let’s give ‘em something to talk about

Fasten your seatbelts, kids!  I’ve seen a flurry of articles about yoga on Facebook that SCREAM for pithy comments!

Here goes:

Tony Perkins Upset That ‘Goofy’ Yoga Classes ‘Driving Religion Out’ Of Military

Christian conservative leader Tony Perkins is upset — this time, about yoga classes being offered to military members.

Why? Because the “goofy” style of exercise has been used as a “wacky” substitute for a “personal relationship with God,” effectively driving religion out of the military.

My first thought on that was hmmmmm……maybe if yoga was not taught as strictly a fitness regimen in many places (“power” yoga, “yoga boot camp”, etc.) and the therapeutic (healing for both body and mind) aspects were emphasized, maybe this guy wouldn’t think it was a “goofy style of exercise.”  Maybe if he knew that real yoga is all about healing and transformation……  but I know I ask for too much.

I am  not talking about yoga therapy.  I am talking about therapeutic aspects of yoga in general.  I don’t separate the therapeutic aspects in my classes.  I occasionally do private yoga therapy sessions (such as trauma sensitive yoga), but I consider ALL my classes therapeutic in one way or another.  In western yoga culture, there is yoga and then there is yoga therapy.  Separation.  Duality.  No one called Krishnamacharya a “yoga therapist.”   Krishnamacharya’s principle was “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.“   He taught that yoga should always be adapted to the unique needs of each individual.   When people lined up down the street outside his door he prescribed practices for them based on their individual needs, asana+pranayama+meditation.  It was just yoga.  It saddens me that I still have to explain to people that yoga heals, it’s not all about getting your ass kicked in a yoga class.

Actor, columnist, cook: Meet Yoga’s glamour girl Kathryn Budig

Damn, and I thought I was yoga’s glamour girl!  Ripped off again!  A comment from my Facebook page:  “‘she realized she was meant to be a yoga teacher.’  I never had that realization.  Rather, my teachers told me.  And I resisted.”

My teacher also told me to become a teacher and I resisted, too, but I became a teacher at 48, an age that some people think you’re all washed up.  I read something the other day:  in this culture when a woman hits her 50s she becomes invisible to men.  When a woman hits her 60s she becomes invisible to other women.   Good thing Ms. Budig is already a sensation at the ripe age of 29.

A New Year’s Resolution for Queer and Trans People of Color: Forget the Gym, Occupy Yoga Studios

This piece rocks!  I absolutely love it.  Although I am not black/brown/L/B or T, I feel the same way:

I’m tired of Googling “yoga” only to have images spat back at me that scream entitlement–the kind of entitlement that comes with being able to pay $18 for a class that takes place in some bourgie studio with the words “om” and “namaste” printed on everything and giant pictures of the Hindu God Ganesha everywhere.

I’ll tell you what I’m tired of:  yoga bleaching. 

yoga bleaching: 1. a form of marketing in which yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle is used to make an otherwise unrelated product appear to be in line with yogic principles. 2. the act of using yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle to sell an unrelated product. 3. a form of spin or marketing intended to deceive consumers into believing that a product is related to yogic practice or theory when in fact it is not.

The local studio is selling a natural deodorant with the name of DeOm.  Yes, you read it correctly:  DE OM with a conspicuous AUM symbol on the bottle.  It was created by a teacher at the studio using minerals and organic herbs.  You can sweat like a horse in your hot vinyasa class but not stink like a street in India:

pondicherry sign

Now I am all for women entrepreneurs and I know the teacher; she’s very nice, I like her, and I hope she makes a lot of money, I really do.   HOWEVER…..using a sacred symbol to push your product a la yoga bleaching makes me all types of itchy.  A different name and image perhaps such as LOTUS, even AKASHA?  I would probably buy a natural deodorant named Lotus or Akasha but wiping something with the AUM symbol under my arms?  But hey, that’s me.

Would it be any different if I invented some new fangled toilet paper and named it “Jesus Wipes” and put His image on it?

Just askin’.

Not Your Parents’ Yoga

Jason Brown once again knocks it out of the park:

Among serious-minded practitioners, there is palpable discontent with the course the yoga industry seems to be on. Teachers, who in the past were voices defining what yoga is in the 21st century, are now understandably more concerned with enjoying their latter years than attempting to push back against entrenched forces that care little for the soul of yoga. The newer generation has often been thrown out into the wilderness without the tools or knowledge to fulfill their impulse to carry the torch. In the absence of teachers framing the conversation and defining yoga in authentic ways, the market will always fill the gap with whatever sells….

One of my readers here wrote to me and said how refreshing it was to see someone doing “old school” with no apologies. There is much to be said about staying true to yourself and not caving to mainstream.  I may not have lots of students because I no longer teach in studios but as a friend told me, I and my students have created a true sangha, old school yoga way.

Folks are not buying just anything as yoga anymore. And they are telling their friends. The rampant commercialization and co-opting of yoga has become so overblown that even the unfamiliar are skeptical. Times remain too tough to effectively continue hocking candy-coated platitudes. From out of the daunting malaise of pressures and seeming demise, conditions are becoming more ripe to slough off obsolete thinking. No more will we be led around by false gurus or complacent with hypocrisies. No longer will success be defined by status or achieved at the expense of others.  We can and will do better. Let us have the courage to imagine it so.

I’m certainly not a yoga sensation like Ms. Budig but when a woman younger than her tells this Crone, “You are a life saver.  Without you I would be a stressed out 20 year old bitching about everything.  Now I live my life and I’m writing my own story and I have never felt better.  I tell everyone about you and how you guide people to find not only  happiness but themselves.  I thank you for opening my eyes to that.”….

….. THAT is success.  Priceless.

The New Mantra: Replacing ‘Om’ With ‘Glam’

The athletic-wear company Lululemon, known for its yoga togs, introduced a meditation-specific capsule collection in fall 2012, with pieces retailing at relatively affordable prices, including a Devotion Long-Sleeve Tee ($68) and an Intuition Sweater Wrap ($178) that doubles as a meditation blanket. With its extra-deep hood, the Please Me Pullover ($118) is perfect to wear during Zen Buddhist meditation practice, said Amanda Casgar, a spokeswoman for the company, since during the process “you keep your eyes open but focus on a point on the floor in front of you. Pulling the hood right down over your eyes automatically creates that line of sight,” she said.
For the more affluent enthusiast, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen line, affiliated with her charitable wellness foundation of the same name, has become a popular choice (sweat pants, $995).

Oh.  My.  Goddess.  How the hell did anyone meditate before the Please Me Pullover?!?  I mean, really?  Apparently these guys don’t know a damn thing about yoga and meditation ’cause they’re all nekkid!  How did they survive all these years?

IMG_1373

Real Yogis, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, 2010

“When meditating, the author Gabrielle Bernstein avoids belts or drawstring pants. “Tying anything to your body blocks the energy flow,” she said.”  Please show me the palm leaf in India where that is written.   Is that in the secret palm leaf library in Tamil Nadu?

Note the traditional red string tied around the waists of these babas.

Just sayin’.

Lastly, while this is not a post on yoga per se, I believe it is relevant considering the NYT piece.

Creativist Manifesto:  Consumer v. Creator

I think it absolutely ties in with modern yoga.

Being a consumer means accepting an essentially passive role in our life, one in which we seek fulfillment through the accumulation of stuff, whether it be material goods, a high status job, or even in terms of our relationships.

And yet, increasingly, we know that living our life as consumers is damaging us—damaging us as individuals and as a society, and damaging the earth that supports us. As consumers, we are left searching for that which will give meaning to our lives, as we fail to find lasting satisfaction in consumption….

Instead of seeing ourselves as consumers, I believe we need to see ourselves as Creativists.

A Creativist is a person who creates and connects and acts. Creativists are connected with who they are and are driven from the inside out, rather than being defined by a position as a consumer in society. Creativists fulfill their need to create which is part of all of us. Creativists use their gifts, and in doing so connect with others and in turn society benefits.

The distinction is clear. Consume versus Create. And the forces of consume versus create contain within them a series of choices that we make everyday in our lives—in our relationships, at work and in our communities.

And that’s why Yoga — REAL Yoga — is a radical act.  As Krishnamacharya said, “Yoga is a process of replacing old patterns with new and more appropriate patterns.”  Real Yoga enables us to make appropriate choices for our relationships, work, and communities.

The renouncers of the Vedic rituals, the ancient yogis, the sramanas,  were radicals who made the choice to break free of mainstream 8th Century BC.

No special clothes required.

is school out on old school yoga?

copyright OmTapas

I posted this blog post on my Facebook page yesterday:   Is Old School Yoga Becoming Extinct?

The blogger — who owns a studio  in Lewisville, Texas — makes many excellent points.  When I lived down the road from that area, 1989-1992, I think if I would have mentioned the word YOGA to anyone I would have been run out of town on a rail.  People did not appreciate this very left of center Yankee gal in that area back then, but that’s another story.

If you’ve read this blog since 2005  (yes, I really was one of the first yoga bloggers to critically question and comment on the status quo of modern American yoga), you’ll know how I feel on the subject.  I’m an old school teacher and am not afraid to use the phrase “real yoga” (you can also read about that somewhere in these 400+ posts.)

Another old school teacher and I had a Facebook discussion on this topic:

HER:  The yoga boom has not been good for those of us who have been teaching a long time. I’m also “old school,” and have seen a drop in attendance as studios that offer trendier yoga styles have sprung up all over town. While my classes retain students quite well, they don’t attract a mainstream clientele.  Like you, my students are dedicated. Many have been coming to class for 20 years or more, partly for the yoga, but also partly for the lovely sangha that has evolved over the years.

ME:  exactly. I also find that most people I come in contact with in my area have no idea what yoga therapy is about.  when people ask what I do I mention about working privately, one on one, with yoga therapy and they always ask, “what’s that?” so I explain.  and the ONLY thing they know about yoga is using it as a work out, sweating, and pretzel poses.  I have been blessed for the last 2 months to work with a trauma survivor of sexual assault who truly gets it, her progress has been phenomenal.  but she is only one.  and she is moving out of state.  so I am back to square one. :(   it is depressing for me and I have thought about quitting teaching many times.

HER:  I’ve thought about giving up many times. When I hear about packed classes where a fresh-out-of-a-200-hour-training teacher is putting people in harm’s way, it makes me want to throw up my hands. But over the past few years I’ve come to realize that the kind of yoga I teach, and I suspect the kind of yoga you teach, is never going to attract a mainstream audience. The people who come to my classes are an out-of-the-ordinary group of people, and because my classes are not huge, I can get to know them as fellow humans. I count this as a blessing, even though I struggle to survive financially.

I am unapologetically old school which means I don’t make a lot of money (it’s actually becoming less and less every year, so much so that I’ve thought about working for lawyers again, part-time), but my students are very dedicated practitioners (most of whom have been with me since Day 1 of my teaching, going on 11 years now), and it definitely is a sangha in the true sense of the word.

All I can say is thank the Goddess I don’t own a studio because I probably would have had to close the doors years ago.  I still believe all this is dependent on geography, on where you live.  If you are a teacher/studio in an area with little yoga, you are a big fish in a little pond.  If you live where I live, Chicagoland, where the city has a studio on every other block and the suburbs have studios within a stone’s throw from each other, the story will be different.  Supply, demand.  As I’ve written before, studios make money on their workshops and teacher trainings, not on their group classes.  OR, by selling memberships now.   The owner gets the money up front, every month, no refunds on that membership charge, so if a student only goes a few times and switches to Zumba, it still ca-ching for the studio.

But I keep sticking it out.  I will still go to India to study for as long as I can (every dime I make goes to that), I have partnered with a friend to teach what we believe is a paradigm shifting therapeutic yoga training because the world needs healing, and for the first time I will bring a group to India for old school study at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and retreat next March.  And I believe I am being called to amp up my energy healing work (but not necessarily for humans) — I’m learning two new practices at the end of the year

In the meantime, I just keep on keeping on.

read. this. now.

The Trouble With Yoga.

One of the best pieces I have read about “what’s wrong with yoga.”  Actually, NOTHING is wrong with yoga and I’m damn tired of reading how people quit yoga because they’ve hurt themselves.   Maybe the writer should have read this that I wrote four years ago before she up and quit.

As one of my Facebook friends commented:

“Leaving yoga is apparently the new black. You have to give it to the author for owning up to the fact that she left asana practice because of what amounted to a wounded ego. I’m not against holding teachers accountable. If anything I err on the opposite extreme. But 20 years of practice and you can’t manage modifications without feeling so humiliated that you need to quit and find something else that you can be the “best” at? Better yet, 20 years of practice and you can’t manage to do asana at home on your own? It’s a good thing that she moved into a new practice where even the most competitive mind will have trouble finding an actual gauge to measure itself against others. Running away from uncomfortable feelings is always a missed opportunity. It’s human nature and not always possible for us to counter it. But I would’ve expected more of an acknowledgement of that from someone willing to offer tips on finding what works for you, learning to let go and embracing change.”

And the following quote contains a deep truth.  Like I tell my students, stop doing yoga and be your yoga:

“Another, more serious but more subtle, symptom of our current trouble with yoga is that a large number of people are attending classes for years without developing an authentic, personal relationship to the practice. When I work with such students in my office and ask them to do a foundational asana like Downward Facing Dog or Triangle, there is a pervasive sense of strain, rather than ease and enjoyment. My eyes and hands—my whole embodied sense—tells me that these supposedly intermediate students are arranging their bodies as they think they “should,” rather than experiencing the internal dynamics of the asana for themselves. They imitate rather than inhabit the pose.”

Finally, oh, hell yeah I said in my head:

 “If the yoga community wants yoga teachers who can transmit embodied wisdom to students, it needs to alter its habit of turning out yoga instructors in a weekend or a month. If the yoga community wants to be true to yoga’s premise that the body is and should be a vehicle for liberation, for enlightenment, it needs to stand firm against our tendency to treat the body as less than the mind. “

yoga in OMerika: what $95 buys

The Official Blessing

$95 bought that logo.

I don’t consider my posts about the Yoga Alliance as rants, although I am sure some would consider them as such.  I consider them a public yoga education.  I am reporting my own experience in order to help any newbie teachers make their own informed decisions.

I gave my reasons in this post as to why I renewed my registration with Yoga Alliance.  $150 later I am now officially an E-RYT 200 — “EXPERIENCED REGISTERED YOGA TEACHER.”  I know, I was such a hack before YA’s official blessing.  I can now conduct a 200 hour yoga teacher training after YA’s approval of my curriculum, of course.  After paying the requisite fees.  Of course.

I decided to upload more teaching and training hours to the YA site, so I pulled out my four inch thick folder with my teaching and training records.  I was amazed to finally see it all laid out in black and white, all the time and effort I’ve put into my yoga teaching since 2004 when I first registered with YA  — over 2000 hours of teaching and almost 900 hours of advanced training.  I did not even count each and every three hour workshop.

I thought what the hell, I will try to upgrade to E RYT 500 – 500 because one day I might want to conduct a 500 hour training.  The upgrade is another $95.  Piece of cake with all my hours, right?  Wrong, wrong, and WRONG.   This is the email I received from YA:

“In order to upgrade to an ERYT 500, one must first meet the criteria for an RYT 500, having graduated either from a YA registered advanced 300 or complete 500 hour program  (please see standards below).  

RYT 500-
A yoga teacher with a minimum of 500 hours of yoga teacher training, either:

o   500 hours from one school, or
o   200 hours plus 300 hours of advanced training from one school (training that requires participants to have a 200-Hour certification.

As you have not completed a YA registered training, but  have spent many hours of in depth study with Sri Desikachar, I would recommend that you complete the “graduate of a non-registered school”  application (attached) for your RYT 500 upgrade.”

Out of my 800+ hours of training, my three intensives at KYM plus private classes with Desikachar’s senior teachers total 300 hours of advanced training.  Apparently the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram is NOT a registered school with YA.  AS IF that would stop me from studying there.

I am sure Sri Desikachar stays up at night wondering whether the school he started to honor his father, the Source Scholar of Yoga, the Grandfather of Modern Yoga, should be registered with the Yoga Alliance.  Please.  Really?  The YA can’t cut KYM any slack?  Let them “grandfather” in as a registered school?  Seriously?  By the way, someone who certifies you in “Goddess Yoga” IS an approved school of the YA.  Right.

Here’s the kicker:  in order for me to upgrade to a 500 level teacher, the “graduate of a non-registered school” application costs $150 together with the $95 to upgrade to E RYT 500.  So another $245 over and above the $150 I already paid to renew and upgrade to E RYT 200.

Oh my Goddess, I am in the wrong business.  I need to be in the certification game.  And can someone tell me why YA is officially a non-profit organization?  I said “no thanks.”  I don’t want to pay another dime to YA especially considering all that dough is a lot of rupees in India which I will need starting in January.  But eventually I will have to pay it if I ever want to conduct a 500 hour level training in the future.  AS IF I could not do that RIGHT NOW.

Of course I can conduct teacher trainings without being “Yoga Alliance approved” but how realistic is that?  With the current mentality of yoga in OMerika, would anyone sign up for my trainings?  I doubt it, because even the most staunchly anti-YA teachers (Ganga White - a must read; Lex Gillan; and my teacher in Chicago, to name a few), ALL ended up registering their schools with YA.  Because that is what people look for.

So here is my question, good readers:  the curriculum being equal, if you had a choice of a non-YA approved 200 hour teacher training with someone like me, with all my hours, 5 times at KYM OR with someone who is YA approved but does not have the hours of training and teaching experience that I have, which would you pick?

And I will say this before anyone else does:  yes, I know hours of training does not automatically make one a “good” teacher, the same way inexperience does not automatically make one a “bad” teacher.  There are always variables.

Yoga in OMerika.  Travel at your own risk.

the further adventures of yoga in OMerika

photo credit: Diane Arbus

Yoga in OMerika. Things here always get curiouser and curiouser.

Over the years I have written a lot about yoga teacher trainings, babies teaching babies, and registering with the Yoga Alliance.  As of today I am officially an RYT…again.

I did two teacher trainings in 2002 and 2003 and at that time my teacher was not Yoga Alliance approved.  Suddha was one of the first yoga studios to open in Chicago in the mid-1980s.  He brought astanga yoga to Chicago.  He lived and studied with his guru Swami Narayanananda for years, studied with Pattabhi Jois three times, studied at an Iyengar institute, did his own teacher trainings, and he was never YA registered.  He later grandfathered into the Yoga Alliance after I trained with him because he said that’s what people started looking for in teacher trainings.  But he still thought YA was a bunch of horse manure.

I registered with the YA in 2004 just because.  I started studying with Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers and Srivatsa Ramaswami in 2004 and in 2005 I started going to India and studying with Desikachar and his senior teachers at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.  After my first month long intensive at KYM, I returned to India exactly 6 months later and have been blessed to be able to return every year.  Right now in 2011 I can say that I have over 1000 hours of training and about 2000 hours of teaching experience — but I stopped counting the exact number of hours years ago.

After my first few trips to India people started suggesting I should train teachers so one day I called YA and inquired as to whether I could apply for E-RYT 500 before being at the 500 level.  I was told no, I had to be a 500 level for a certain amount of time.  I said, yeah, but according to your own standards I am ALREADY an E-RYT 500, why should I pay FIRST for 500 level then pay AGAIN for E-RYT 500?  Sorry, no go.  That’s when I let my registration lapse.

I’ve gone back and forth on the YA registration for years.  The only reason I started exploring registration again this year was because two studios where I teach workshops wanted to include my workshops into their YA registered teacher training programs.  I guess technically they can’t if I’m not YA registered.  This yoga iconoclast had never thought about that stuff before.

Then I had two conversations with teachers who train teachers.  One said that I would not be compromising my personal yoga morals if I was YA registered, it’s only a formality — just renew and I can do my own thing like she does.  I would still be a yoga outlaw, just one who’s registered with YA.  She said if I was YA registered I could train teachers anywhere in the world, and isn’t that what I want to do, travel and teach?

Another teacher whom I met during the Erich Schiffmann weekend put it to me this way over dinner:  she considers teacher training as a way of spreading yoga dharma, putting it out into the world.  She told me she registered at only the E-RYT 200 level just to train teachers, she’s not interested in giving YA any more money merely for the privilege of having a higher designation.  I recalled the words of a KYM teacher:  teach what you learn here or else we are nothing more than thieves.   Besides, she said, what’s wrong with the picture that “people with not even half your training are training teachers?”   Babies teaching babies.  She said if I was YA approved my TT program would draw more students than without it.  She told me that where she lives the first thing people ask is whether her TT program is YA approved.

Valid arguments.  So I called YA today and officially reinstated my registration at the 200 level.  Now the studios can include my workshops into their TTs.  I was told I could do teacher trainings at the E-RYT 200 level, after my TT program is approved, of course.  I again asked about the 500 level telling the YA rep that I’ve studied in India five times, I have over 1000 hours, etc.  Now here’s where it starts getting stupid.  I mean, real stupid.

I can not register at the 500 hour level without having an “advanced training” 300 hour certificate from an approved yoga school.  All my time with Desikachar and his senior teachers (including private classes), Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers (being one of the first certified yin yoga teachers in the Chicago area), Srivatsa Ramaswami, Mark Whitwell, my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock, the Trauma Sensitive Yoga training, and every workshop I’ve taken since 2004 does not “officially” count.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking the same thing.

No more piecing together trainings to add up to the required hours, no more being grandfathered in, and letters from people (like if Ramaswami wrote a letter saying I’ve studied with him since 2004) don’t count.   “I’m in the wrong business,” my husband said.  “I need to be in the certification racket.”

A yoga teacher friend called me not more than five minutes after posting my complaint on my Facebook page.    “THAT SUCKS!”, was the first thing she said after I said hello.  She said, “You of all people?!?  Someone who has spent all that time not to mention money in your training?”  Yup.  I know.  The irony is that with the right design software I could print up my own “official” certificate for that 500 hour designation and submit it because YA does not check credentials.  But would I?  Of course not.  Yoga morals indeed.

Why does something that is supposed to be right feel so damn wrong?

From the original Karate Kid:

Daniel-san:  Hey, what kind of belt do you have?
Mr. Miyagi:  Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?
Daniel-san:  No, I meant…
Mr. Miyagi:  In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants.

********************************

Addendum: Comment from Facebook:

“When are they going to go after the charlatans?  We had a woman show up at our studio, recently released of her corporate duties due to cutbacks, very saleswomany and self-promotional, wanted to know how to open a yoga studio cuz she thought it was a good way to make money but had never done yoga, and didn’t have “time” to do a full training.  In the wink of an eye she had opened a studio, was promoting herself as an E200RYT (don’t even know how that is possible after a weekend workshop training) and get this: was offering teacher trainings at $3000/per.  Checked her out on the Alliance and she was there, E200RYT.  BULLSHIT is all I can say.  I don’t think they check anything.  It’s not worth a damn thing and its too bad that it seems to set the industry standard.”

yoga championships?

Mary Elizabeth wrote in the previous post that she “can’t help but think that the emphasis on asanas has contorted not only many bodies, but also our minds, and has encouraged narcissism on and off the mat.”

A yoga instructor in this article states:

“‘Anybody who doesn’t believe it’s a sport should come take a yoga class,’ said yoga instructor Robyn Riconosciuto, who attended the championships to support some of her students who were competing, ‘There’s balance, grace and athleticism. I think they deserve recognition for the strength they have.’”

You know what type of yoga championship I’d like to see?  One where people are sitting in meditation:

without twitching and picking their feet after two minutes..

not looking for a wall to support themselves after one minute;

not picking the lint off their yoga pants…

not picking at their cuticles…

not jumping when someone coughs, a door is slammed, or a lawnmower starts up….

not looking around to see what other people are doing.

THAT would be a true yoga championship!

Do you have any other true tests?

f*@k YOGA

“It is about being here, present, being the real you, and choosing to offer up that soft vulnerable you instead of some fake mock-up to the world with every breath and every movement. It’s about taking the harder path through troubled country that leads to honesty and true connection between souls on a basis of honesty and integrity that comes from the kernel of your being and not some idea of what Patanjali wants you to do or your guru wants you to do or what the crowd wants you to do, or even worse what you think they want you to do. It’s about questioning every concept in your mind and even when you use such limited restricted tools as concepts doing so with awareness that they present a map and not the territory.”

And people thought I was snarky when I wrote about Tara Stiles.  Not quite.

You can read Scott’s entire catharsis here.

I “met” Scott via the India travel website Indiamike when I was planning my first trip in 2005.  The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram used to do their month long intensives twice a year back then, calling it “Universal Yet Personal.”  Scott attended the one before mine and he gave me the telephone number of the rickshaw driver he used, Suresh, whom I still use to this day.

Namaste and love and lite, y’all.

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