I’ve met many people during my travels in Canada and abroad who sincerely want to learn yoga. They ask me what kind of yoga they should look for? They ask this question not because there is a lack of yoga classes around, but because even without any experience in yoga, they can see thru the gimmicks and they know that the twenty-year-old-yoga-girl-yoga is not what they are looking for, even if the instructor happens to be in her thirties.
So how is a person supposed to find a good yoga teacher? Luck, I suppose is the easiest way. I usually advise finding someone older than yourself, someone you can relate to on some level. I tell people to avoid Bikram and hot yoga unless they just want a really good work out and even then I think there are much better practices for fitness. Iyengar provides this, as well as a rigidity not unlike the military. Hot yoga is just punishment, a kind of self flagellation that I suppose if continued with dedication it would qualify as tapas. There are so many different names for different kinds of yoga these days that you can never tell what you’re gonna get when you show up to a class. I have no idea what sattvic yoga is, or pure yoga, or lotus yoga, or shadow yoga, flow yoga, naked yoga, moksha yoga, glow-in-the-dark yoga…. but I suspect they are all just gimmicks; gimmicks should be avoided.
I have quite a similar view of one month teacher trainings. These courses provide the very basics of yoga; they are introductions to yoga at best. Calling these programs teacher trainings is just a gimmick that has opened yoga up for business, and very good business is being done flogging these certifications. The Yoga Alliance which as has paved the way for the entrance of yoga into the business world is supposed to help us separate the wheat from the chaff, but really all they’ve done is make more chaff. Now all the useless teachers have certificates stating otherwise, which makes it even more difficult to find a good yoga teacher.
A good teachers focus should be on teaching you so that you can go home and do it for yourself. Yoga and meditation are best done this way. If your teacher is changing the class everyday, they are not interested in teaching yoga, they are interested in getting you in everyday to pay your fifteen bucks. If your teacher is using gimmicks such as paddle boards or glow in the dark, they are interested in making money, not in teaching you yoga. Exotic location yoga is the same sort of gimmick for profit. I’ve fallen for these things, I enjoyed them, they were certainly nice, but if you want to learn yoga you should do it where you are all the time. If you want to experience peace and beauty bali I’m sure is an excellent location, but they yoga there is likely unnecessary.
I suppose, just like anything else, if there is some quality in yourself that you would like to develop, then you must find people who embody that quality or those qualities, and learn from them. Some of the qualities I look for in yoga teachers are humility, selflessness, sincerity. If you really want to learn yoga you have to be ready to open up a part of your life for yoga and find the self-motivation to continue it mostly on your own once you are set on your path. Try not to allow yourself to be too daunted by all the gimmicks. As I wrote earlier: 45% of yoga teachers are merchants, they are easy to spot, avoid them. Another 45% are jocks, they can show you a good physical practice, which can be useful. But it’s the minority of good true yoga teachers who are incredibly difficult to find. Good luck!