other than optional attendance at class, and carries no involvements for the teacher outside of class time. Such teachers may be long time qualified and experienced, newly qualified and little experienced, or not even qualified and experienced at all. They may be academy trained and appointed, or self taught and self appointed in their role. They may or may not be an initiate of a yoga master, and therefore part of a traditional lineage. Sometimes, in addition to general yoga classes, a teacher may offer more personal tuition and may guide the student on a one to one basis in their practice. This may or may not include lifestyle guidance. Even at this level, the teacher still remains a professional acquaintance.
Some of these yoga teachers are very, very good. They can take their students a long way in both technique and yoga experience. But unless they have the authority and expertise to enter into a deeper spiritually guiding relationship with the student, or to pass the student on to someone who can, then that student will stagnate at a certain point. A student can become a very advanced Hatha yogi purely by attending a weekly class and doing their home practice. They can do all kinds of asana things, breathing things and meditation things but yet, they are still far from a depth of yogic understanding. There always comes a point in one's yoga evolution where another completely different range of experience and learning is necessary, and this is the point when one awakens to the possibility of needing a spiritual teacher.
Some yoga teachers are also intentional spiritual teachers. I use the word "intentional" since all yoga teachers are actually helping people grow spiritually, simply by disseminating the practices. Such a teacher would have the purest of intentions and only be sharing their knowledge with the student to put them in touch with the broader picture of yoga outside the usual class material. Their relationship with students (either those who ask, or sometimes all who present) includes teaching true spiritual knowledge. Bona fide spiritual teachers always have their own guru and you will sense a source of energy and knowledge coming from beyond themselves. Such a teacher may, with the best intentions, be drawing that student towards their own teacher (living or passed on), to offer them assistance beyond their own capabilities.
But sometimes the waters can become muddy. Some spiritual teachers may be neophyte disciples, "collecting" (followers and / or money) on behalf of an organisation. Or worst of all, they may be spinning a web of self interest which
leads the student nowhere other than into the teacher's own egoist world.
Every yoga student has heard stories about, and carries the fears of encountering, those last two types of teacher. This is why so many stay within the first category of impersonal, "non-intentional" spiritual teachers. "I just want the yoga - no spiritual guidance" they say, and this level of yoga will serve them well - up to a point.
Like all things, one can first learn yoga from a friend, a book, a tape, a TV program, in a class, in a Yoga Therapy consultation, or at a retreat. Finding a basic yoga teacher is not hard. Try the yellow pages under "Y". But finding one who teaches in a way which really works well for you, and one who can take you a long way with yoga may involve some trial and error. My best advice is to ask around those who have tried different schools and teachers, try anything and everything at least once and see what fits best. And as you do, be on the lookout for a yoga style or a yoga school which feels like "home". Be not distracted by the decorations of the venue, diplomas on the wall, photos with famous masters, spinal flexibility, exotic names or titles, or "years in the business". Like the old saying - "You can best judge the tree by its fruits" - one good indicator can be the feeling you get from other students in that school. But remember above all, you are looking for an experience which melds with your soul irrespective of all such externals. You are looking for something or someone who can take you closer to the state of yoga, not just tell you what it means and show you a few things to do along the way.
Shopping around, testing the waters, playing it safe and above all trusting to intuition are the best insurances against falling for charlatans. And have faith that eventually you will find a teacher who is truly knowledgeable, highly skilled, deeply sincere and completely honest.
In Chapter 1, I discussed the definition and role of a guru in general terms, and likened the role of the mother to that of a guru. Here I am speaking in terms of the yogi's guru, the spiritual seeker's guru, a master teacher who guides an adult individual deeply into themselves, through the tangled complexities of ignorance and self awareness, and out the other side to a state of self transcendence. I believe it is the mother's role to initiate this journey in her children as early in their life as she can, by showing them her own devotion