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5 Signs of a Bad Yoga Teacher

Erica Rodefer Winters describes less-than-desirable qualities to be wary of in a yoga teacher.

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what sets the really great yoga teachers apart from the rest. This week, I’ll explore some of the things that make teachers not so good.


But before I jump in, let me say this: We’re all human. And I really believe that most people—and most yoga teachers—have the best of intentions. Yoga teachers, like everyone else, have bad days sometimes. And even the greatest teachers have to start as inexperienced, beginning teachers who are finding their voices. So just because your teacher has one or two of these qualities it doesn’t mean she can’t teach you something, but please do proceed with caution.

Here are a few less-desirable qualities in a yoga teacher.

He is unsure of himself. When I first finished my teacher training, I had no idea what I was doing. Actually, I knew a lot—but I didn’t feel like I knew enough. I was afraid I’d tell someone the wrong answer, and I was even more afraid that someone would call me out. I’m sure most teachers go through this at first, and it’s not all bad—it means they want to do a good job! When I stopped focusing on saying and doing everything perfectly and started paying more attention to my students’ experiences, I became a much better teacher.

She knows everything. The flip side of the unsure teacher is the teacher who is overconfident in his or her teaching skills. This might be harder to spot—especially for students who are newer to the practice—but if you never see any signs of humility after a few classes it might be time to start asking questions. If you never hear “I don’t know,” be wary of the answers you hear. Nobody knows everything. And the belief that one does know everything can really make it hard to learn and grow—something that great teachers never stop doing.

He makes the class about him. He talks more than he listens. He seems more interested in showing you how great his own practice is than helping you cultivate your own. He spends most of the class bragging about his famous teachers. Or maybe he consistently teaches poses that the class isn’t ready for just to feed his ego by watching jaws drop when he demonstrates the pose.

She insists that you practice a pose a particular way without giving any good reasons or explanations. “Because I said so” might be a perfectly acceptable reason for parents in dealing with children, but yoga teachers shouldn’t be asking their students to do anything without a good reason. And they should be able to explain the reason behind a pose, a sequence, or any technique, if asked.

He leads class, but he doesn’t teach the students in front of him. There are definitely people who would prefer to go to a yoga class, practice the poses that a teacher calls out, and never have any interaction beyond that. I completely understand the desire. But even teachers who are more focused on the experience than the alignment should be mindful of who’s in the room and try to give them something they can work on so they’ll come away with a better understanding of the practice.

What are the biggest yoga teacher no-nos you’ve noticed?