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Choosing the right yoga class for you

Halasana (plough posture)

With so many yoga teachers around, it may be difficult, especially for a beginner, to choose the yoga class that best suits. The following are a few guidelines for choosing a yoga class that's right for you.

1   Choose a style of yoga that suits you

There is no point in signing up for an ashtanga class if you are sixty five, slightly overweight, and only want to relax, or to go to a viniyoga teacher if you are taking up yoga as an alternative to jogging or weight lifting to keep fit.
If in doubt, ask to watch a class before enrolling. Even better, most teachers will actually let you do one trial class, perhaps at a reduce rate, before asking you to commit for a term. This gives you a chance to see for yourself if their style of teaching, and the style of yoga they teach, suits you.

2    Choose your teacher carefully

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Here are a few points you should clarify with any teacher before enrolling in their class:

  • Do they practice themselves? How often?
    Someone who doesn't practice yoga regularly (i.e at least three times a week, preferably 5 or 6 times a week) should not be teaching yoga.
  • How long have they been practising yoga?
    Someone who hasn't been practising regularly for at least seven years probably doesn't have enough experience to teach.
  • Who did they train with and for how long?
    Training as a yoga teacher takes a lot of time and effort. Riding on the popularity of yoga in the Western world, some organisations have tried to train "yoga teachers" in a few months. This is ridiculous, possibly dangerous, and will only give yoga a bad name. All serious yoga organisations involved in training teachers such as the Iyengar Yoga association, the Irish Yoga Association, the British Wheel of Yoga or the European Union of Yoga have a minimum requirement of two years training. For more information on teacher training and qualification, read on.
  • Are they still studying yoga?
    Some yoga teachers, once qualified, stop studying. This goes against the philosophy of yoga. Anyone who teaches yoga owes to their students to attend regularly classes and seminars with more senior teachers, so their practice, and therefore their teaching, remains alive. 
  • To them, is yoga a way to make a living, or a way of life?
    Yoga teachers should do their best to live their life in accordance to yoga ethics. Ask any prospective teacher what are the five yamas, or the eight limbs of yoga. If they can't name them nor explain them, yoga is probably just a way to make a living and they are not teaching from their heart...

There's a saying that to be a teacher, you need a teacher, a practice, a love and knowledge of the subject you teach, and students. Make sure the teacher you choose meets the first three requirements before becoming one of their student!

3   Other points to consider
  • The student-teacher relationship is more than a commercial one. Make sure you study yoga with someone you can trust and respect. Basically, choose a teacher you like.
  • Class size. It is well worth paying extra for smaller class size. If your teacher never looks at your practice and corrects it, because they have 50 students in their class, then you might as well learn from a video...