The great thing about Barbie is that she can be anything she wants to be. Yes, she’s that cool. Such a strong woman. Naturally, if Barbie decides she wants to be a yoga teacher, she can be just that. (In case you’ve missed this exciting piece of news, read on here).
So the question is: Do you think Barbie is a good yoga teacher? Okay, I know what you’re saying. She’s a doll. But let’s forget about that for a second, let’s just look at her. What do you see?
Or even better, let’s go to a book store (I know, bear with me, please). So we’re right in front of all these shelves, looking at book covers. Maybe some books are highlighted by the shop and put on a nice little extra shelf, so that we won’t miss them. There’s the sales person as well. “May I help?” – “Ahem, thanks, just browsing.” We look at the covers. Their colours. The type of font the publisher has used. The thickness of the book. We read the description on the back, have a quick flip through, decide to buy it. Or not. The decision is based on so many random things. Did we spot the book because it’s featured in a certain way? Did we buy it because we liked the way it feels when we hold it? Because we like the cover picture?
I hear you. How superficial. But hey, there are thousands of books just in this one store. How to choose?
Back to yoga. How do you choose a teacher? Remember the book store? The teacher might be featured by a studio that decided to promote him or her. There’s leaflets. Emails to existing clients. Pictures of the teacher in a fancy pose coming with them. A short description of a workshop. A short teacher bio is included. We look at the photo. We might have heard the name before. Maybe a friend’s recommendation? That’s a good enough reason, no?
Maybe not. How many times were you disappointed by a book by this oh-so-famous author you just didn’t click with. A friend offers you a book that “changed my life, seriously, you have to read this” – and you can’t get beyond page 50?
Only YOU can choose the books you love. Only YOU can choose your teacher. All that shopping around that’s going on nowadays, just for the sake of being able to state that you’ve practised with x number of teachers, or with famous teacher A, B, C, Y and Z – that’s just awful. A book is great because it’s great in the way it relates to you. A great teacher relates to you on a personal level. Booking that work shop with 50 participants, your mat somewhere stuck at the back between other students the teacher has never seen before – sure, it’s nice enough to go to an author reading, but the author will only ever explain how the piece relates to him/her or how he/she thinks this might resonate with the general public.
Most of us are really picky when choosing which book to spend our precious time with. We seem to be less choosy when it comes to our yoga teachers. We pop in a class once in a while and expect the teacher to work wonders. To give us the appropriate adjustment. To lead us on the path. We think this teacher is great because he/she looks great (hello, Barbie!), the flyers and ads looked good, we liked the photo with the advanced posture, or simply because this is the only time slot a week we have available for yoga, so it needs to be that class, choice made.
Let me be really straight forward here. While it’s always great to meet famous teachers just because it’s so special to practise in their presence, and most of them are so gifted that we benefit from their adjustments and advice even though they’ve never seen us before and most likely will have forgotten us the second we walk out that door – this is not the way forward.
If a teacher doesn’t know your name, your previous injuries, what your practice was like 6 months ago, what’s your attitude with which you approach your practice, how often you do your home practice, what comes easy to you, and what doesn’t - you won’t get the best teaching experience this teacher can give you.
Having said that, the teacher who is perfect now might not be anymore once you move on. Remember that book someone offered to you when you were 16 and you hated it? You just couldn’t see what was supposed to be so special about it. Because it was a gift, you kept it on the shelf, and for some reason, ten years later, you decide to give it another go. You’re 26 now, and you absolutely love it. You can make perfect sense of the story, the characters, it just touches something deep inside you, something you didn’t even know was there.
Find the teacher who is able to do that. And if after years you feel it’s time to move on, then just move on. A good teacher will recognise before you when the student has outgrown him or her. An honest teacher will tell the student.
When you start looking for your new teacher, look beyond the cover. Maybe your new teacher is in her 50ies, but has a breathtaking wealth of experience, even though she can’t do hand stands anymore (but she can give you the perfect verbal clues on how to do them!). Maybe your new teacher is not a size 6, but can relate to the eating disorder you developed when you were in your twenties. Maybe your new teacher is a foreigner and can relate to you not knowing the English word for every single bone and muscle in the body. Or maybe, maybe – it just FEEEEEELS right. But this you will hardly know after only one session, or if you only pop by for a class every once in a while.
Find the good teachers. Not the good looking (and oh dear, that’s NOT the same).So that we won’t end up with studios full of Barbie yoga teachers!
So let’s get up and do our practice, no matter what we look like!