January 20, 2011

Public Yoga, Local Teachers: Reviving the Lost Art Form of the Public Class. ~ Amy Ippoliti

Photo Courtesy of EvanLovely

Where is the love for the local intrepid teacher who serves their community everyday?

The vast yoga world offers students everything from retreat get-aways, specialized trainings, workshops, music, clothing and accessories to go deeper into yoga. The most common of these offerings is the local public class in the 60-90 minute format offered by yoga studios all over the globe.

This particular offering has been going through a rough stage with some variability in quality. I believe this is in relation to the increase of weekend workshops with visiting teachers that now abound in local communities. It seems to me that all the glory and glamour is being reserved for visiting international teachers who fly in for a weekend, plant seeds, then leave; thus, regular classes can often lose their luster.

Perhaps because of this trend there is an assumption among some (not all) new yoga teachers that one gets certified to teach yoga, teaches for two years or so, and then hits the road to be a national teacher like the ones who visited them. That is what is being modeled, so it makes sense.

In some ways, it’s ironic for me to be writing this because I teach globally myself. However, I taught local public classes for a decade before hitting the road. From what I have experienced, teaching public yoga classes locally for 5-10 years is the best way to refine your teaching skills before branching out and traveling. Yet the trend of rushing to the finish line is still a reality. When I practiced yoga back in the 90s, the local class scene was da bomb! Local teachers in New York City were celebrities. They were like fountains of inspiration for their students, consistently showering them with incredibly fun and well-rounded practices to help them de-stress and sweat after work.

What happened to those days? Well, the good news is that yoga teachers now travel in part to further their studies and then return with more sophisticated teachings to offer their students. And believe me, these workshops are a valuable asset to teachers. The bad news is that, upon return, these teachers often start instructing their 90 minute classes as though they are a 3-hour workshop (like they just attended).

The result? You get a three hour workshop squeezed into 90 minutes, complete with painfully long dharma talks to sit through, multiple demonstrations, excessive partner work…. not much of a yoga practice.

Traveling provides an instructor with increased workshop experience, giving them the tools to offer more to their regular students. However, there is still a number of issues for yoga teachers to consider:

1. Are you wondering why your classes are not more populated?

2. Do you wish you had more time for consistent daily practice?

3. Are you racing from studio to studio to teach enough classes to make ends meet?

I believe that it is still possible for yoga teachers to get sophisticated training AND teach local, well-balanced classes that are so well attended that they can gain more free time and, of course, subsequently get on their own mats more.

I believe that we can revive the lost art form of the public class.

I believe that we can once again celebrate local yoga teachers for the great work they do each day to help their communities get healthier and more vibrant through yoga.

I mean let’s face it, not too many other jobs require you to be newly inspired on a daily basis in quite the same way. Not too many jobs can make an impact on people’s every day lives. It is the local teachers who are the glue that keeps the community thriving. It is the local teachers who spark the fire consistently in yogis of all levels to live more meaningful lives.

To address these issues and re-create a culture of respect for the local yoga teacher, I started a project called “90 Minutes to Change the World”. It’s a virtual yoga teacher training and optional live event that I hope will help improve local, public yoga classes around the world.

A toast to everyone digging his or her local yoga!

If you are a yoga teacher or know one, visit http://amyippoliti.com/event/90-minutes-to-change-the-world/ to check out Amy’s new local yoga project.

Amy Ippoliti began studying yoga in 1986 at the age of 16. By 1997, she completed the first ever teacher training with soon-to-be OM Yoga Center Director Cyndi Lee in NYC. Amy became a part of the original teaching staff when Lee officially founded Om Yoga Center the following year. During her stint in Manhattan, she also lead self-defense and empowerment courses for women, men and teens.  In 1998 she met Anusara Yoga founder, John Friend and has been studying and teaching Anusara yoga ever since.

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