choosing a Yoga instructor

“so there it is work it out for yourself, BE SELECTIVE, be OBJECTIVE… be an asset to the collective, as you know you gotta get a life” ~ Jazzy B

You don’t learn about what it means to be a teacher on one teacher training course.  You come away with LOTS of enthusiasm for the great unknown in front of you but have little or no idea how to hold a safe space for students.

When us young Yogi adventurers first qualified we had no interest in ‘how many hours’ our training entailed.  We just wanted to get the right training to become Bikram Yoga teachers whatever that entailed so that we could facilitate others gaining the benefits we were feeling.  We wanted EVERYONE to feel the way we did.  We believed (and still do) that this amazing Yoga we practice can change the world and we desperately wanted to be part of other people’s Bikram Yoga journeys and witness that joy arising on their realisation of what a treasure they had found.

In the new millennium we watched as the ‘world blinked and suddenly, en masse, seemed to catchup and see’ just how good Yogasana was for a body. There was no going back, it was like a new Yoga zeitgeist and with that realisation and spirit we saw the demand for teachers of Yoga skyrocket.  About a decade into my Yoga journey I heard whispers… people speaking about ‘200 hours’… what what? I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about? ‘200 hours’ seemed to be some sort of ‘goal’ or ‘standard’ to them. I also watched with some interest (not a lot, but some) as the Yoga Alliances of the world tried to establish themselves as some sort of authority and then more recently ‘disclaim’ that intention as people discovered it did not meet their ‘club membership expectations’.  Of course they did not deliberately mislead the younger, perhaps less worldly Yogis into believing they were practically, essentially a ‘must have’ membership in order to function as a Yoga teacher. Of course not. Seriously, how would they have policed their members? I just don’t know WHY so many young/new teachers and students thought that the YAs of the world were the regulatory/licensing body of the Yoga world.  Whether they knew it or not they were all happy to tout the ‘YA brand’ as a marketing hook on their pages (look we are valid because we have this big organisation behind us) You get their Logo to put on your site/page to make it all look so much more official. (As a controlled experiment a few years back I ‘joined’ for couple years, got their logo ‘Senior Yoga Teacher’ (which I never shared), could never access my profile/account to make updates/changes in the nearly 2 years with them and had to use very firm language to ensure they did not continue to take money out of my account for membership.  When you run a bricks ‘n mortar studio where the ESSENTIAL overheads run high you very quickly spot the ‘outgoing’ that has no value to the practitioners whatsoever and recognize it for what it is, a money grab.

Through the YAs we saw the fast proliferation of those ‘200 hour trainings’. These are VERY attractive to trainers and trainees. The ‘200 hour’ standard created an entire industry; Yoga is a highly lucrative business for some: as an ‘industry’ (shiver) it is worth $80 BILLION worldwide!!! Aside from the ‘product’ side of things (incense to designer Yoga clothing) much of that money is generated by the Yoga teacher training side of things.  Anyone can become a Yoga teacher (for the right fee) and NOW that ‘anyone’ can tick the right boxes on a computer to register/set up a teacher training programme (for the right fee).   You tick a few boxes to demonstrate you fit the criteria, write a little ‘profile’ paragraph, you pay to register and then an annual fee to maintain ‘registered status’ and voila! You are a ‘registered’ Yoga Teacher Training Course Teacher! one might be forgiven for thinking that much of these trainings are encouraged by these ‘Registrars’ so they can earn their registration fees… mmmmm {for more musings on yoga alliances ‘motives’ click here ‘Thats not MY yoga alliance…}

We have born witness to some teacher training graduates weirdly exaggerating their ‘experience’ on the mat in their bid to attract yogi practitioners (one I saw even added a decade without even a blink!!!).  Our minds have been boggled as we observe the quick and easy disregard (albeit we are sure temporary) of Yoga ethics by ‘Yoga teachers’ in order to meet their own gain/end whatever that is, as they pander to what they think people will want to hear about their potential Yoga teacher.  I saw one style themselves as a ‘guru’ !!!  At first I thought this was tongue in cheek and then realised OMG it wasn’t! Some might say it was their ‘marketing person’ who wrote that about them! (these things are often written in the third person).  Even so, don’t tell me you don’t have ‘sign off’ on what is said about you on your own business’ website. In fact you would not believe some of the stuff we have seen written/heard about what people are using to market themselves. Some of them call it ‘business’ ‘marketing’ ‘essential to survival’.  Bottom line: They are just not following the spirit of Yoga and it is so obvious.  Even worse is that so many practitioners appear to fall for it OR recognise it but don’t believe that it is something that they need to be discriminating about.

I trained in various lineages and styles some of which do not subscribe to the YA 200 hour model.  Be clear. 200 hours can be the beginning of Yoga learning (you have to start somewhere) or a ‘continuing/stepping stone’ of Yoga learning but it can never be ‘all’ of Yoga training.  We have never kept a ‘timesheet’ of all the courses or studying we have done in relation to Yoga. We have always and will continue to study and re-study our Yoga philosophy (me because I have a goldfish like brain) and refresh our memory frequently on Yoga ethics because this is not something that can be abandoned after ‘200 Hours’.  We recognise our own rights AND responsibilities over how we shape our lives.  We are grown ups and acknowledge our own built in moral sense and we nurture it by consciously setting our own minimum standards for ethical living on our path to Self Realisation. We use standard tools to help with this that have travelled through generations; we are Yoga practitioners so what would those minimum standards/tools be? Mmmmm.  Now let me see… wait for it… drumroll please… ‘THE YOGA SUTRAS’.  Surprize!   Sometimes we fall short of them and then play catchup.  I’d say we police ourselves and each other, but do we really need policing in order to stop us from behaving in a way that goes against our personal moral standards? I desperately want to believe that I do not need such surveillance but sometimes, in the world we live in, if our moral sense gets overwhelmed (if we get confused about/forget who we are in the structure of society that we are living in) we will then discuss and run our decisions through the ‘Yoga ethics’ filter first (it always turns out that our base moral voice was correct but sometimes so much ‘white noise’ gets in the way as to muffle it a bit).

The Yoga Sutras enshrine the ethics we want to live by and need to conduct our business by. We believe practicing these should be the ‘minimum standard’ for Yoga teachers and no authority is going to be able to police that.  THE STUDENTS CAN ‘THO. Be discriminating. Do your research folks: DON’T BE FOOLED by grandiosness and YA/marketing hooks and don’t override your inner voice speaking your truth.

For those who are fond of numbers I do know we have taught 449 classes in 2017 alone. Whether there were 2, 10 or 20 people those classes happened ~ WE ARE HERE TO PROVIDE A SERVICE after all ~ we don’t cherry pick the classes that suit us and pay our overheads; the classes have to suit you. The busier classes pad out the quieter class shortfalls and we take it as it comes.  This year, 2018, I have been practicing Yoga for 20 years (with a 4 year hiatus {well publicised because I talked non-stop and loudly about ‘missing my mat and public class practice’; I continued a home practice for a year into that period so} really a 3 years sacrifice that, with hindsight, was invaluable to highlight the mental therapeutic benefits of a Yoga practice i.e. it contrasted beautifully life with Bikram Yoga, life without Bikram Yoga and that time served to strengthen my belief in what we are doing so I now consider that ‘time off’ a gift that was essential part of my Yoga journey/practice if you like 🙂  . Darren has been practicing for 19 years.  Between us we have ’35-39 years’ (whichever way you look at it 😉 ) regular practice, thousands of hours teaching, thousands of hours training in Yoga and complimentary to Yoga therapies/studies.  We have had ample time to experience the ups and the equally important downs of the Yoga world or more specifically Yoga studio business life.   Between us we have been trained by Bikram Choudhury, Swami Kailasananda, Christiane Kerr, Asana Andiappan, Craig Villani, Tom Myers, Mary Jarvis, Christian Scaraglino, Judith Lasater amongst other experts in their related to Yoga lifestyle fields. We have trained in the company of Yogis who are now little Yogi superstars (an oxymoron I know) in their own right. Does any of this sound impressive? Maybe/not.   Sometimes you have to let students know where you have been but ‘writing your history’ could easily turn into a grandiosing tragedy for those who let the bendy rules of marketing dictate flexibility with fact!  Read on… a few of these trainings were only for one weekend. That’s only two days folks! but which ones? And does it matter. YES IT DOES. By deliberately omitting something that is really relevant here (like a few of these listed was just 2 days of training, 2.days., that is minimal!) people might infer something is ‘more’ than it is, but the names are casually dropped into the middle of a sentence deliberately constructed (in this instance as an example) to imply ‘more’ ‘grander’. Lost in the ‘more image’ it is also an essential part of the subtle implication of ‘you might be getting more’ that has almost become standard marketing practice.

Read the previous paragraph.  We have had these trainings but NONE of this makes us automatically: good, clever and competent people or instructors.  In the coming year folks please BEWARE of all the subtle enhancing, grandiosing and relevant ‘omissions’ in the marketing paraphernalia.

More importantly, we try to walk the talk.  ‘Trying’ as a practice can involve error and we have many ‘Tales of Error’ told in other blogs (written and yet to come).  Darren and I will continue to take Yoga training courses because we love learning and we want to be better at what we do for ourselves but primarily to better serve our dedicated student community on their mats.  We KNOW it will probably never be enough; but we will continue.  It is Darren’s turn to go off on some fresh training… He is going where the Bengal Tiger lives… But more about that next week…

Love Trisha

Om Om Om “when enough people make false promises the words stop meaning anything” ~ Jon Snow


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *