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.”

11 thoughts on “the further adventures of yoga in OMerika

  1. The YA attitude can be summed up by this: “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Racket, indeed.

    Maybe Ramaswami will do you up a certificate if you ask nicely, or at least put his name to one? 😉

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  2. Just reading that gave me a headache. I’ll be finished with my teacher training around the end of the year, and will probably register with them just to make things easier.

    But I still sit here and think “it’s basically meaningless.” Some of the people in my relatively good program only have a few years of practice under their belts, whereas I have over a decade and continue to feel like a beginning half of the time. And yet, by next year, we’ll all appear “the same” on paper.

    People are easily fooled by credentials. In the end, we just have to be true to our practice, and keep rattling the cages whenever an opportunity comes to do so.

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  3. This is a pretty important question “Is the RYT to become the AMA of the yoga world?” Because the AMA’s impact on medicine has been pretty troubling (in my view anyway), even if some positives have come from their association. And the whole blurring of secular/religious or spiritual commentary also strike a chord with me.

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  4. Sorry for getting here late, but I guess my question is, then what would be the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff if not some sort of teacher training and/or registration process? Now, I do think that YA should do something to accommodate those teachers (if those teachers want) who were around before the official line on registration, etcetera. If you’ve been studying yoga for 10-20 years already, practicing, and teaching, why not have some sort of way of being grandfathered in? Totally legitimate. I also agree that some people who take the trainings and pay and do everything according to YA standards are not good teachers and might never be. But, again, my question, how to protect the public from unsafe teachers and how to recognize the really good ones who may have started teaching before all the “official” rules came along?

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    1. good question. and my answer is “don’t know” because they used to grandfather people in. but they don’t anymore.

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  5. “Babies teaching babies.” I loved that comment because well, I am a baby. I am a young woman who just completed her first yoga teacher training; the next generation. I think, philosophically, standardization could easily be argued as the devil or a guiding angel. Yoga is big, huge, so much more than a little westerner like me can fathom so I can understand the longing for a simple explanation. A beginner unfamiliar with the craft wants to know that she is safe before she dives head first into the pool. I think YA is trying to pick up the ball to let her know in a clear, simple way that “this is a minimal standard, this is what is good for you, safe for you, young lady, who knows next to nothing about yoga”. Of course, such simplicity has major drawbacks. It can not (at least for now, maybe ever) recognize the time and depth and intensity of your experiences because well, I think its not meant to express those things at all. It is not a “job well done”. Its a you know A,B,C,D and that’s the minimal standard to be met to be a good, safe teacher of this thing called yoga. So you received your certificate so you can advertise to those scared, new yogis that you meet a minimal standard, which will draw them in; then, when they take your class or meet you, it is not paper that shows who you are (the belt quote from karate kid…fantastic :0), but you yourself.

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  6. Funny that I should stop by and read this post b/c I was just at the YA website to try to figure it out. I’ve been practicing off and on for 14 years (starting at age 16), taking classes and workshops when I can afford it (which isn’t often) and I do a lot of my own spiritual study/reading as well. Part of me really wants to take YTT, the other part of me still feels like a total baby b/c the more you discover the more you realize is out there. But I’d like to get my feet wet with YTT so to speak, but there’s no way I can afford it. A registered yoga teacher I know has sort of offered to apprentice me (not for free necessarily, but pay later), so I was trying to figure out how that would work in terms of YA. I was wondering if I did that along with one of those recoginzed 200-hr distance education courses would be a start and then of course any money I made teaching beginner classes could be reinvested in further training. Also I was trying to figure out how the CE credits that you sometimes get with workshops work and if you can take those over time instead of paying lots of money all at once to get your 200-hr. Judging from your experience, I’d say that’s a big fat NO. So maybe I’ll just continue to stay home and do my own thing for free!

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    1. well, Grace, you can take a TT to deepen your practice and you never have to teach. all I know is that to register with YA, you would need to take a 200 hr. training at a YA “approved” school and get their certificate to prove it.

      so as far as I know, the registered teacher whom you know has to be YA “approved” to teach you. apparently one can no longer piece together workshop hours, etc., unless they are “APPROVED” CEUs.

      yeah, it’s a bunch of crap.

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  7. Hi Linda:) I am so HAPPY to see myself(and Bryan Kest) aren’t the only ones who feel that YA is totally useless! I have seen some things especially here where I live. we have a popular studio in town which decided to to a 200hr YA YTT, I actually was a part of the curriculum planning, after some shady-ness on the part of the owner, I released myself from the project. There was a curriculum for the YA to approve only! No manual, everything the students learned they had to look up on the web! can u imagine?! The students are afraid to report her cos they think their certificates will be revoked! Unreal. YA clearly does not check thoroughly and frankly who cares if they do, just because one has YA behind them does not mean they know what they are doing. Love your blog:) Thank you!

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