I was just speaking with a friend regarding choices we make about who we select as our teacher(s). There are so many styles of Yoga and types of people teaching it. First you have to find a teacher that offers a type of Yoga that appeals to you. Then it's important to find someone who actually knows what they're doing.
This might sound crazy, but anyone can spend 2 days at a workshop and walk away with a sheet of paper calling them a "certified Yoga teacher." (While looking for a link to show you one of these pathetic offerings, I found worse. You can actually buy a Yoga certification. That's right, for just $49.99 you can buy "the ExpertRating Yoga Instructor Certification". Sounds like you pay money, they send you a manual, you take a written online test (based off the manual), and then your certificate is sent out.) With that said, I've had teachers with no certification and some with Yoga Alliance approved certification--requiring at least 200 hours of training in various subsets of Yoga, such as anatomy and philosophy. In many cases, the one with less formal training is better. All that training doesn't make you a great teacher, but hopefully you at least understand alignment and Yoga a little better. Again, I've found this is not always the case.
My friend currently attends a class with a very knowledgeable woman. We'll call her Mary. Mary has studied Iyengar Yoga with Iyengar and many of his senior teachers for 30 years. She leads a well-structured class and has a firm understanding of how to guide students. My friend feels safe in this class and appreciates how Mary is able to watch and ensure folks don't overextend themselves. Sounds great, right? The catch is that after class, Mary is a judgemental and mean person. This really bothers my friend and she's questioning whether-or-not to continue attending a class given by someone that she can't respect or like as a person. There is another teacher, in the Anusara style, that she can go to. This gal is very sweet and nice, but she keeps stressing the class to go a little further--take it deeper. I have heard this frequently in Anusara--constant encouragement to "take it to the next level." (A blog topic for another day.) My friend is concerned that she could easily get hurt in such a class.
Who does my friend go to? The meanie that actually knows how to teach or the kind woman that pushes too far?
I also struggle with this. There is a teacher that really knows his stuff. But he is pretentious and (in my opinion) looks down on many of his students. In many ways he wants to be treated as a guru (see my post on gurus and Doug Keller's post--much more profound than mine). When seated in class on the floor for even 3-4 hours, you are not to straighten your legs as he says it is disrespectful to point your feet at him. Lying down, even if your body aches from sitting so long, is out of the question. I honor his classroom and do as he requests. However, there are a number of things he says that tell me his ego is inflated like an oversized beach ball. Not the kind of guy I'd like to hang around with. The catch is, he has so much knowledge that can help me improve as a teacher and in my practice of Yoga. Ethically, I'm a bit torn as to whether-or-not I will study with him in 2008.
John Friend says and does a lot of things. Some of which I am strongly against and some of which I agree. He once said that after you've been practicing for a while, to stop and look at your life. Are you a more compassionate, understanding, kind, and loving person? Or are you self-centered, judgemental, uncaring, or cruel? If you find the latter to be true, then look at your practice. Alter and use your practice to help you become more compassionate and caring in your life. This is good stuff. And that is where my question comes in.
If these teachers truly understand Yoga and practice it in a heartful way, then why are their egos so big and their judgements so quick? Is it best to only learn from a teacher that emanates compassion and love? What if you do not respect their way of life? Is it important, or even necessary, to respect or admire how they live their life, or does it not matter once the mats are rolled up and put away? Is it wisest to turn a blind eye to that person outside of class while still honoring, respecting, and learning from the knowledge they have acquired during class? If we ignore the teachers that don't suit us on a personal or ethical level, are we 'throwing out the baby with the bathwater?'
More questions than answers today.
Any insights are much appreciated.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life!