What Is (Or Is Not) Happening in Yoga Teacher Training?
I'm going to get criticized for this. I'll be told I am being negative and trying to exclude people. I'll be accused of being jealous. That's probably why I've been sitting on this blog post for a few months. But it keeps coming up. I keep seeing more and more evidence that something is just not right. So here I go again, writing about the 1000 pound elephant on the Yoga mat.
As a Yoga teacher I am a member of a number of online forums and a few in person communities where we as Yoga teachers gather together to talk about Yoga. We cover the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, the new and exciting, the wacky and weird, and the deeply personal and professional challenges of this Yoga teacher's life.
One topic I have been zeroing in on lately is the seeming lack of preparation new Yoga teachers get when it comes to simply teaching safe classes to a group of people in a studio or gym setting. This is in sharp comparison to the over preparation they seem to have for creating blogs, building websites, making Instagram accounts, getting followers, creating Youtube video channels, planning retreats, and developing their personal BRAND. Everyone seems to know the short quote they saw in a meme attributed to the Buddha or Ghandi, or MLK or whoever but very few actually know if that quote is correct, actually from the person attributed, or what it is really referring to. In this age of the tweet it feels like too few people actually read and research anymore.
The teaching issues that I have been seeing 200hr trained teachers asking about cover some, what I firmly believe are, BASIC foundational skills a teacher needs in order to teach. Some actual quoted questions include:
"[What are the] best texts or resources to reconnect with the traditional theory of yoga?"
"To what extent are new teachers responsible for their students' safety?"
"Do you ask students before the class begins if they have injuries or physical ailments? I am torn whether to ask this."
"What pranayama techniques do you teach during a yoga class?"
"I’ve been asked to lead a class for a 25yr old male. He plays a lot of sport and has been getting some pain in the lower back. The physio has told him its due to really tight muscles. Any suggestions about great poses for people who play a lot of sport."
"I teach a group of women that really want to work on their cores in class - I need some pointers for key postures / sequences to use to really work the core."
Seeing these questions concerns me. Where are they being trained that they would come out with a 200hr teacher certificate and still need to reach out online to strangers to get answers to these questions? Why are they not getting support from the school that they trained with? Were they not paying attention during training? Why isn't the certifying body actually doing the job of checking on these things instead of just taking money for dues and then doing nothing?
Don't even get me started on the answers they get! Some are well thought out and complete (full of resources and articles to do further research with) and others are just more of the blind leading the blind.
I am part of a growing group of professional teachers who feel that the standards for 200hr training programs and the requirements to enter these programs are woefully inadequate. These programs are turning into more of a revenue stream for the individual studio/person offering the training and as a result are watering down the profession by turning out teachers who are really not ready to teach.
OK, IT ISN'T EVERY ONE BUT IT IS ALOT.
Missing from many of these training programs are:
Requirements that a student be a student for a sustained period of time.
Too many infatuated students are turning into teachers without having gone through the ups-and-downs and necessary commitment and work that this path requires.
Not enough Anatomy & Physiology training.
Like it or not, most people only practice Yoga for the physical component and do not want to or wish to learn about the deeper spiritual practices. They may get there someday, but for the most part classes are full of people who want to tone up and slim down. Having teachers who do not have a DEEP working knowledge of the human body, its limitations and wonderful abilities is asking for disaster. Most 200hr trainings only brush the surface of what we need to know.
Ethics and clear rules of conduct.
See the discussions of Matthew Remski, Donna Farhi and others on how touch through assists and the roles of the teacher-student have been abused to see that we need to do better here. Not talking about it is not going to help it get solved.
Not enough personal shadow work.
Many teachers will stand in front of a room full of people and speak about eating disorders, abuse, PTSD, letting go, etc. or place their hands on others for assists without having the slightest bit of trauma sensitivity training or having done any deep work on their own issues.
No follow up or continuing support.
ESPECIALLY for the destination trainings! The advertisements for some of these programs should be more honest..."Come to [insert name of tropical paradise like Bali] and become a teacher even though I have never met you, know nothing about your personal practice, have no contact with anyone in your Yoga community who can be a personal reference, and then if you still don't feel ready or confident to teach, sign up for my next training in [insert name of tropical paradise like Costa Rica]."
The 200hr programs would better serve the Yoga community and the global community if they morphed into more of a foundation for living a Yogic life and introduction to the complexities of this practice and how to do it for your lifetime rather than the certification mill they have become.
And to all of the teachers out there looking for answers to their questions, get off of Facebook and find a teacher you can speak to, practice with, and learn from who has been at it for a number of years, not just a season. Make sure that they are doing their own shadow work and keeping up their own practice and studies. Take some courses for anatomy & physiology, nutritional science, first aid, physical therapy, etc. you will be amazed by what you learn. If you love the philosophy and spirituality be cautious in finding your teacher (see again the writings of Matthew Remski espically about cults) but find one because good ones do exist and the teachings are awesome too. And most of all READ and BE CURIOUS. Find the sources and the studies and READ.
Good luck and Namaste.