A good yoga teacher should primarily be someone who inspires you to practice and to better yourself. מורת יוגה is ultimately about bringing peace to yourself and the teacher’s teachings should encourage this in you.
A good yoga teacher should be someone with a lot of enthusiasm for yoga, that is someone who enjoys not only practising and learning yoga themselves, but also someone who enjoys teaching yoga too.
The ultimate goal of yoga is to bring peace into oneself and to transmit this sense of peace to others. Of course yoga is a path. In our human world we can only strive to be peaceful. However the goal should be there. Hence a good yoga teacher should be one whose goal it is to be peaceful and also one who has an understanding of what peace or shanti actually is.The ancient Indian scriptures talk a lot about ‘shanti’ or peace. Shanti according to the scriptures is the original nature of the soul. There are also a lot of teachings that talk about the seventh chakra as being a place where peace can be experienced. Also the teachings of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence talk about peaceful conduct. A good yoga teacher should have a good understanding of this.
A good yoga teacher should be aware of the deeper teachings of yoga which are in the scriptures. There are scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita that talk about ‘yoga’ or the idea of union and also about ‘atma’ or the soul and philosophy. There are also books such as ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ that talk about diet, ‘asana’ or posture practice and so forth. A good yoga teacher should have a good understanding of all parts of yoga.
In addition to this a good yoga teacher should have a good understanding that yoga is not just asana or physical practice but is something much deeper. The teacher should be one who always encourages you to focus your awareness on your breath in order to bring you into a state of meditation. The good should always be aware of the ashtanga or eight limbs of yoga which include rules for social and moral conduct, meditation, breath control and so forth. The good teacher, however, should still have an understanding of asana and anatomy in order to correct the physical posture. The eight limbs of yoga do include asana or physical practice too.
The teacher should understand that yoga is about health. As yoga has developed many people have become aware of the health benefits of yoga practice (including those of meditation) and the good teacher should understand and teach this. Following a sattvic or pure diet is an important step in yoga. It is useful when following a pure diet to eat organic foods that contain no pesticides and are grown in a manner designed to keep the soil fertile and the products full of nutrients. The good teacher should guide you with good diet and good health.
The good teacher encourages you not to be competitive but to work on yourself. He or she understands that everyone is different, has different genetics and that everyone comes to yoga with their own needs. A sign of a good teacher is that he or she tells you not to look at others during the class. This helps you focus on yourself and your own development and this should ideally what the good teacher leads you towards.
The good teacher gives good adjustments but does not push you too much. He or she rather encourages you, helps you to see your potential and guides you towards a point of peace within yourself.
The good teacher likes all aspects of yoga. This includes chanting, breathing techniques, meditation, philosophy. He or she sees all the benefits of the different branches of yoga and helps you with those that appeal to you.
Above all the good yoga teacher is someone you can bond with and form a relationship with. He or she should be someone who you can relate to, someone who is on the same path as you and someone who encourages you to follow your path.
The good teacher applies principles of yoga to his or her daily life and helps you and guides you to do the same. A few years ago I studied yoga in Rishikesh in India and I told my philosophy teacher that I could be relaxed during my yoga class but when I was not learning I could easily be affected by the distractions of the world around and that I could easily become stressed. I asked him how I could control this and he answered ‘always focus on the breath when you feel that distractions are arising in the mind during everyday activity – this will bring you back towards a point of inner stillness’. I have done this ever since and have found that it works. What is more is that I have realised that a good teacher of yoga is one who applies yoga to his or her daily life.