In our last post we discussed what criteria you should use when hiring a personal trainer. While some of these same points apply to picking a yoga teacher, there are also distinct differences you should consider. As stated before, NOT ALL YOGA TEACHERS ARE THE SAME. Here’s what you should consider if you are thinking about hiring a private yoga teacher:
1.) Specialty. First and foremost you have to know what it is you want from private sessions in order to get the right private instructor. Are you doing this to get “fit?” Are you trying to reduce stress? Are you using it to compliment your current workout regimen? Are you overcoming an injury? Once you are clear on your reasons, look for a teacher who specializes in what you have chosen (for instance, if you want a teacher who is very knowledgeable about the body, our teachers would be a good fit, but if you want to learn chanting and Sanskrit, uh… maybe move to India). If you see a teacher that is advertising EVERYTHING as his or her specialty (fitness, meditation, nutrition, etc), she is most likely overestimating her skill set. No one is an expert on everything. If you are unsure about whether or not a teacher specializes in what you want, ask for his or her background. Don’t assume that a basic 200-hour training will give every yoga teacher the same skills and make them proficient in everything “yoga.”
2.) Education. Speaking of that 200-hour training… unlike personal training, in order to be a professional yoga teacher, the only prerequisite is an initial 200-hour certification, which often severely lacks sufficient anatomy training (other yoga teachers: please note we said often, that means your training may have been an exception, so there is no need to argue that point in the comments). Ongoing education is a choice for yoga teachers. Yes, teachers can absolutely learn from experience, however, if you are looking for a teacher who is up-to-date on the ever changing science that is exercise science (and you may not care), then inquire about your potential teacher’s education or current studies. Again, if this is not important to you, and you are more interested in the esoteric over the science, inquire as to where your teacher studied those aspects. Bottom line, a 200-hour training is only enough time to get familiar with the basics of the Yoga system.
3.) Price. Unlike personal trainers, what a yoga teacher charges for private sessions is NOT a good indicator of his or her competence as a teacher. Since most yoga sessions can be done in the clients’ homes and do not require a gym, a brand new teacher who has done some market research can charge whatever they feel is right. It is a VERY competitive field. Conversely, there are some very accomplished and talented teachers who undersell themselves. Sometimes, the price of a good teacher is higher, because they invested in their ongoing education and have enough knowledge and experience to give you personalized attention that can really create positive change. Other times, teachers may charge you $250 to come to your home and teach you a sequence that they taught in class that day, general and not tailored for you (and you may very well be okay with that)… Spend wisely.
4.) Experience. The number of years is irrelevant. Someone could have 8 years of experience seeing one client once a week versus a teacher with 4 years of experience who has worked with over 150 bodies. If you are asking about experience, get specific. Ask how many people he or she has worked with privately, and what kind of demographic. If you are overcoming an injury, do they have the knowledge and experience to help you? If you want to lose weight, have they worked with clients interested in weight loss before? If you are an athlete, do they have the experience to help your game rather than hinder it? If you want to learn meditation, have they instructed it before? Ask, ask, ask!
5.) Popularity. A popular teacher may be a teacher who knows how to market themselves or can hire someone who does. In a group class setting, you may find that the most popular classes are taught by the best teachers. But, understand that just because someone is a good group class teacher DOES NOT mean that they will be good in a private setting. Some teachers are good at instructing large groups through a sequence of poses, but this may or may not translate to having the knowledge to work with you specifically in a private setting. If this concerns you, ask how many private clients your teacher currently has or has had in the past. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking that celebrity clients means good instruction. There are some teachers who work with celebrities who are fantastic, and some who just found an “in” and are… uh… maybe not worth the price they are asking.
This is an investment in your health, so it would behoove you to do your research. Again, if you don’t feel like it, you can always just go to us. You are already reading the blog 😉