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