Before you sign up to a yoga class, please make sure your yoga teacher is: Qualified, insured and competent to teach you safely. Here at Body Soul Yoga we view your safety as paramount. We have many years of yoga teaching experience, so that you can take away with you something new each week from our classes. Here are a few things to ask and bear in mind:
Yoga is sweeping the nation and you’ve probably seen loads of new banners and flyers advertising yoga classes in your town. Everyone you know seems to be doing yoga. The recognised benefits of yoga also mean a lot of the medical profession are referring people to yoga instructors, so there is also a natural demand for more teachers. Do your homework before you sign up to a course or yoga class.
Here in Surrey we are very fortunate to have some amazing teachers. But there are also some very new, inexperienced and even some teachers who do not hold a relevant and recognised yoga teaching qualification.
Ask your teacher …
You will find your Guru/ yoga teacher!
It is said that you will find your yoga Guru rather than your Guru finding you! A great yoga teacher will probably not be hanging up a banner or giving you a flyer. Word-of-mouth is often best. So if you know your friends have a teacher, then why not ask them? Established and good teachers may also have a website; so look and see who is top of Google in your area. Ignore the ads and go for the sites that genuinely are top and the Google robots view as deserving the top space. Good teachers will perhaps be offering some free yoga videos, yoga podcasts, yoga, wellness and lifestyle tips, recipes, etc., and you can see and hear what they sound like and whether they will suit you.
By looking at the teacher’s website you can also check whether they share your own values: Whether they are spiritual; offer more of a fitness type of yoga; or give you the whole package. It’s also good to put a face to a name before you turn up.
Another sign of a good teacher is that the classes you want to join are actually full up and that you need to go on a waiting list. Often, it is worth the wait!
Also, don’t be put off by a teacher who offers block bookings rather than drop ins. If you are keen to commence your yoga journey, paying for approximately six classes upfront will: Ensure that you attend (paying ahead is more of an incentive to turn up), once the classes are full and booked up you know what people will be in the group and you won’t be disturbed by new people coming in each week, and the teacher having to repeat everything you learnt a few weeks before; and you will start to get comfortable, relax more and get into your zone, as your group learns together.
Check your proposed teacher’s qualifications
Are they really qualified? Are they a teacher in training? Or have they just set up a class because they have some knowledge of yoga? If you go to a British Wheel of Yoga teacher, for example, they will have done at least three years of training, and they will have studied the following modules: Anatomy and Physiology; Yoga Philosophy; Pranayama, Mudra, and Bandha; Asana; and adapting the practice for injury and conditions. They will also have had to have passed three practical examinations where a teacher views their classes to ensure that they are ready to teach safely. They will have an up to date first aid certificate and will need to renew this every three years. Over the time-frame of the course they will also have been teaching classes constantly to the other students on the course, so will have already accumulated several hours of teaching experience. They may also have done additional modules for example: teaching yoga to children, Pregnancy Yoga modules, teaching yoga to those recovering from, or living with, cancer; the yoga for healthy lower backs courses etc.
You can also check out the British Wheel of Yoga’s website and other yoga bodies such as The Yoga Alliance to see if your teacher appears as a qualified teacher. Other institutions, such as YHLB will also list what teachers are qualified in your area.
Remember though, that all teachers have to start somewhere and so if you go to a teacher in training expect to pay less and enjoy learning with them.
It’s also worthwhile checking out the teacher’s experience of yoga and teaching.
If a teacher has been practising yoga for over 15 years, teaching for over five years and takes over 10 hours of yoga group classes and private yoga lessons per week you’re obviously going to get a more experienced and knowledgeable teacher than someone that took up yoga as a hobby a couple of years ago and went to India on a two week course to learn how to be a teacher, and who teaches just a couple of hours a week.
If your teacher teaches at least 10 hours of yoga a week then they will be teaching approximately 520 hours of yoga a year which could amount to 5200 hours over a 10 year period.
Conversely, if a teacher has only been teaching for two years and teaches just two hours a week they will only have notched up experience of approximately 100 hours, against the experience of 5200 hours of an established teacher.
With experience and practice comes knowledge. Experienced teachers will know students bodies, can spot misalignment easily, and also have the knowledge to correct everything from a bent elbow, (which in downward facing dog brings more exertion on the wrists and shoulders than a straight arm); to a slightly misaligned foot which could result in the hips being misaligned, the spine being stacked incorrectly, and the shoulders being lopsided. A more experienced teacher will also have more confidence in teaching complex sequences and positions and will be able to teach without doing the class with you, so that they have a clear eye on what you are doing, and so that they can walk around and adjust students as and when needed. This also means that you should be safe in your practice, if the teacher is watching you constantly.
Go for a trial
Subject to availability, most teachers will allow you to try the class. And don’t be afraid to try more than one teacher. All teachers have different styles, phraseology and approaches. It may not be yoga you dislike, but the teacher, so if you’re put off straightaway don’t give up your search. There are also different styles of yoga out there; from fast, flowing, sweaty hot yoga to restorative yoga. Why not try a few styles and see what suits you. Your taste will also change as you develop.
Established and good teachers usually charge the class fee, but new teachers or teachers looking for students may offer you a free trial. Do check, (if the class is free), whether the insurance policy will cover you.
What size of class should I be looking for if I am new to yoga?
Small groups, of no more than 10 are perfect, if you are just starting out on your yoga journey. Your teacher can keep a close eye on you, and ensure you are aligned, doing things correctly and safely. If you turn up and you are one of 30 or more students then you may be lost in the crowd.
Is your teacher insured?
Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher to see a copy of their insurance policy. If they are a British Wheel of Yoga teacher they will have an insurance policy included in their annual membership subscription. Teachers may also have their own public liability and professional negligence liability cover; especially if they have their own studio or studio at home.
Will I be safe during my yoga class?
With any physical exercise, yoga does carry a small risk of injury. If you are unsure as to whether or not yoga will be suitable for you go and see your GP or medical consultant first. If you have any health issues please also mention them to your yoga teacher as, if they are well trained, they can make suggestions and adapt the class for you. But only you know your body and therefore your limits. So remember the principle of Ahimsa, to be kind to yourself and to rest if you need to.
If you go to a British Wheel of Yoga teacher they won’t, for example, teach headstand in a group setting, or ask the class to participate in straight, double leg raises, or teach shoulder stand to beginners; because they are viewed as unsafe.
They will also have recommendations for pregnant attendees, those with high and low blood pressure, and so on. A good teacher should be able to teach a group with various conditions and ailments, whilst offering a full and complex class, with postures that can go even deeper, to the majority of healthy, regular students.
Only you will know when you have found the right teacher for you, and as your journey continues and as you learn more, you may seek out a host of teachers. It’s also great, now and again, to have a one-to-one private lesson, so that your teacher can check in with you, ensure you are well and suggest other things that can deepen and improve your own yoga practice. Remember a yoga teacher is only there to enable you to find your own inner teacher! We are our own teacher; but we may need a little guidance to get us started and to encourage us along the way. Yoga is 95% practice and just 5% theory!
Just remember, it’s never too late or early to start yoga. Here at Body Soul Yoga we have people of all ages; and some in their teens and some in their 70’s who have just started, and who are amazing.
We are also very privileged to have taught, (this year), five local trainee teachers and we hope to inspire others to start their yoga journey soon.
We still have a few spaces in some of our yoga classes. We hope to see you soon.