babies teaching babies

John Friend and Anusara Yoga have never been my cup of chai but to each their own.  If you get high on the love and lite and kula, knock yourself out.  But I do have to say that I agree with what Friend says in this video.

In my area of far west suburban Chicago, yoga teachers are a dime a dozen.  When I was certified as a teacher almost ten years ago there were basically four studios in Chicago that had TT programs.   Now almost every yoga studio that I know of in the suburbs and Chicago have their own TT program.   The most searched for phrase here is “how much does a yoga teacher make” or something similar (the second most searched for term, which used to be #1, is “naked yoga” but that’s another post.)   My teacher training was not Yoga Alliance registered and neither was my teacher, but he eventually chose to grandfather into the YA because that’s what people looking for TT programs wanted, whether he was a “Yoga Alliance Registered” school.  However, he still thinks the YA is meaningless and so do I.  I let my membership lapse.

To make any money a studio must continually offer workshops or have TT programs.  A studio owner can’t make a living (i.e., support yourself) on only offering group classes (this is in my geographic area, your mileage may vary.)

If I had a dollar for every time someone over the years has told me I should do my own teacher training, I could buy a ticket to India.   I go back and forth on that question and I will admit that one of my reasons for considering it is money.  I made $250 in May teaching privately, not exactly what I call a living.  But ultimately using  money as the primary reason to conduct my own TT never feels right to me.

So with all the TT programs out there, I have to ask: what are the intentions?  Is offering a TT program a studio owner’s dharma?  Friend mentions the word “dharma” more than a few times in this interview and I think that needs to be considered by student, teacher, and teacher trainer.

Like John Friend, I also was a student for 7 years before I did my first teacher training.  Now people who’ve practiced for less than 6 months want to be a teacher.  Why?  Because it seems cool and hip and fun?  And what type of practice do you have?  Do you even meditate?  And yes, I believe every yoga teacher should have a sitting practice of some type.  In fact, if I had my own TT program every participant would be required to do a 3 day silent retreat with me before getting the piece of paper.  That would separate the wheat from the chaff real quick.

When I finished my first 200 hours of training, I felt like I knew nothing.  I felt like an ant at the bottom of the yoga hill.  Even after 15+ years of yoga, 5 trips to India to study with Desikachar and his senior teachers, and 1000+ hours of training (and next year with AG Mohan), I have crawled only slightly up that yoga hill.  I am student first, teacher second.  Yet, there are people half my age conducting yoga teacher trainings in my area whom I know for a fact do not have the training I have.   It confuses me.   The teacher with whom I trained has encouraged me to do my own teacher training, telling me “there are people doing it who don’t know half of what you know.  do it.”

Back in the day in the old school way, you went out to teach when your teacher said you were ready to teach.   That is how the teacher who certified me started teaching — he studied and lived with his guru for 8 years and then was told “go teach.”   I am not saying it has to be like that now, it would not be realistic here.   But now anyone who has had a weekend training or even just an online teacher training (believe it or not) can get hired as a “yoga teacher.”

Does this scare anyone else or is it just me?

I can understand someone wanting to do a teacher training to deepen their practice.  Not everyone who does a TT wants to teach.  Or should.   Friend says that not everyone is right to teach.  What is the person’s aptitude for teaching?  Is there a deeper calling to teach yoga, is it  your dharma?  Or is just something that sounds nice to do because you lost your job?  As for me, I was encouraged to teach by the teacher of my beginner’s yoga class that I took for a few years.  I also truly feel that teaching is my dharma — but that would require a lengthy discussion of my astrological natal chart so I won’t go there. ;)

A 200 hour training is merely the beginning and frankly, I have to ask what is being taught in all these trainings.  I ask this question because I was shocked at the quality of questions coming from people in my last training in India (all westerners.)   After the first days, I felt that the training was “dumbed down” because of these questions.  Many of the participants said they were teachers, but I know that my own students would not ask the types of questions that people were asking.   Their questions made me grateful (again) for my original trainings but then, that was almost 10 years ago and times have changed.

So are recent (i.e., within the last 10 years) yoga teacher trainings now merely diploma mills in the rush to get yoga teachers on the market?  Quantity over quality?

“The reason why yoga is presently skewed towards ekanga (or ardhanga without the breathing component) and not ashtanga is because by and large teachers do not teach the other angas.  When I was in school I heard a quotation which runs something like this: “If a pupil has not learnt, the teacher has not taught”.   Yoga is a rich subject.  Considering its popularity there is no reason why practitioners should not endeavor to go beyond asana practice while still having a very firm asana base. “  — Srivatsa Ramaswami, writing about what he has learned from teaching his 200 hour TT programs        

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73 thoughts on “babies teaching babies

  1. Hey LSK… I also really dug what he said in this video and found that it made me consider a workshop with him where as at WL in VT I walked away from doing one. Maybe that was a mistake.

    I did a local 200H training because it was the ONLY thing I could do with my small kids (it was 1 wknd/month for 10 months). But to be honest it was more an ends to a means of teaching rather than an epic learning experience. I’ve found much more knowledge gleaned from my yoga pals on twitter and from my own personal learning. The 200H program was fine but not nearly deep enough for me.

    I am now on the hunt for a good 300H program and really struggling to find one that a.) I like all aspects of (do I really want certain things emphasized??) and b.) works with my maternal/family/teaching/life schedule. I also want to train with someone who has been teaching and learning themself for a LONG time, not mearly 5-10 years. This combo is very hard for me to find.

    Some trainings are not perfect, some teachers suck, but there are many of us out there that learned in a local 200H and have deep strong practices above and beyond what we were taught. Our students are better for it even if there were lots of teachers before and after us who did not take it as seriously as we did. Simply writing off all the 200H programs that come along and the teachers they certify in a blank slate though is really not quite doing justice to the individuals who might actually be sharing some pretty rad stuff with their students.

    my 2 cents

  2. “Simply writing off all the 200H programs that come along and the teachers they certify in a blank slate”

    is that what you think I said? because if so, it’s not what I said. I questioned, as Friend does, the amount of teacher trainings out there. one thing I did not address is supply and demand as Friend did.

    in my area, there aren’t enough students or places to teach for the teachers that come out of the TT programs. and frankly, newbie teachers who are willing to teach for $5/person or $12/hr make it hard for experienced teachers (10+years) to get paid a “living wage.”

    of course I wouldn’t write off “all the 200H programs” — everyone starts somewhere.

    • I have practiced Yoga for almost 30 years, and like you, Linda, I feel like that ant at the bottom of the hill. I have enormous respect for the depth and scope of Yoga (not just asana) and know that I will always be learning. Had I taken a 200-hour teacher training back in the 1980s (even though there was no such thing back then) I’m sure I would not have felt ready to teach. The only reason I began teaching after four years of intensive practice and apprenticeship was because my teachers left town and gave me their classes.

      As one of your commenters said, it is life experience that makes a teacher, not 200 hours of instruction. Like Brenda, I am attracted to teachers who are older than me, who have lived their Yoga longer, and have had time to integrate Yoga into their lives in a meaningful way. There is truly no substitute for experience.

      BTW, In Salt Lake, not one studio pays $5 per student. The studio paying the highest wage pays $3.50 per student, and the others pay $1.00!

      • “There is truly no substitute for experience.” — from your mouth to Shiva’s ears! ;)
        bottom line: if you haven’t experienced it, you have no business teaching it. my 2 rupees.

        $1/student is horrendous!

        thanks always for reading, charlotte!

  3. Sorry if I got the wrong impression, I read that you thought (like Friend does) that there are too many trainings, too many teachers and the whole system is getting watered down. This may be true, but the multitude of trainings out there also allows people like me who have a very deep and strong practice to be able to get certified. If there were only a few I might not have been able to get my 200H because of my family commitments. In doing this I am able to teach people, regular people, in gyms and studios, I can bring the healing/theraputic/deeper aspects of yoga to the masses in my area. Without my 200H I would not be able to do this at all.

    My 200H was in retrospect pretty simple and not nearly as extensive as I needed it to be. I have had to learn on the fly and on my mat how to deal with anatomical/physical and emotional issues that have come up with my students. Does this mean that I did a watered down program? Perhaps, but I also consider it a teacher’s job to continue their learning even if that means looking up one simple ailment, one modification or a whole new style of yoga they don’t otherwise know. Anyone who thinks 200H alone is enough is really not getting it.

    The only fault I find with the myriad of 200H programs out there is that too many do not encourage their students to keep on learning for LEARNING/SAFETY/DEPTH sake but rather offer higher level trainings to get more money into their studio/teacher coffers. I am thankful my 200H program teachers were of the fomer kind because even though there were gaps in my training, there was a strong push to go further.

    • FY, I really don’t understand your defensiveness. I do think there are too many trainings, but I state that I am referring to MY GEOGRAPHIC AREA. Others will vary! and yes, there ARE too many teachers in my area. again, your mileage may vary!

      While I respect the teacher who certified me and consider him and his studio to be the “real deal”, my first training was not as extensive as TT programs are now. In fact, I did 2 trainings with him because I knew the first one was not enough. However, I was fortunate to meet the teacher from India that I did so early in my teaching career who inspired me to study at KYM.

      Frankly, there are teachers with 200 hrs. or even 500 hrs. who should never teach. Then there are others who have never done any formal training but are wonderful.

  4. Love your comments flying yogini!! “I am now on the hunt for a good 300H program and really struggling to find one that a.) I like all aspects of (do I really want certain things emphasized??) ” I would love to be able to select the courses of more intensive study on my own in a 300hr program!

    Linda, and I am please to find another honest perspective of the yoga landscape:
    “A 200 hour training is merely the beginning and frankly, I have to ask what is being taught in all these trainings. I ask this question because I was shocked at the quality of questions coming from people in my last training in India (all westerners.) After the first days, I felt that the training was “dumbed down” because of these questions. Many of the participants said they were teachers, but I know that my own students would not ask the types of questions that people were asking. Their questions made me grateful (again) for my original trainings but then, that was almost 10 years ago and times have changed.”

    This sounds very close to what I posted yesterday on my blog. I was really starting to believe that it was my own viewpoint that was off, until I found two blogs back to back today. I am happy to have found your blog and look forward to more posts!

    I kinda get your West Chicago burb situation. I attended Moksha yoga on Carpenter when Maty was presenting a workshop, and was surprised by the number of new practiced and new YTT’s. The workshop and studio were awesome, it was a valuable experience and worth the trip- Maty is it-period!

    Metta

    • thanks for reading, Sondra! I’ve been around since 2005 — feel free to look around here and read my old posts!

  5. I think it takes a lot more than just training to make a good teacher (as per other conversations about writing/blogging as another form of practice). Like you said, the YA requirements are a bit fuzzy and I’m not sure that a certain number of hours means much beyond how many minutes you participated in a workshop. Again, I think the skill and wisdom of a teacher mostly comes from somewhere else. Something that is pretty hard to quantify or organize a class around (or charge money for). Life experience. Introspection. Actual teaching. Guidance from some one more experienced.

    That’s why I like MY teachers old…chances are, they’ve had more exposure to all of the above.

  6. It’s such a cycle, isn’t it? I like what John says about people thinking that doing YTT is the next step in deepening one’s practice. The year I (accidentally) did my teacher training, my plan had been to just do a Hatha yoga studies course but the woman who ran the school encouraged me to step up. For her, it wasn’t a money thing in doing so since she told me to “pay her when I could”. She saw something I guess and felt like it would be good for me.

    Anyway, in the same year that I was doing my training, a Japanese woman who was here to study English was also doing the course!! While I admire her moxy, I tend to think that she would’ve been better off doing it in Japan or waiting until she had a better understanding of English. Because how could she grasp yogic concepts that are way beyond basic English? Yet, she was doing the training anyway.

    And yes I see the conundrum too. Yoga schools make their money off the trainings, and so more and more people do said trainings. Should they all be teachers? Definitely not, and maybe some won’t – they’ll just be happy to have done the training??

    I know I’ve questioned myself more than once as to whether or not I should be teaching, but then something happens in one of my classes that helps me to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. I also resonated with what John said about not pushing the teaching – I’m still only teaching one class a week and I have no intention of trying to force more classes. They need to unfold organically for me, too.

    Even after doing a 500 hour training, I too, feel like I’m at the foot of the mountain. There’s a long way to go and a lot to learn. But I’m not in a hurry, I’ve got the rest of my life to turn into the teacher I’m going to become. :)

    • “then something happens in one of my classes that helps me to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing”

      with what I have been through in my teaching career I have thought of quitting many times….but then as you say above…..;)

      “I’ve got the rest of my life to turn into the teacher I’m going to become” — I also feel the same way and I am WAY older than you, my dear! :) saw my astrologer today who STILL tells me….”Not until you’re past 60″ will I explode onto the scene, so to speak! ;)

      thing is, I get tired of waiting! :D

  7. At the end of my 200 hour training at Kriplau, I felt completely qualified to teach at a certain level. The rest of my confidence, depth and experience evolved over time through my personal practice and teaching more. I believe that good teachers will thrive and the rest will not. Those that have real belief in what they are doing and do it well and for the right reasons will also thrive. I never wonder if this is what I should be doing, it’s my calling, my passion and my life. I help others to better their lives and in turn I’m so very rewarded. My paychecks may not always reflect the passion I put forth , but like any person in service to others, I sacrifice; but I can still eat. ;)

    • when I say that I felt like I knew “nothing” after my first TT, that is not a diss on my training or my teacher or whether or not I was qualified to teach. of course I knew something. but it was my ego telling me that I knew nothing in the whole grand scheme of yogadharma.

      sometimes when you learn something, you learn how much you don’t know…and that spurs you on to more learning. after 200 hours I knew there was much more to learn. even after 1000 hours there is still more to learn, but for me, it isn’t about asana anymore.

  8. I really like what Friend says at the end of the clip (around 3:45) about it being an HONOR to teach yoga. It is also an incredible responsibility. Our current cultural propensity towards “advanced” asanas (formerly known as contortions) has warped many yoga classes to workouts, and I think the role of the teacher has been lost in this transition. I don’t think the responsibility of a group aerobics instructor is as weighty as a yoga instructor. (I don’t mean to sound pious, that is just my interpretation. I could be wrong.)

    If more students understood this responsibility (I’m not even talking about the traditional student-guru relationship), I think fewer of them would sign up for trainings. Who would invest thousands of dollars to take on that much responsibility to be paid less than minimum wage?

    • two thumbs up for your comment, ME!

      “current cultural propensity towards “advanced” asanas (formerly known as contortions) has warped many yoga classes to workouts, and I think the role of the teacher has been lost in this transition”

      and I can’t tell you how many students I’ve met in private classes who have told me that no one has ever taught them to breathe properly in a yoga class, whether it is in a gym or a studio. they are told to pay attention to the breath — and do 50 chatarungas — but no one has ever taught them how to do that in those workout yoga classes. IMO, that falls under “responsibility” in Yoga Teacher Training 101. my 2 rupees!

  9. I got my TT cert roughly seven years ago from a teacher with a long standing lineage. At the time, it was pretty much the only TT in town. Today, within at ten mile radius you can find no less than 6 TT programs, most of which do everything they can to run at least two sessions a year.

    More than one of them are taught by teachers whom I assisted in getting their certs.

    One owner told me, classes keep the place open, TT and workshops is the only way to make money.

    Even still, I know several of these owners and “making money” is extremely relative. Though I know one owner who unabashedly has says his TT is solely a source of revenue, most of them who are experiencing any kind of success have a second gig or an employed partner.

    What causes me the most challenge is the poor students who don’t know what they’re missing. That don’t understand the benefits of studying with an authentic teacher from an established lineage.

  10. The situation is becoming very similar in Australia too. The 200hr floor has become firmly entrenched thanks to Yoga Alliance membership being possible even from Australia..if you thought membership meaningless in the US imagine what it means here?!
    Thankfully a concerted effort by Yoga Australia (the main local -and very relevant teachers’ association) with a minimum 350hr floor for TT courses over a minimum of 12 months is helping address the balance and raise standards a little.
    Mark Whitwell led my first -very meagre- teacher training, and I’ve constantly added to it as I also felt at the bottom of the yoga hill ,and often still do nearly 15 years later. But I have grown into teaching thanks to other wonderful teachers and the opportunity with many wonderful students to really explore so much more than just asana.
    But like you I get scared, especially when people inquire about teacher training and when I ask how long they’ve practiced yoga, it’s not uncommon to hear…”I haven’t started yet but it sounds like a nice job”!!

    Love your writing, and feel myself agreeing with so much you say with wit and integrity. Keep it up

  11. Oddly enough I had a wonderful conversation with a friend/teacher/studio owner on Saturday after class.

    Locally, from the outside, the studio has reputation of being somewhat cloistered. Perhaps more should be like this.

    He has taught 2 200 TT programs and I was enquiring because I thought it might be time for some more training. He is setting up a system I think could be an example for other serious centers. By serious, I mean those who are looking to do more than make money from the TT.

    He’s creating a series called “The Yogi’s Way,” which is a two month program to get people started. It’s designed to be a feeling out process where teacher and student get some time to know each other. It’s also designed to give the student a strong foundation for their practice. The idea is that with a lot of TTs the students don’t yet have an established “practice” so a large part of TT is creating one. In this instance, The Yogi’s Way would do this.

    In order to take the 200 TT you would have to have completed The Yogis Way to qualify. That way the TT would really hit the ground running and there would be an established relationship between teacher and student.

    His 500 hr TT program would be strictly one-to-one, teacher to student, basis.

    The really beautiful thing is that of all the local centers that could use the money, it’s his.

    But he gets it. So he’s doing it different.

    • oh my. great minds think alike. I was thinking this morning about creating a “yoga mentoring” program, something other than a TT, to fill in the gaps that TT programs miss. uh…like teaching people how to breathe! thanks so much for reading LYJ, Tony. “doing it different” is what I’m all about…. ;)

  12. The first time I went to a yoga studio…about 6 years ago, the teacher mentioned she was having a Teacher Training and would I be interested? At $1200. what did she have to lose?
    I thought I should at least know what I was getting myself into! I didn’t care for her jabbering on endlessly all class and I did try her again about a year later..and still the same.
    I can now pronounce a few of the pose names and can breathe properly, although I am by NO means ready to be a teacher, I’m barely a good student! Self taught and that’s a hard thing to do…if I taught, it would be like the blind leading the blind!
    Let’s not even say how horrible I would feel at trying to pass myself off as something I’m not!
    I live paycheck to paycheck so it’s a a rare treat to go to one and teachers here are very few, two studios, one “Hot” yoga and one that says “Everyday Yoga” at a private gym.
    SO then if I am going to pay for a class, I want someone who is not in it for the “cool” factor. If I am going to pay for a class (and

  13. I’ve taught movement all my life. After a couple of years in yoga practice, my teacher told me I was ready to teach. So I started subbing for her. The 200hr training came next.. That was 11 years ago. I have no interest in training acrobats. Been there, done that. I just want to be with ordinary human bodies and minds and spirits, one by one, showing them how it happens that our physical experiences yoke themselves together with all of life. In my groups, the learning is in the air, and they are my teachers, and the lineage and writings and traditions are the vehicles. Asana, pranayama, yama, niyama. Yoga teaching is not a Career Option. It’s a life spent sharing in the sacred pursuit of truth, using the laws of the body. I’m 63.

  14. Nice Linda. Agree with completing a Vipassana course. I also strongly believe thAt the best teachers should go 2 the source-India. Because to reAlly understand the system of yoga one should spend time immersed in Indian culture. I’m seriously considering joining u 4 my 5th trip in 2012. Pm me.

    • Mindfully, and respectfully, I have to disagree with this concept that one must go to India, and there are a host of reasons why.

      For starters, unless you have a proven lineage that has foundation in India, what are you going to find? There is more Yoga here and now (meaning the U.S. in this instance) than in India.

      As blasphemous as it might sound, I don’t think India is the “source” any more.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about roots, history and respect of the same. I’m just saying things have changed.

      I can’t tell you how many beautiful Indian students I’ve had that come from the major Indian cities/hubs and know very little about yoga. They find it here.

      Of course I’ve also known outstanding teachers, teachers with deep lineage roots, who have made that pilgrimage only to come home and say what I think we should already know. No need to go some place else when it’s all already here.

      If we practice… pay attention to the sutras, the yamas an niyamas, have a consistent daily meditation practice, a well founded asana practice and regular study with our teachers — what could you find in India that you won’t find here.

      Thing is, there are very few, including myself, that can honestly claim to have all of the above. I firmly believe that anybody, teacher or student, who can adhere to such a practice, need not travel further than their front door to find everything they need.

      • I felt the same way before I went to Pune to study with Iyengar in 1989. At the time there were so many competent, experienced teachers in the U.S. But one of the great teachers I’d studied with regularly, Mary Dunn, announced she would be taking a group of students and I signed up to be considered. In short, the experience of being in India changed my whole way of looking at Yoga. It had little to do with any information I learned about asana practice, although BKS and Geeta were amazing. Being in the “flow” of India taught me so much about the rhythm and dynamics of Yoga practice, something I simply couldn’t know without spending time at the source.

      • “changed my whole way of looking at Yoga. It had little to do with any information I learned about asana practice….Being in the “flow” of India taught me so much about the rhythm and dynamics of Yoga practice, something I simply couldn’t know without spending time at the source.”

        I agree 150%. India will teach you about patience, contentment, attachment/aversion, like nothing else will. however, I don’t believe going to India is for everyone. I’ve seen people get really freaked out over stuff. but for me…it’s my heart and soul.

  15. tony-i respectfully disagree. it’s all in india. save your $3000 that you want to spend on a TT & just go over there. money better spent. i do not believe one can be the best teacher of this immense & complex system if you do not visit the motherland. i really began to “get” it after i started going there. & i probably will not stop. go & see for yourself & then tell me how much you learned. you can’t find everything you need outside of your front door. no.

  16. tony, I have to say that my practice totally changed after I studied the first time at the school where I study in India. that being said, I was blessed and fortunate to meet the Indian teacher that I did early on in my teaching career — he inspired me to go to India to the particular school.

    I can honestly say, and your mileage may vary, that I had never heard (and still don’t, in workshops, etc. here) the things HERE that I have learned in India at my school.

    all that being said, I guess my original training was different because the person with whom I certified with studied with P.Jois three times AND studied at an Iyengar Institute so he brought in lineage from the source. My Indian teacher studied with Krischnamacharya for over 30 years, longer than even Desikachar, his son, did. Next year I am studying with AG Mohan, another Krishnamacharya student. So that’s my lineage, and I can’t get those teachings here, i.e., direct from the source.

  17. I too started with a teacher who had studied for several months with Sri K. In fact he did so on two occasions. He was/is tied to a long Tibetan lineage which I have followed or many years. In fact, I am blessed to be heading into a retreat starting Monday.

    I will say, in full disclosure, that I have not been to India. And what desire I have to go is based more on the people I know there and the history of the country than in the expectation or hope of meeting a teacher/guru. If I ever go it would most likely be after my children are on their own, if my services were required there or if one of my teachers requested that I go.

    The heart lama at the top of our lineage is Geshe Michael Roach, so we have a firm and grounded Kula here throughout the United States, Asia and Europe. We’re not alone, I know. There are other such communities.

    I’m just trying to say that this was that start of my practice. This is where and what I grew up with… so I think of it as something of an advantage, or at least a blessing, which is perhaps a better word..

    I’m not taking issue with the concept that traveling to India could enhance somebody’s practice. I’m just saying I take issue with the suggestion that every teacher should have to do it.

    And then I return to my original point. Create a practice that includes an hour of daily meditation, an hour of asana, a vow book guiding you daily through the path of virtue, eat a non-violent diet… do these things daily, as in every day… and if your practice calls you to India, then go.

    Or if you don’t have an established lineage here… then go.

    I have yet to see anybody standup here and say they have such a practice. I know I certainly don’t… but have teachers that do.

  18. Ok, ok, I give (big smile). I get it. Thanks for sharing all. Wonderful to have this to look forward to.

  19. i was teaching before i started going to india, so yes it is possible to teach without going. but i UNDERSTOOD yoga a hell of a lot better when i began immersing myself in the culture. i became a much better teacher after i started going. you can not possibly find that insight anywhere but in india. you don’t even have to study there. just immerse yourself in it & it will change the way you understand yoga. and yes-india is NOT for everyone. only those who are extremely serious about teaching such a complex system that changes people’s lives. i take it very seriously. and i am an in-demand full time teacher because of it. i’ve run mysore programs for 6 months in japan & thailand. jobs i would never have gotten without spending almost an entire year in india. i have taken 3 TT-one in oz, one with tim miller & one with my first teacher (who lived in india) and none of that matched the knowledge & insight i received from various trips to india.

  20. Wow … This is an interesting thread.
    I have spent approx. 2 & 1/2 yrs. in India. I have been blessed and honored to study and teach yoga there both in the north and the south working with Indians. I have never done a Vipassana meditation, though my journey might lead me there in the near future. I say this because if I follow the judgement from the earlier part of this thread, I shouldn’t be teaching at all. That’s interesting.
    This whole planet is rich with history and spiritual pursuits and it seems to me that if you travel, really travel and explore the variety of culture and religion and race you will enhance not only your yoga practice but the person you present to the world.
    I have met a number of westerners who’ve gone to India and haven’t left the Ashram grounds. They are met at the airport, taxied to the Ashram and fed Sattvic food. This too can be powerful and beautiful but for me, this misses the deepest and richest experience that India has to offer.
    Travel safely, keep and open mind, and let your heart beat engage in a different rhythm for a little while. That sounds like the spirit of Yoga to me : )

    • to me, there’s a definite difference between a tourist and a traveler, whatever country in the world you meet them. some people only see the dirt and poverty and dead dogs in the street in India and shudder; others see the same things in wonder. that’s the dichotomy of India. different strokes.

      and as a long-time reader wrote to me today, “you can spark discussion and discourse like no other!”

      that’s how I roll….:)

  21. I have just completed my first 200 hour training, which according to my research and what I have read and experienced so far was a good one, and I feel ready to teach at a certain level too. That being said, every time I teach, I learn something, and I definitely believe that my training doesn’t mean it is the end, on the contrary. I have a good basis, now’s the time to deepen, and it will always be. I can’t wait to learn more, read more, teach more, experience more. The next thing coming is a one-day vipassana mini-retreat in Brussels, for once something is happening here in my town so I will go, even if it’s one day only.
    And as far as I am concerned, one of the steps I have to take is go to India, and to be more specific, to KYM. To each their own, let’s say it’s my own. Which is why I am seriously contemplating join you in 2013 BTW :)

  22. I doubt that this message will really fall on the ears of anyone who cares so for the writing of it is really for my own peace of mind, +dos pesos. Yoga, I started practicing last year, after my divorce at 47 truly depressed and wanting to cause harm to others my two gay friends invited me to try yoga. After my first class I went back the next day, now mind you this is hot Vinasa and I was not prepared for the cramping pain I would suffer through afterwards. Never the less, I was hooked to the hip flow of yoga, the emptying of the mind, the consciousness of breath. Now here is the why I went to Baptiste Level 1… I wanted more than I was getting for my 1.5 hour practice where after shavasana everyone evaporates and the love stops along with the teaching. So level 1 gave me a taste of what deep excavation is with little about how to teach yoga; more of how to be a better human (I loved it!) and in the end grew from the experience. Afterwards many of the teachers and studio owners asked me if I was going to teach, blah blah blah. I really had no intention of teaching but said yes because isn’t that what the logo says? “Be a YES”!! When I started I had no clue what a Sun A was nor a Sun B and I had no business teaching. I realized this and spent another $4000 smackers on more training, this is really the yoga way. I ended up teaching for the summer and am wrapping it up at the end of the month. My studio is fabulous, I love the teachers there, but in reality I am a greenhorn when it comes to the yoga way of being but am willing to grow. Which by the way is life. I am currently reading Action by Jiddu Krishanmurti (recommend this) and feel that I prefer practicing rather than teaching as I was unable to find the balance between work, practicing and teaching. I am no feeling that I am coming back that which I love. Here is the essence of my message, I had to teach to figure out how difficult it is for teachers to manage it all, I had to teach to figure out that it is not as easy as just calling the pose, I had to have all of my experiences in life to get to where I am today. This awareness offers insight into the path, my path.

  23. As a person who owns a studio and directs Teacher Training I take the stance of I know very little and that the more I learn, the more I learn I still have lifetimes left of learning and i tell my students this. My goal is to teach a well-rounded Old School approach. I feel 200 and 500 hours is not even enough, but if I can offer a training that teaches asana in a safe and therapeutic way and bring in philosophy, Ayurveda, meditation etc….I at least have the program with an intention of healing and growth. We are known for our program being well rounded and turning out safe and knowledgeable teachers. I do travel to India and plan on my 3rd trip for additional Ayurveda training this Nov., but I don’t think it’s mandatory. Plenty of teachers travel to India, but still don’t “get” it. I think even traveling to India has become a trendy event. I suppose that more yoga, no matter, is better than no yoga. Ultimately people will end up in the training program they are supposed to be in at that time.

  24. In some cases the yoga teacher talks about breath in every class, week after week. Sometimes the student isn’t ready to listen or absorb.

  25. it takes cajones & courage to travel all over india. that is in NO way trendy. disagree 100%. unless you go for less than a month just to say you went.

    i actually HAD to take my original teacher’s training in order for me to teach at his studio-my first classes probably 3 years after taking class with him 6 days a week. eventually subbing his mysore classes, which lead to running the only mysore programs in chicago for many years at 4 different studios.

    my first serious student did everything i suggested, eventually subbing my classes when i was traveling in india & teaching overseas. he took the same trainings, went to india & is now also an excellent teacher.

    that’s how it should be. you stay at your teacher’s side every day over a period of years. the teacher tells you that you are ready to teach. you teach, you take trainings, you go to india. you keep learning every day that you teach. teaching 7 days a week is grueling. better grow some balls if you think you are ready after taking a few workshops or doing a little yoga for a couple of years.

    oh-and you better have a daily practice under your belt or you will have nothing to teach. sorry if this sounds harsh, but i feel STRONGLY about it. i’m sick of newbie teachers who have not put the time in. they do not deserve to get paid for that. & i would be very wary of young teachers. ALWAYS ASK your teacher how long they have been practicing, how often, & with who. NOT if they have racked up 500 hours of yoga alliance. pick their brain. if the answers are sad, move on to someone else. that is IF you don’t even have any options. i realize many tiny towns have no one teaching so you do your best.

    • agree. people are too chicken to sit a 3 day silent retreat the first time, bindi, so hard for many to grow a pair, know what I’m sayin? real yoga — and I know that term isn’t politically correct — takes courage and it hurts. and I agree with you about being old school….people want quick and easy nowadays.

    • Beware of young teachers? I am a young teacher. Who would I teach if everyone was wary of young teachers? Right now, I teacher beginner students only. I don’t teach beyond my means and experience. My teaching grows with practice and for those at the beginning of their yoga practice, it is enough. Of course, before I was a yoga teacher I had years and years of asana, meditation and philosophy training.

      Personally I’m not into Vispassana because my own teacher is not. But then, we do other kinds of silent practice. I don’t think there’s a “this is the only way” approach to yoga.

      BUT that said, I think going to India is necessary, too. It’s on my agenda. But it has taken years for me to be ready and feel the calling to go…

      • “before I was a yoga teacher I had years and years of asana, meditation and philosophy training.”

        but that’s the difference, svasti! Here people start teaching after a 200 hr. course which they took after practicing yoga for only a short time. I’ve had young students (when I taught at a college) ask me about becoming a teacher (hey, nice I inspired them!) after I taught them only one semester. I told them, practice for at least a year, then THINK about it. With many here, they DON’T do “years and years” of personal practice. big difference.

        I believe a yoga teacher should have a meditation practice, I don’t care what style it is. I STRONGLY believe that you should not teach what you don’t know, so don’t talk about meditation to your students if you don’t meditate yourself.

        but for my own TT (if I ever did one), as I say, the requirement would be a 10 day vipassana sit — one reason being that the center near me is FREE (you give dana). so no extra cost to trainees.

        and also because it would be trial by fire….;)

  26. and taking a “short” vipassana course for the first time is not vipassana. you aren’t allowed to take a short course until you have completed a 10 day course. if you only do 3 days for the first time, you have only scratched the surface because they don’t even start teaching you the complete technique until the 4th day.

  27. I’m from Dallas. Most everything here is trendy, including India travel. I do think what Linda said about Eat, Pray, Love is true also. I agree, it takes major balls/ovaries to travel in India, but the reasons why people are doing it are not always what they pretend them to be. Just my observation where I sit in Texas.

  28. svasti-i don’t mean “young” as in age. i mean as new. btw-the hardest students to teach are beginners. advanced students are easy. also people with special needs, body issues, mind issues. very difficult. it’s obvious that you took the time to learn the right stuff & you should be teaching. if i was your student & you told me your experience, i would be ok with that. some 20 year olds have 15 years experience.

  29. i like what tim milller says about yoga teachers. “we are glorified waiters.” that’s it. may i serve you? more coffee? :-) since i did that for 20 years, i kind of “get” it. tip well, americans.

  30. Pingback: i wanna be a yoga teacher « bindy fry's itty bitty brain basket

  31. Hi Linda,

    In the end I think it does not matter. Those who wants to teach yoga after a few months of practice aren’t that serious about yoga anyways. When I started yoga I learned lots from both experienced and newbie yoga teachers. After a few years of practice I now have to make an effort to look for more experienced teachers. That’s what all students who are serious about yoga should do. Even for teacher training program, I think rather than signing up for the cheapest one available, one should take a couple classes with the teacher trainer first before deciding if one wants to do TT with that teacher. Yoga is a fad right now. I think the ADD people will move on when something else becomes trendy, kinda like aerobics in the 80s and Thai Bo in the 90s.

  32. You “MUST got to India to be a yoga teacher?” Seriously? Are you all kidding me?

    Listen, if you want to come and sub the 8+ yoga classes a week I teach, take care of my kids and pay for me to go great. Otherwise it seems pretty damn silly to suggest those of us who haven’t gone to India aren’t teachers. My students who have learned to find quiet, space and breath safely from what I have learned myself (and share with them daily) might beg to differ when you suggest that I’m not teaching them something about yoga.

    India may be the source of yoga, the heart of yoga and the place where you experience some growth as a yogi/teacher, but I can guarantee you I’m teaching yoga without ever having been there. If that was the definition of yoga teachers there certainly would be a hell of a lot fewer people gaining benefits from the practice.

    • UM…I was one of the first to push back against the whole going to India thing, but I don’t think I’ve heard ANYBODY suggest you HAVE to go to India to be a teacher.

      What I’ve heard is people talking about their personal experiences and how they grew from going to India. I’ve heard suggestions that other teachers could learn and grow from the experience.

      I haven’t really heard anybody call it a requirement.

      I’m just sayin’

    • “damn silly to suggest those of us who haven’t gone to India aren’t teachers. ”

      actually no one ever said that, FY.

      charlotte said: “the experience of being in India changed my whole way of looking at Yoga.”

      bindi said: “yes it is possible to teach without going. but i UNDERSTOOD yoga a hell of a lot better when i began immersing myself in the culture. i became a much better teacher after i started going.”

      I said that my practice totally changed after learning what I learned in India. and frankly, I learned things there that no one ever talked about in any trainings I did here. I was fortunate to meet the Indian teacher with whom I still study only a year after I started teaching — he inspired me to study in India.

      and yes, teachers who go to India to study DO have kids and have to find subs for their classes. I know because I’ve met them! and I had to find subs for my classes the first few times I went.

      So please don’t put words in peoples’ mouths, FY!. No one here EVER said that a teacher HAS to go to India to study. No one here EVER suggested that you’re not “teaching yoga” or are not a great teacher.

      Of course not every teacher can go or even wants to go. And just because someone goes, that does not automatically make them a better teacher — just like doing a 500 hr. training does not automatically make one a better teacher. it’s individual. to teach ANYTHING, one needs the aptitude to teach. I think in most of the comments people are talking about years of practice and experience, including life experience, that makes for a “good” teacher.

      • words not there perhaps, implication yes. just look at BWP ‘s comment below.

        some of us can afford and are only able to take yoga training close to home. India may be out of the question for our lives at this point. The implication from the comments here is that we are less yogic, less teachers b/c we are not learning from the source.

        My definition of a good teacher is different… guess that is why my Garudasana feathers are ruffled by this post and so many like it lately.

      • So here’s an interesting exercise in Buddhist debate/philosophy. If something is “implied” whatever that implication is, comes from the particular viewer in question, and thus is their “perspective” on a certain item or thing. It’s how what THEY feel is being implied.

        If it is agreed that a person’s perspective is derived (a Buddhist might say forced upon us) from our past Karmic actions, one person might see a statement as in implication of one thing while another might see it as an implication of something completely different, depending of course upon which karmic sees are either blossoming or fading.

        Some of us in this conversation experience the original comments to mean that a retreat to India will greatly enhance the teaching experience of a yoga teacher.

        Some of us in this conversation experience those very same comments as a suggestion that if you don’t go to India you can’t be a yoga teacher.

        So which side is right?
        :)

      • ain’t it the truth? ;)

        ….so now we can get into a discussion about shadow selves, creating our own reality, and creating our own suffering via our thoughts and what we “hear” people are saying.

        as Will Kabat-Zinn said in my last retreat, we never know what someone else’s story is so assume nothing! :)

        oh, what a tangled web we weave! :D

        (this post & comments are why LYJ has the best readers! :D:D:D

  33. A few months ago, I had a conversation with a 17 year-old recent YTT graduate. When I told her that the name of my massage studio is “Santosha”, she said, “Oh, I like that! What does it mean?”

    !

    I’m considering that this phenomenon of “babies teaching babies” is yet another manifestation of our instant-gratification culture. I see it in massage therapy schools, too; 18 year-old kids who think that they’re going to get rich working at Massage Envy (and who barely have the maturity level to hold an adult conversation let alone work with clients) get accepted into massage training programs, and these training programs have, as I understand it, bloomed up all over the place in the last few years. My husband, who teaches a traditional Japanese martial art (not MMA, thank you) gets the occasional call from someone who wants to know how long it’ll take to get a black belt.

    We don’t want to sacrifice anything, we don’t want to take the time to learn anything, we refuse to believe that it takes years to be truly proficient at something — anything. Whether this is a product of being American, Western, or just Modern, I don’t know. But I think it’s a slippery slope.

  34. stop wasting your 3 grand on TTs. that gets you a couple months in india. way more bang for the buck. what do you all have against going to the source anyhow? what is the problem? you want to teach yoga, it comes from india, you are passionate & serious. what’s the problem? just go. i don’t get it. avoiding india is weird to me. and trying to make excuses is also weird. if that’s the path you choose, do it right. go. you must go. sorry. it’s pretty important.

    • So, I’m really enjoying this thread. And I think you’re correct that experiencing life and yoga in India could be of great benefit. But I have to say that you’re speaking from a place of privilege here. There are people who can neither afford teacher trainings, nor trips to India, but have all the experience and teacher-sense about them to be great teachers. In fact, I’d argue that much of the American yoga scene is quite classist, to the point where many working class and/or poor folks simply don’t feel welcome.

      As someone who has often straddled the class line – having a middle class education, but barely making ends meet financially – I have often felt this rub. I sit and listen to fellow yoga students talk about their weekend trips to NY or LA, the workshops they attend, the “special” trainings with so and so famous yoga teacher they’ve gotten to go to – and I think, this is so not my experience. Perhaps someday I’ll teach. Perhaps someday I’ll go to India. I did scrape up enough money to take a teacher training, which I’m currently in (after over a decade of yoga practice), and have all the skepticism and questions that many have shared here about the goals and intentions of my fellow students and the studios running the trainings.

      But at the end of the day, one of the major things I see when I look around is how fiercely middle and upper class yoga in America is. And how deeply capitalism has sunk it’s teeth into this powerful spiritual practice, and twisted it all over the place. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a hell of a lot more important to me to keep learning, keep practicing, and to bring whatever I have learned to people who currently are shut out of yoga economically and socially, than it is for me to head off to India anytime soon.

      • hey, nathan….I responded to your comment privately. just wanted you to know where I’m coming from….

  35. Andrea said,
    “we don’t want to take the time to learn anything, we refuse to believe that it takes years to be truly proficient at something — anything.”

    How true! In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell discusses the 10,000 hour rule, which is just what it sounds like. To have *mastery* at something – anything – you have to put in the hours. 10,000 hours is generally considered the rule of thumb. This was very interesting to me as one of my teachers for Thai Yoga suggested that we log our hours of hands-on time. I thought it was just a silly requirement at first, but I’m that nerdy type of student that just does what the teacher says to do, even if I think it’s pointless. Before reading that book, I looked at my hours and thought, “That’s pretty good!” Now I look at the total and think, “Wow. I have so far to go!”

    And in 10 days I return to my teacher, who will evaluate me to be one of his teachers. He does not have a requirement of hours, books, or anything like that. He truly evaluates each person he thinks could be a teacher of his methods. I have never been so nervous about a “test” before!

  36. Linda, you have a great point here and it is quite the dichotomy. On the one hand: the West is not like the East so people here are not going to come from or have the same appreciation or perspective of those in the East. On the other hand, studios can’t wait for students to “catch up” and then offer a YTT. There would only be a handful of teachers and most of them would be in the older generation. In my opinion, the veterans need to embrace what is, accept it, and do the best they can to try and help these new “teachers” so that hopefully they get some of their teachings. That’s better then nothing. Standing around and doing nothing won’t help and you cannot stop the YTT roller-coaster that is already in place. So my suggestion to all veterans: do the best you can to try and impart some wisdom. Some will get it. Others won’t. But at least you did the best you can. Either that or launch the yoga teacher training police!

  37. Pingback: David Frawley’s advice for yoga teachers: “go to India” | linda's yoga journey

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