It’s the beginning of 2009 and I’ve pretty much decided that I will not teach in yoga studios anymore. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know why. I should never say never, things can always change, but as of this moment it’s a better idea to run my own workshops and classes and not teach for anyone else. My yoga persona is not conducive to teaching in gyms or health clubs. I’m not saying that there aren’t good teachers in those venues, but it ain’t me, babe. I can’t teach to someone who is looking for a “work out” in yoga. I mean, I can, but I don’t want to. I can kick your yoga ass and leave you dripping with sweat if that’s what you think makes a great yoga class, but I don’t want to. It’s good to know that because knowing who you are in the yoga world saves you a lot of hassle and heartache. Advice to newbie teachers: don’t try to be someone you’re not. Teach what you know, not what you THINK you know. It’s a gift to know who you are.
With the experiences I’ve had in the last two years with studio owners, I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been teaching for 7 years. I’ve studied three times at one of the most prestigious yoga schools in the world and I am an ongoing student of three yoga masters. I’ve been a student of Buddhism for 30+ years. The next logical step for me, as it has been for other long-time teachers I know, is training yoga teachers. Maybe that’s not the next step for some of you reading this, but I have moved on from teaching group classes. I have private students and I only teach two group classes where I teach for other entities. I call the shots in the rest of my classes.
Many yoga studios in the Chicago area run their own teacher trainings. I have no idea where all these new teachers are going to teach because there are more teachers than there are students, but yoga studios keep cranking out the yoga teachers. Any yoga studio that wants to make a buck comes up with a teacher training program. Let’s be honest — the yoga bucks aren’t in teaching group classes. As I was taught in India, personal transformation for a student only begins in a group class; it is accomplished by working one-on-one with a teacher, in the traditional way. At a yoga conference workshop I heard a show-biz yogini say (and I’ve learned better than to name names anymore in this blog) that she’d rather teach to the two students who get it than to the 10 who don’t. I feel the same way. Her statement was honest and real.
For the last six months I’ve been going back and forth about doing my own teacher training. Frankly I think my training would be unique because it would include Buddhism. Not one training in my area includes that subject. Nor does any teacher training include yin yoga. I’ve studied with the two American yin yoga masters for the last 5 years.
But first I have to get it on with the Yoga Alliance. Yee-ha. I’d love to know what the Yoga Alliance does for yoga teachers other than take their money, but this culture being what it is, everyone looks for that seal of approval to study with. Five years ago I registered at the 200 level and I now have enough hours to be an “E-500” level, that is, an “experienced” yoga teacher. I never wanted to play the game of getting a higher registration, the mere thought of filling out their form gave me hives, but now that I’m thinking of training teachers it’s almost a requirement, future students look for it.
I emailed the YA and asked whether I could apply for E-500 instead of being a plain ol’ 500 hour level yoga teacher. The answer was no, I have to be a 500 hour first, for FOUR YEARS (WTF?!?), before I can apply for E-500. I totaled all my teaching hours since 2004 and according to their own rules, I’m already E-500. As far as I’m concerned, this is just a scam to get more of my money. And for what? The Yoga Alliance does nothing for me. As they say in Texas, that ol’ dog won’t hunt.
So what’s the big deal about being registered with Yoga Alliance in order to train teachers? Unfortunately, for the sole reason that people think Yoga Alliance registration really means something. It’s all about marketing, nothing more, nothing less.
The master teacher I trained with 7 years ago was not, at that time, registered with the Yoga Alliance, but he trained with Pattabhi Jois twice and at an Iyengar institute and lived with his guru for almost 10 years. When I trained with him he didn’t care about being anointed by the Yoga Alliance. As ridiculous as it was he was not an “approved” school when I registered with YA. But over the years he grandfathered into the Yoga Alliance registration — only because people think it really means something. My teacher Ramaswami who studied with Krishnamacharya for 30 years has recently become Yoga Alliance registered — as if someone would not study with him because he wasn’t.
One year from now I’ll be living in an ashram in India studying yoga therapy under the personal guidance of a a swami, after which I will receive a yoga diploma certified by the Indian government. I really think that trumps anything the Yoga Alliance can give me.
I will look to training yoga teachers in the near future. But not in America. In India. I can do a 200 hour training, 8 hours a day, in 5 weeks. People study astanga in Mysore, Iyengar in Pune, viniyoga in Chennai, and travel to Rishikesh all the time to study yoga in general. British ex-pats run yoga teacher training programs in Goa. Why should I not teach yoga and yoga teachers in my beloved Tamil Nadu, India? I’ve been told that with my India experience I should do “sacred temple tours.” That would be a perfect thing to do after a teacher training — a temple puja blessing the new teachers.
I must finish some of my own training first because then I will be fully seasoned. A good cook knows when the seasoning is just right and a smart vintner knows when the wine is aged to perfection ready to be uncorked.
My time has come. The events of the last few years have certainly been in tune with what my vedic and western astrologers have said, both have been right on. So I’m putting it out there and I’ll go with the flow. Buddhism teaches me to detach from the outcome, not to cling but to let go — if it happens it happens. I’m giving it up to something that is greater outside myself.
If you want to study with me, tell me your interest. Just because you take a teacher training doesn’t mean you must teach. Many yogi practitioners take teacher trainings only for the deeper knowledge. I already teach workshops, so doing a teacher training is merely taking it a step further.