If your yoga teacher gazes off into space while teaching, barks orders (cues) to you in a shrill voice, or neglects to mention anything about what’s happening inside your mind, roll up your mat and run, don’t walk, out of the studio.
Sadly many yoga teachers grew up with a physical education background vs. a philosophical bent. But yoga is ALL about the mind, body, spirit connection. It’s why you go and why you come back. Otherwise you could just have grabbed some kicks and taken a zumba class. No disparaging intent to zumba.
Here’s what I know, from the perspective of being a yoga teacher for more than 10 years as well as from being a yoga student for more than 20 years:
The road to becoming what I believe to be a “good yoga teacher” is long and winding, like the Beatles song. The teacher must gain experience, which takes many years. And alas, the juice of the nectar comes later on when that soothing and confident sound of the teacher’s voice matches up to the intelligence gained from studying not just yoga poses and transitions but from life through all perspectives.
Find a teacher who teaches kindness to oneself alongside movement. By this I mean, my students want to hear kindness in my voice, feel kindness in my thoughts. They want me to care about how they are experiencing the class. I know from being a student that when I hear from my teacher “great effort” or “beautiful” I feel on top of the world. Yoga is about compassion, not competition. As a student you should comes to yoga to be enveloped in loving kindness, like a long, slow, soft hug. Only then can you lose what is holding you back and gain courage to keep on going. Yoga has the dual purpose of marrying body work with mind work, and the “great” yoga teacher knows that their words matter to fill this intention. It’s an awesome responsibility.
Many teachers can learn to cue the pose, string them together in a flow, and keep your body safe from injury. But teaching compassion towards yourself through yoga is the most beneficial aspect of Yoga. It is this alone that is the heart of Yoga.