Well there are first a lot of sub-questions? To help you better, let me contemplate this a
bit. To someone who asks me, I would answer:
“What kind of Yoga are you talking about? Yoga has become a homonym, a word having
many different meanings to different people. This is the first problem.
If you look for “Yoga” in the context of physical exercise and fitness, the answer is short:
find someone who has understanding of the physical body, i.e. is well versed in physical
anatomy and knows the physical implications; i.e. has been trained by a reputable
organisation to be just that.
However to me this is Not Yoga, and this is NOT what the issue is about! Yoga is a path
to understand ourselves and the world we live in, to great depth and thus expand our
conditioned limited mind and finally get beyond this conditioning altogether to merge
with the Greater (mind-field/Absolute/Reality/God or whatever word suits your personal
and cultural background). It is thus a philosophy and a psychology that is as old as
mankind and the most respect codifying of that wisdom teaching is available as the Yoga
Sutras of Patanjali (but is not limited to that extending to further ancient scriptures).
Now if we understand that, and we look for a qualified Yoga Teacher in this art and
science, we are looking for much more than an instructor in physical education. So how
to go about finding one? You can start in your local environment and simply choose
one that “speaks to you”, then the work starts: Find out as much about the teacher as
possible beforehand. It is not his “knowledge of physical asana “which makes him a good
teacher, but whether that person has applied the wisdom of Yoga to himself and thus
there is integrity between teacher and taught.
What does it mean…it means how the teacher behaves with his family, friends, students…
is an indication whether he applies Yoga as a way of life, a path of spiritual un-foldment
to his/her own life.In other words whether Yoga is just a source of earning money… or
whether Yoga has become a tool/method to change one’s life. It’s “whether he/she walks
her talk”; it doesn’t mean any of us is perfect, but are there indications that we live what
We can observe this not only by finding out about the teacher, but also by simply looking
at the person/teacher. There is much that the body language reveals…Someone who is
very flexible…(good looking/fit) and can perform all sorts of exquisite contortions.. is not
necessarily a good Yoga-practioner or teacher. Look at the body in a different way…if the
person comes a cross as a being of centeredness, tranquillity and focus…then there is a
I would further suggest, that you then take one or two lessons…”just to find out”.
In these lessons observe, rather than keenly starting your own development: observe the
interaction between student and teacher; it should be governed by love and respect, but
also by an ingredient which I would call empathy. Has the teacher the ability to feel into
the body and psyche of the student to guide from within understanding, rather than from
opposing outer form and drill! This is very important for your own future development!
Observe too how and what is actually taught, is it simply exercise (asana) however sincere
and knowledgeable… or has the session wider components, so that the student is guided
beyond the mere physical: i.e.
- does the session encourage the practice of asana (Hatha Yoga) to connect into deeper
levels of your existence energetically and psychologically.
- does the session include pranayama (work with breath)
- does the session contain elements of reflection/studying a line or a verse
from the scriptures (even chanting) yet (more than simply the common prayer to
- does the session contain any guidance towards ethical principals that bring a more
peaceful mind and way of living in the world
- does the session include deep relaxation as a preparation for Meditation/Yoga Nidra.
Are the latter higher practices regular part?
Underlying all this is the question: Do you feel the sessions can help you to discover more
about yourself and bring harmony and peace to your relationship/your being in the world;
of being with yourself, and of leading you beyond your ego-self? Now a qualified teacher
can only be that one who applies that in his/her own life!
Now comes the next level: Once you have verified this by your own assessment, the
qualification the teacher has, as a written piece of paper are secondary! But because
our mind gets easily fooled, it is good to have this “back-up”.
You can see that I try to enabling yourself to choose a good teacher, and certificates
become relative unimportant, because ..they are easily obtained (you all know, we can
become a “certified Yoga Teacher” in a few weekends….but that’s not it!!!). You see Yoga
is empowering you..to grow to your true human potential… not just following a fashion.
Then comes another level, of inquiry: there are various schools/traditions who give out
certificates . Be aware, there are no short-cuts to personal development on the spiritual
path (and that is what Yoga is) there are no short-cuts. To find a reputable “school
or tradition” one way is to look at its history… how far does it go back…I can invent a
new yoga today and sell it… or I can rely on the wisdom traditions that go back to the
beginning of time. Ultimately it’s our choice. But as children of modern materialistic
societies we think what is new is best… but think of medicine and research, even
economics… what has not been test is questionable even dangerous. So be aware! And
the test for Yoga, the kind of Yoga, as well as for the teacher of Yoga is whether they really
bring people to the goal of being a more peaceful, integrated person that can function
with peace and love within this world.
So once you find a Tradition/lineage that suits you and your temperament and your sense
of being then ask them to provide a list of teachers in your area. For example we/the
tradition I belong to is the Himalayan Yoga Tradition as taught in our life-times by Swami
Rama and guided by Swami Veda Bharati. We have trained Yoga teachers across the world
on all the above mentioned areas…we could recommend a teacher in your part of the
world if you want us to. But even then… look with your own awareness…and asses the
teacher before you commit and embark on the exciting journey that a life with Yoga is.
Good luck on your journey!