It is often discussed on the forum how one finds the ?right? yoga teacher, what should be her qualifications and issues like having a crush on the teacher, whether variety of teachers is better than going solo and when is the good reason to dump the teacher. Rarely though one comes across any discussion on the basic issues like the qualifications, duties and responsibilities of a student, the inherent nature of teacher-student relationship and the way we learn any discipline like yoga. The ?teacher? question is handled more in the ?shopping? mode than in a ?mutual commitment? mode.
Yoga student: When a student looks around and judges a yoga teacher after just a few hours of interaction a simple fact is overlooked that a teacher is still senior in training and experience. It is one thing to select a teacher when there are a few to choose from; but when a teacher is simply not liked or judged for some ?odd? behavior subjectively, one is as casual about learning yoga as renting a car. To say that there is not a single thing to learn from any senior person is highly pretentious and makes such a person a ?bad? student. Regularity, urge to learn, passion for practice, humility, desire to transform, perseverance and much more is needed by a student to learn even from the ?best? teacher.
Yoga teacher: Howsoever one may try to ignore or to wish away, yoga is a spiritual path. One can see it as anything else only if there is an overriding personal agenda or a conditioned, anemic view of spirituality. Unlike other religions, yoga upholds a 3-tier model of spirituality of which physical is an integral part and gross asanas go hand in hand with subtle meditation. That?s why yoga can be viewed as absolutely material or absolutely esoteric or anything in between. Being essentially spiritual, a yoga teacher has to have a different kind of relationship with the students. It has to show a much deeper understanding of the psyche and the spirituality than physical wellness. A yoga teacher has to go much beyond the qualifying few hundred hours of training and gain a new insight from own practice everyday. For her, a student is not a mere ?source of revenue? but is a ?source of redemption?. A yoga teacher should know instinctively how far would a student be guided and at what point handed over to the next teacher. If a student has any amount of discomfort it is the teacher who would know that first and care for it. A student is her ?total? responsibility. Such a teacher is called ?guru? and by that yardstick many certified teachers may be just ?demonstrators? of athletic skills. Like a true leadership is not residing in a leader but embedded in the followers? mindsets, a yoga student?s allegiance to a teacher has to be born in the student?s self-view and not on a signed form.
Learning: All our learning is incremental. We learn a new thing only as an addendum to the already known, and also use the known as a filter in the learning process. It is difficult to learn to learn; especially with the pedagogic constraints of school education. Mind plays a catalytic role as well as an indulgent one. So, in learning how we learn we have to use the mind to discover its mischief and finally keep the mind away. In the process we have to change our natural outbound orientation to inbound. An external teacher can help us tremendously in the external practice, but progressively less & less once the student is firmly rooted in the inner domain. In yoga too we get launched like a satellite; need a booster rocket of an external teacher for the initial lift off but the same rocket becomes a drag after reaching a desire altitude. Then, the teacher can only guide, protect and sync leaving the bulk to Ishvara, the inner guru. After all, yoga is considered largely a ?process of unlearning? and how will we ever begin to unlearn by not knowing how we learned in the first place.
Looking at it this way makes it easier to understand why the Vedic literature often assures us that ?your guru will find you ?. It pays to take whosoever happens to be your teacher. Even an ?apparently not-so-good teacher? may fall in certain scheme of things, odd for common sense logic, but will enhance your yoga. Trying situations are meant to be teaching situations.