Finding a place to study and a teacher to study with is important. There are definitely ways to “vet” any new-to-you yoga instructor. By asking the right questions, you can find a match that’s right for you.
Is there a certain certification level they should have? What is it?
Yoga is an unregulated industry. Unlike doctors, lawyers, or accountants, there is no state or national governing board that sets rigorous standards for yoga professionals and their training.
While Yoga Alliance, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization works to ensure knowledgeable instruction, they do not provide testing nor set minimum safety standards for yoga teachers (Kate, you might read a little more about them at yogaalliance.org).
The increase in the popularity of yoga and the subsequent demand for yoga teachers means that buyers need to be curious and beware. We need additional benchmarks for distinguishing skillful teachers from unskilled ones. Voluntary registration with a recognized professional association like Yoga Alliance is the minimum certification that a teacher should have.
What questions should you ask the studio if you call ahead?
The school’s approach: are the classes vigorous? Are there classes specifically for beginners? You want to have some idea of what you’re getting into before you go, to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
- The average size of the class (more experienced and popular teachers usually have large classes, and thus less time to work with individuals, while novice teachers who might be a little rough around the edges usually have small classes but more opportunities to give you personal attention).
- If you have any physical problems or limitations, briefly describe them and ask if the teacher feels has worked with these problems.
What should you look for on a website?
- Credentials: training, certifications, teaching experience, and ongoing education
- Photos: if the website is filled with photos of skinny little yoginis sitting in pretzel poses, you might wonder
What are some studio sights that should send you running (ie messiness, lack of lighting, lack of?? or whatever comes to mind).
- Messiness for sure
- A lack of yoga props
- I saw a sign outside a yoga studio once that said something like, “Don’t leave your values in your car or in the studio.” Really?! Like I want to practice yoga in the hood! . . .I saw another sign that said, “We encourage women to walk together in groups to their cars after dark.” Not so much!
Should you talk to people who have practiced yoga there?
Is it acceptable to call the studio and ask for references?
Yes! If possible, ask to talk to the owner. You’ll learn a lot about the studio and the teachers from him/her.
Should you start with a one-class pass before committing to more? etc.
Sure. You would try a restaurant only once before; you probably wouldn’t go back to a dentist that had a creepy vibe. We need to encourage people to really investigate their options and find a fit that feels right to them.