Finding a yoga teacher is a very personal and important task. Some students will change teachers several times throughout their lives, while others keep the same teacher as long as possible. Evaluating the potential relationship between the student and teacher should be the most important selection criteria.
Research on the web or in the library and will provide clues as to what styles might suit you. The selection of a style depends upon an individual’s goal, personal beliefs, and interests. There are many different styles available – each has a slightly different focus. Some are very physical, such as Astanga or “Power” yoga; others are gentler, such as classical Hatha. Some emphasize only postures (asanas), one part of yoga. Others add breathwork and chanting. Some are deeply based on the Hindu religion and are very religious in their practice forms. Others are primarily based on meditation techniques.
To find out who is teaching different yoga styles in the mid-Atlantic area visit the “Directory” on this website. Teachers can be located throughout the US and in other countries on the Yoga Alliance website. You can also look in the yellow pages for yoga studios or fitness clubs that offer yoga and check the bulletin boards at health food stores.
Attend a class or two with the teacher or set of teachers that interest you. Obtain references from people you trust. Judge for yourself whether or the teacher is right for you before committing to a longer term of study. If a teacher does not normally allow this, ask for an exception; tell the instructor. You want to experience a class before committing to an entire series.
Find out if the instructor is certified. Certain yoga traditions certify their instructors, e.g. Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Kripalu. Many yoga teachers are registered with Alliance as an RYT-200 or RYT-500. This means that the instructor has successfully completed either 200 or 500 hours of training at a Yoga Alliance registered teacher training program. That course of study includes techniques training/practice, teaching methodologies, anatomy and physiology, yoga ethics, and a teaching practicum.
Not all forms of yoga can be found in all places. However, there are many books and videos on yoga (which are a good idea in the selection phase, anyway) that can provide basic instruction. If this is your situation, you may want to travel to a large yoga center for a workshop or two. In this case, use the same care in selection as you would for a local teacher. Yoga periodicals have advertisements for these workshops and articles written by some of teachers.
Even in class, the depth to which you explore the yoga poses (asana) is strictly up to you. Your teacher is there to bring you along and to challenge you. If there are poses that make you uncomfortable at your stage of asana expertise, then it is up to you to opt out or ask for an alternative. The better teachers will always be sensitive to your needs and, if the class is small enough, will probably be there for you, ahead of your request.
Take your time. Remember, your investment in yoga is far more than simply the dollars you spend; in the final analysis, yoga is an investment of your time, your emotions, your energy and your heart.