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Your yoga practice is a deeply personal (and oftentimes emotional) thing. Finding the right human to guide you through it is no easy task. We asked veteran yogi and yoga teacher Karen Holt, founder of The Health Seed, to share her thoughts on how to pick the perfect yoga teacher.
When it comes to getting started in yoga, next to donning those stretchy pants for the first time (and actually walking into your first class!) falls the daunting prospect of choosing a teacher to learn from. Not all yoga teachers are alike and for the rookie yogi, knowing the difference between vinyasa and yin, as well as finding a setting and teacher that really works for you can be the difference between a beautiful journey of self-discovery and an epic #yogafail. Below, I give you the cheat sheet to finding the right class and teacher for you, so that you may continue to walk the yoga path for years to come and for teachings that will last you a lot longer that those stretchy pants.
First of all, think about what your intention is for your yoga practice. What do you want to get out of it? Is it to feel relaxed, or energized? To stretch out your muscles? Knowing this will guide your search in helping to find your teacher.
Once you are clear on your intention here are the things you need to think about when choosing your teacher:
1. Is Your Teacher Trained?
There is certainly no shortage of either yoga studios or teachers in Hong Kong. And, with each teacher training program (of which there are also many), comes dozens of new teachers launching their careers, making it more and more difficult to know how to choose the right one. The first thing you want to check is that your teacher has a minimum of 200 hours of training under their belt. This will be quoted on their website or business card as: RYT 200, which means “Registered Yoga Teacher 200 Hours”. This also means the teacher is registered with the Yoga Alliance, which is the largest non-profit association representing the global yoga community. Whilst not all yoga teachers are registered, (though they may have the minimum 200 hours of training under their belt), in my humble opinion, this basic accreditation is testament to the teacher’s commitment to credentials’ transparency and to international training standards.
2. Which Asana Style?
The best way to find the asana (the Sanskrit word for yoga postures) style is to simply try and try again. From yang styles such as vinyasa flow, to yin yoga where you hold to poses for 3+ minutes, and everything in between there’s a lot to experience and only trial and error will help you choose the right one. In my personal practice, I’ve found that I need a combination of styles from one day to the next depending on what my body needs, so choose a teacher that offers what you need from one moment to the next instead of one style. There are also many different hybrids of yoga popping up such as aerial, acro and stand up paddle board yoga to name a few. It’s definitely worth experimenting and trying various styles out, but be sure to intermittently check in with yourself and go back to your original intention for what you want to get out of your yoga practice and stay true to that.
3. The Logistics
First of all, the setting can be just as important as the teacher. Yoga can be found in many different places these days, not just a dedicated yoga studio. Gyms offer yoga, there’s plenty of outdoor yoga and within the yoga studio world, there are boutique style studios and giant yoga centres. Then there’s private sessions(1 on 1 or private group) versus open group classes. If you’re going private, a teacher will work with your body and tailor the session to your individual needs. For a lot of my private students, we incorporate mindfulness teachings and meditation on top of asanas, as well as health coaching and personal training, so you can also look for teachers that offer a more holistic program than only the yoga asanas. An open group class will still have an element of working with your body, but the teacher must also consider the other people in the class so the focus will not always be on your needs 100% of the time. One thing’s for sure: the environment in which you practice will undoubtedly have an impact on your practice.
4. Find A Teacher Who Deeply Resonates With You
Be really honest with yourself. Is it because that teacher has a perfect handstand and her technique inspires you? Or is it because the teachings speak to your heart? Or is it because the teacher has humanity, and that relates to your humanity? These are just a few examples and really the list is endless for why a teacher resonates with you. But when you find the reason, it will keep you coming back again and again.
About The Author: Karen Holt is the certified holistic health & wellness coach, RYT 200 Yoga teacher and writer behind the Hong Kong based wellness brand, The Health Seed, a concept based on conscious training and conscious living. As a yoga and meditation teacher Karen teaches about learning how to work with our individual bodies as well as mindfulness teachings and how to work towards achieving inward balance in their lives.
Image Credits: lead photo courtesy of Karen Holt.