I’ve practiced yoga for more than 20 years, on and off, with a consistent practice for the past 6 years. I’ve tried gentle yoga, Ashtanga, vinyasa, Iyengar, restorative, aqua, aerial, and power – a lot of different styles, and there’s always something new coming out. Snowga, anyone? As the number of yoga teachers in the U.S. grows, so too does the desire to distinguish oneself as a teacher and develop a brand. Making a living wage as a yoga teacher is no simple task so many teachers spend time crafting an image and style rather than refining their teaching technique. As a student, all of these styles and lifestyles can be overwhelming and confusing. Where to start?
Remember this: Teachers vary greatly. Within each style of yoga lies a huge variation in the quality of teaching. Ashtanga and Bikram are the same sequence, consistently. The content is not going to change unless you progress in a series. With these two styles, if you like the sequence (and for Bikram, extreme heat), the teacher’s presence is what will make or break the class for you.
For all other styles, the sequence can change dramatically class per class. If you have a poor experience with the sequence, don’t give up immediately. It takes up to 20 times for children to really know if they like a new food so why give up on a yoga class after just one session? When you are dealing with variables such as your own emotional state that day, the sequence taught, and a new teacher, try to attend at least 3 times before making the choice to move on.
Your input is as important as the teacher’s in your yoga journey. You have a responsibility to yourself, to be a wise student and to listen to what you need. But as a wise person once told me, don’t ever judge yourself on one day. The same goes for moving on. Don’t quit on a bad day. Wait for a good day or, at least, a decent day. If you still want to leave the class behind on, then move on.
A good teacher will not be offended if you ask him or her to recommend another style or teacher that may be a better fit for what you are seeking right now. Be open yet tactful about your needs, what it is you are looking to accomplish, and what it is that is not resonating with you in the class. A teacher shouldn’t change their teaching style to fit a particular student, but a skilled one will find ways to modify or approach a particular student’s needs. This may help you realize what you needed can be found in their class, and, if not, a good teacher will recommend another teacher and/or style to try.
Then keep trying! There truly is a style of yoga for everyone.