Many people want to try yoga but don’t know where to start. Perhaps they don’t like to exercise with a video. They may not belong to a health club. Or their health club doesn’t offer convenient classes. Maybe they’ve tried yoga but they felt any number of things that kept them from going back: intimidated, scared, pressured, awkward, pain. There are lots of things to know about yoga but finding the right instructor is a great way to start.
First, like all of us, yoga comes in many shapes and sizes. It has become a fad of sorts with many people starting their own types of yoga, all under the general name of Hatha. You can take a look at the health club description or the types of Yoga studios in your area (and if it just says Hatha, ask for more info on the style) then do some online research into what they mean. You want to know what you’re getting into. If you don’t like the idea of holding poses in a 105°F room then Bikram is not for you.
Second, check out the instructor. There are an estimated 70,000 yoga instructors in the US and of those only 16,168 have been certified according to the Yoga Alliance, the international professional organization that provides yoga teacher certification. People can get a teaching certificate online in a weekend and, even if they’ve been doing yoga for 20 years, it still doesn’t give them the proper instruction they need to teach. In many gyms the yoga teacher has taken a minimum requirement course so they can add another class to their schedule.
A teacher certificate is a good place to start but if you’re coming into yoga with physical issues like back pain or carpal tunnel, you’ll want an instructor who knows how the body works and who has taken anatomy classes and kinesiology classes. Don’t be afraid to ask about credentials!
Third, you should have a good connection with your teacher. If they make you feel awkward or uncomfortable then you’re not going to benefit from yoga. If they push you beyond your limits then they don’t have your best interest in mind. If there is no eye contact, no compassion, no understanding of who you are, then this may not be the right instructor for you.
Fourth, the instructor should be showing you the poses (asanas) and also watching the students, even walking around and making adjustments if necessary. They don’t have to touch you but should be able to convey verbal cues.
Fifth, if you are new to an instructor then ALWAYS tell them if you have a special condition. They should know if you can’t bend over comfortably or if your hip has been replaced BEFORE class starts. Don’t be afraid to approach them and let them know. If you’re not comfortable doing so in front of others then make sure it’s written down for them to see. You can even write down that you don’t want others to know.