If you’re a yoga rookie like moi, you may be wondering how to spot a bad yoga teacher so you don’t waste your time and money. Or, worst still, put your back out.
Well in this article, I’m going to walk you through a mind-blowingly bad recent yoga experience.
Using bullet points and common sense – instead of her name and a much deserved savaging – I’ll highlight the endless faux pas that took place. This way, should you have the misfortune to encounter a yoga teacher like this, you’ll know to run for the door – straight to some home practice. No slacking now!
Let’s start at the front of our mats, shall we?
How To Spot A Bad Yoga Teacher: 10 Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore
10. They are not on time (neither do they acknowledge that they’re late)
We all know the yoga teacher who arrives 60-seconds before the class is due to start and not a second before.
It’s as if they don’t want to engage with their students. But simply show up, run through some asana and keep it pushing.
Now, this modus operandi might be “somewhat” acceptable if they’re teaching in a big studio with a larger staff team to pick up their disorganised and anti-social slack; bless you, friendly girl with dope undercut at reception.
But when your yoga teacher is the only one in the building, they should arrive earlier than two minutes before the first forward fold coz a late yoga class is a sloppy class.
And if for some reason they don’t, because, LIFE! Then, at the very least, they should be on the right side of apologetic.
9. They don’t introduce themselves
Your yoga teacher is there to hold space.
They are there to teach and to facilitate your self-learning.
They are the captain of the yoga ship, so to speak.
So, you, the student, should know whether the captain is called Michelle, Sandra, Julianne, Bob or Robert?
Otherwise they are just “the yoga teacher.”
An automaton who is more bendy and flexible than yourself, who *maybe* knows some Sanskrit. Big wow.
My advice to you – look for a yoga teacher who is approachable.
8. They don’t ask any health and safety questions before starting (major red flag)
I have a confession.
I’m beginning to develop a deep dislike for mixed-ability open classes.
This is not because I’m a deep and spiritual advanced yogi, far from it.
But simply because it’s rare to find a teacher who can genuinely hold space–safely–for the complete beginner, while still providing depth and growth for the more advanced ‘Samadhi’ seeking yogi.
Understanding the different needs of your students means you can meet them where they are. Then, give props and modifications that are relevant and necessary–so no one goes out in a stretcher.
The bottom line is avoid yoga teachers who are not open to a dialogue.
7. They are unsure of themselves and their cues make your head throb
I have another confession.
I have zero co-ordination. And about as much balance as a drunken, one-eyed baby giraffe.
This means I’m relying on instruction to help me get into both simple and more complex poses.
Maybe you can relate?
That doesn’t mean the yoga teacher needs to bang-on leaving no space for silence, or for me to tune into my body.
But it does mean they have a position of trust, responsibility and authority, which they should respect and take seriously.
A few “take hold of your left foot, oops, sorry right”, is fine. They may be the teacher but they’re still human.
But, if your yoga teacher makes so many cueing cockups that all the flow is sucked clean out of the Vinyassa. And you’re holding your breath so you don’t utter a stream of expletives in the Shala – and for no other reason…
….then this teacher needs to spend more time learning how to teach, rather than actually teaching.
By the way, there’s a way to learn how to process conflicting yoga instructions.
6. They repeatedly forget the sequence – and don’t style it out
This taps into point 7.
Your yoga teacher should have practiced and rehearsed their sequence–ahead of time.
In other words, your yoga teacher should know their shit.
And, even if they’re having a bad day.
Slightly hungover (happens), and just can’t quite pull it together. They should at the very least have enough character and humor to style it out so you don’t lose all confidence in them.
If you find yourself wondering whether the yoga teacher actually knows what they are doing? Chances are they probably don’t.
I love this video by Brett where she speaks about how to survive a BAD yoga class:
5. They do poses too difficult for the majority of their students – with no modifications
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the yoga teacher who always takes it easy on the class–scared that if they make you break a sweat you won’t come back. I want to be guided out of my comfort zone.
But, conversely, neither do I want the yoga teacher who makes me wonder if I’ve somehow wandered into the wrong level class.
Example: Vasisthasana – side star plank with raised leg – is not a beginners asana.
In fact, it’s out of reach of many more experienced yogis.
So if your yoga teacher has you attempting this (while screwing up points 8,7 & 6), you’re well within your rights to take a child’s pose, or if you’re like me, a WTAF face.
4. They hold uber long child’s poses (for themselves)
This tends to happen when the yoga instructor is doing self-practice with an audience, rather than actually teaching. And Vasisthasana–which they had you in for 15 breaths–has them winded AF.
See, instead of letting you watch them shake, sweat and fall out of the pose, they’ll get you into child’s pose and keep you there till THEY regain their composure.
3. They don’t know the English name for the pose, let alone the Sanskrit one
It totally makes sense that when your yoga teacher is getting you into the pose with their instruction, they hold-off on confusing you with fancy words they can’t even spell.
But, once they’re done getting you into eka hasta vrksasana (in the mixed ability class), at the very least they should tell you the name of the pose you’re in – in the language the class is being taught in.
2. They bring zero yoga philosophy to the class and look bored
No one goes to yoga to be preached at, or made to feel like they’re so far from enlightenment they might as well be living in the dark ages.
And if the primary motivation for showing up on your mat is purely getting in shape, let’s be honest, there are easier, faster and cheaper methods.
We go to learn how to bring our yoga (union) into every aspect of our lives.
We go to uncover, embrace, and move past our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual weak areas.
We go to learn how to transform our bodies into vessels for self-growth and expansion.
We go so, for 90-minutes, we can shut down the Japanese acid house rave going on in our minds. Get the fuck out of our own way. And experience our best selves with yoga. Limitless potential.
But when your yoga teacher brings no yoga philosophy to the class. And, when in balancing poses, says inane nonsense like “don’t look at anything that is moving” rather than “find your drishti…”
Then feel free to ask to see a certificate, because you’re probably in a class with a yoga fraud.
You wouldn’t accept getting treated by a Dr. ‘Fraud’, so old mate doesn’t get a pass just because she says namaste a lot.
Now, personally I can handle not being heard in my yoga class,
It’s one of the few places I actually shut my mouth and just listen and feel.
But not feeling safe, seen, or cared for? Like none.of.them… Nah. I can’t.
1. They make you feel excluded
Let me tell you a true story.
In fact it was this incident which took the last iota of compassion I had, and put me into beast mode.
After the class (which inspired this post) ended, instead of bouncing I decided to check my disappointment for a while longer and join the other yogi’s for some tea.
I sat on the floor next to two other students and the teacher – all of whom were already drinking tea.
But when I went to take a cup to pour myself some tea, what she did next quite literally floored me.
‘No-name’ yoga teacher needlessly picked up the pitcher of tea, and moved it to the other side of the tea tray. Effectively saying: “not for you”, and excluding me from the group, and the tea. Complete mindlessness.
At this point I was done.
I silently stood up.
Picked up my bag.
Put on my trainers, and walked out – without paying.
Now if karma wants to come and bite me on the ass for not paying that bad yoga teacher for that shambles of a yoga class? Here’s my address: 28c …..
So that’s it.
We’ve come to the end of our post on how to spot a bad yoga teacher, and I hope I was able to remain objective enough so as to give you a clear and fair picture of what to look out for.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
What do you think makes a great yoga teacher and class?
Or, do you have any yoga horror stories or tips for how to spot a bad yoga teacher you want to share? let me know in the comments.
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