If you have chosen yoga as your career or path in life, and you are committed to it, the one tool you will need along the way — along with perseverance — is an experienced teacher who is passionate about their work and who truly cares about your personal development. Choosing the right mentor can have great benefits, because this could be the one person who guides you, advises you and encourages you when you need it the most.

Why mentorship?

Mentorship is an important element of someone’s personal and career development. Having the opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes is a gift. Mentorship is meant to enhance your learning experience through one-on-one interactions with someone who possesses years of experience and knowledge.

Who can be your mentor?

The answer is anyone. A mentor can be your guru, your friend or your grandfather. A mentor should have extensive experience, a variety of life experiences, the right motivation, dedication and passion to help you grow as an individual. Commitment, on both sides, is the key to a successful learning process, which may include monthly meetings, follow-up conversations or hands-on experiences.

How do you know he/she is the right mentor?

Often we look up to people, we appreciate them and respect them for a variety of reasons. But finding the right mentor can take time, and it should be a careful selection process. Just because someone is incredibly knowledgeable, doesn’t mean they are the right mentor for you. It’s likely you will realize that the right mentor is someone who encourages you to achieve your goals, but also challenges you, while allowing space for personal growth.

As Robert Frost said: “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” It is important to keep this in mind while choosing your mentor as he/she is there to accompany you in your journey, not to tell you how to think or what to do, but to help you discover that for yourself.

Qualities to look for in a mentor?

A mentor should be someone who is has years of experience, is well informed, has strong analytical skills, is cultured, has patience and is humble — being modest is one of the most important lessons in itself. All of these qualities are very important, among enthusiasm, since your mentor affects how you perceive the teachings.

“Be strong enough to [receive] positive criticism and cautions, as well as encouragement and direction,” said Felicity Green. Green has practiced yoga since 1962 and has taught Iyengar yoga since 1970.

Constructive feedback is designed to serve as advice, not as personal insult, so don’t take it as that. You should be an observant, too. This learning process is a two-way street.

“Nobody is perfect, but a mentor should have an ethical life, as that is the basis of yoga. [He/she] should also be someone you want to emulate, but remember to become your own authentic self,” Green added.

The transformation

At a certain point, you will feel that you are beginning to change. This is also the moment where your learning will escalate; you should be prepared for this important moment. This is when your mentor may get tougher and push you right into the heart of the change; he/she may challenge your way of thinking and you may end up changing or re-evaluating old values and perspectives.

“The physical aspect of the Asanas intends for you to get to know your body and bring it into good balance and health,” Green said. “Learning from your tendencies — to overdo, be competitive, underperform and knowing your strengths and weaknesses — will create balance.”

Reaching this moment of transformation, with the right mentor, will happen sooner than you think. Embrace the change and utilize your new capabilities, visions and qualities.

Being a yoga mentor

If you have reached that point in your life where you feel accomplished and eager to share your knowledge, it is important to do so with a student who is willing to go the extra mile to learn, work and engage. The study of yoga is complex, with its physicality, philosophy and mental elements, so sharing best practices is a must. Do not forget that we are all students, despite our age.

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward,” said American Cinematographer Conrad Hall.

Reaching wisdom is a virtue, and being able to share your knowledge and understanding of the yoga practice is a gift, not only to your student, but to the practitioners whom your student might teach in the future. It is only through an open mind and a willingness to grow that you can reach your highest potential.

[Photo by Dietmar Temps – CC BY]

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