I have owned a lot of cars. Old cars mostly. Old, weird cars primarily. It is tempting to say that I chose the cars I’ve owned based on some of my own weird old personality quirks. That would be true. I’ve owned cars made in countries that no longer exist - try getting parts for those! But I loved all my cars, even when I was sometimes stranded on the highway calling the Automobile Association for a tow truck, trying to spell out the name and model of the vehicle to an incredulous switchboard operator.
Yoga teachers offer their quirks and particular view of things as they teach even a very physical form of yoga - hatha yoga. If a yoga teacher teaches with sincerity, they offer a unique vehicle. To be effective, that unique vehicle must still have the ability to safely stretch, strengthen and calm the body and mind, just like a car must have the ability to get you where you want to go safely and relatively comfortably.
We often buy cars from large manufacturers. You can go to an Auto Mall and choose from many vehicles. Car salespeople represent one manufacturer, so they have a vested interest in you choosing one of their cars. We have “styles” of yoga, and teachers of that style have a vested interest in promoting the benefits of that style.
A great car salesman would be one that places the interests of the buyer first. The world’s best car saleswoman would ask the potential buyer what they are looking for, assess their needs (4 door? Sports car? Truck? MPG?), and then point them to the vehicle that best suited their needs regardless of manufacture, new or used. Or maybe even suggest taking the bus.
A great yoga teacher would assess a student’s needs in the same way. But in order to do that, the teacher would have to know the benefits and possible detriments of all the different “styles” of yoga. This would require dedication, curiosity, an open mind, a willingness to let go of believing what they teach is superior, and of course they would have to practice daily and reflect on their experience. This could take some time. Yes.
Luckily, hatha yoga styles are a lot like cars from different manufacturers. They are marketed for their unique qualities, often very subjectively with an appeal to emotion. But in reality, we have cars, trucks, station wagons, luxury vehicles, sports cars, and then all the hybridization of those basic categories. Each vehicle has a more or less specific function - speed, comfort, hauling ability - but all must fulfill the primary requirement. They have to get you where you want to go.
Yoga practice is similar. There are ways of practice that include restorative, meditative, active outer movement of the body, active inner movement of more subtle muscles, movement of even more subtle energies, therapeutics for injuries, and the use of sound and vibration. These components appear in the modern brands or styles of yoga and it is these components that need to be understood and practiced by the yoga teacher in order to be fluent, knowledgeable, and able to serve the best interests of the student.
Unlike large vehicle manufactures, yoga teachers have a distinct advantage. That advantage is their own quirks and particular way of being. Those quirks appear as they teach, and if the teacher can recognize the quirks and couple them with a good understanding of yoga and the essential components of practice, they can offer a unique vehicle that will get their student where they want to go, quirks intact. Like the way my old MG's wooden steering wheel felt, or the sound of my Skoda's engine peaking at 85kph. I loved those cars.