In Praise of Coaches and Teachers

Without teachers and coaches, we risk injury or missing our potential, writes Sage Rountree.

Even though I’m both a coach and a yoga teacher, I rely on a coach and yoga teachers of my own. Combining their lessons with my own personal practice and experience deepens my understanding and abilities in sports and in yoga. While development as an athlete and a yogi depends on regular self-study and dedicated practice, many of the quantum leaps that bring us to the next level come from working with a coach or teacher.

Among the reasons to work with a coach and a teacher:

Technical skill. While natural talent and excitement for the practice are important, without a good foundation of technical skill, we risk injury or missing our potential. Coaches and teachers make sure we understand the basic building blocks of movement, so that we can build on them safely. Once we have these basics down, coaches and teachers help us refine our skill. This can be as simple as a cue on how you hold your racquet or your head, as minute as a quarter-inch adjustment, and as powerful as months or years of undirected practice.

Motivation and inspiration. Left to our own devices, we can grow complacent, following the same routines, running the same routes, practicing the same poses. Coaches and teachers motivate us to move beyond our perceived boundaries and into new places we might be afraid to try on our own. Did you achieve your first handstand on your own, or with a teacher’s guidance (and possibly physical support)? We rely on our teachers to push us when we need it.

Pulling back. Conversely, sometimes we push ourselves too hard. An outside observer can sit us on the bench for a breather, or guide us into Child’s Pose. When we are self-judgmental, a coach or teacher can reassure us, giving us context and helping us with perspective.

Finley Peter Dunne described the role of the journalist as comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. That’s what a good coach and a good teacher will do for you: they’ll help you move beyond your current state and grow more. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in a yoga class, or if you’ve considered taking a lesson or working with a coach, look into it more deeply. It can be the key to new growth.