Yoga Teacher Loyalty

As both a student and a teacher of yoga I’ve observed the tendency for students to develop an affinity to a certain teacher’s style and loyally follow that teacher. As a student I have found several teachers over the years in which I found the guidance that I needed at the time and therefore attended their classes as often as I could. As a teacher, it is a wonderful affirmation to develop relationships with students that enjoy your classes and attend regularly. This teacher loyalty may serve the student by allowing them to progress down a certain path or improve their practice of a specific style of yoga. At some point, however, can teacher loyalty become limiting, like being stuck in a rut?

There’s a theory about students and teachers that says a teacher receives the students that they are prepared to teach. By the same token, I think that students can benefit by being receptive to the teachers that come to them. That’s not to say that to be a good yogi every student must love every teacher from whom they take a class. I’ve certainly had the experience of finding teachers that did not resonate with me for one reason or another. I’ve also found that if I allow myself to accept that teacher, despite whatever aspect of their teaching style or personality that I find challenging, I learn something from them.

It’s important to remember that each yoga instructor brings different influences to their teaching. They may follow different schools of yoga or focus on different aspects of the broad and diverse practice of yoga. Experimenting with different teachers may expand a student’s yogic horizon and introduce them to a new pose, practice or approach that will have a positive impact on their yoga practice and their life.

I’ve seen students disengage from a class if there is a substitute teacher, or stop coming to yoga class altogether if a favorite instructor is no longer teaching. I have to question this kind of response. It suggests to me that some yoga students think there is a right or wrong way of teaching yoga, or that there is only one way that they care to practice yoga. To my way of thinking, such viewpoints are contrary to the philosophy of yoga.

There are so many styles and approaches to yoga and its teaching, and all of them have value. Perhaps if a new teacher crosses your path there is something for you to learn from them. Try to let your mind be open and consider that different is not necessarily bad.

It’s possible that something that new teacher has to offer is exactly what you need at the time. Maybe you have a recent injury or medical condition, and this new teacher introduces you to a new pose, or mentions the benefits of a familiar pose, that can alleviate your pain. Maybe you’ve been under a lot of stress in recent weeks, and although your usual practice with your favorite teacher is quite fast-paced and challenging, the substitute has a gentler style which allows you to find some much needed relaxation. As the song goes, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

I’m not asking that you break up with your favorite yoga teacher, but give yourself the opportunity to consider that another teacher may also have something to offer you.