments something subtle – a teacher once complimented me on how hard my feet were working (win)! I also love when teachers remember their student’s practices and notice when a student has made a breakthrough. It shows that the student is valued, remembered, and progressing. When your teacher is proud and voices it, it’s the best feeling in the world.
- Honesty – The most admirable quality in a teacher is the ability to be honest. I really can’t stand when a teacher sits at the front of the room regurgitating far-flung, disengaged passages from ancient scripture or abstract new-agey concepts they may or may not understand themselves. It seems like they’re on auto-pilot, reciting what a “good” Yoga teacher should say. My favorite teachers share from their own practice, their own experiences, their own hearts. They live and teach in 2014 and speak with authenticity. They don’t try to pretend to be anyone they’re not. They laugh and curse and play and eat bread and are the exact same people in the practice room as they are on their living room couch. That’s what I’m going for.