September 24, 2013

Want to Be a Yoga Teacher? Read this first. ~ Clemens Frede

For the first time in history there will be more yoga teachers than yoga students: ta-daa!

Ok, so I am guessing maybe six more months until we’re passing the magic number.

Thought we’ve had enough yoga teachers advertising their classes and workshops and immersions and intensives and retreats and teacher trainings? Think again!

Articles on local yoga teacher blogs will soar over the next months, where they complain about not being able to make a living. “Why can I not make ends meet? I know there are millions of me, but I’m a yoga teacher! I’ve almost reached Samadhi! This world is so wrong. We need a fundamental mind shift!”

The yoga market will be so overly saturated, that students won’t have to pay for yoga classes anymore, but teachers will actually be paying them to attend their classes. “Special offer” At Instant Enlightenment Yoga we pay you 10$ for each class you take with us, plus a pair of Lululemon pants for a two month subscription! Sign up now!”

At the door, you are greeted with the latest health drink, promising eternal youth and a towel with your name embroidered. The class will be taught by their most recent graduate from their weekend yoga training program, but hey—you get 10 bucks and a towel and instant enlightenment (that’s the drink…).

I feel strangely stuck in a paradox, where I am part of this situation and at the same time find it pathetic. Of course, one somehow exempts themselves from mediocracy and “the mass.”

I, too, do think that I am special. It makes a perfectly acceptable excuse to me, how I got into this situation.

Where has it all gone so wrong?

First of all, I think it’s great that people are studying and learning and loving yoga. But is that reason enough for having to teach it? Unfortunately only few have a notion of how a teacher training can change your perspective on yoga. I had no idea.

Sometimes I wish I had not started teaching, but once you’re in it, you’re in it (and I love it). Perhaps with a dedicated and committed teacher I would have been better off and not done a teacher training—but that teacher wasn’t around.

These teachers aren’t around, it seems.

Maybe they’re all at Wanderlust or Burning Man or some other yoga-mega-event, enlightening everyone else but me. Instead I found a number of yoga studios offering a teacher training in 200 hours. So why stand in line when the shortcut is so accessible. (Remember: I, too, think I am special! Well, I actually am.)

It’s not a shortcut really—on the spiritual path there are no shortcuts.

It’s a way for yoga studios to make money. There. I said it.

I am dumbstruck by some of the students I meet, who tell me they are doing a teacher training. Uhm—really? And then I remember how crappy my wheel pose was when I did my first training. It wasn’t really much of a wheel at all, more like a modern art backward coffee table. It hurt.

How come nobody said “Listen, my friend. Is this really what you want to do?”

Of course it doesn’t matter where your wheel pose or handstand or scorpion are at as a teacher, but having a good practice sure does help understanding Asana. On the other hand, being able to do a perfect pincha mayurasana (peacock pose) or even just knowing how to write it does not guarantee in any way, that you’re worth 5¢ as a yoga teacher.

But you know what—either doesn’t matter when you’re standing in front of a class. Just say something that sounds smart, like “this asana is great for revitalizing the kidneys and the smudshachakra” (yes, I just made that up—you totally can!) Your students will think you’ve descended straight from yoga heaven with unbearable wisdom.

I bet you none of my students know how many hours of training I have and what the Yoga Alliance is and I am puh-retty sure neither do about 95 precent of all other yoga students. Yes, worldwide.

What yoga has ironically lost is connection.

Yes, we are all one big, happy community and we’re all friends. We “so” are connected. Or are we? We’re connected in a network kind of way.

In a Facebook, Wanderlust, yoga-mega-event kind of way.

What we are missing often is a true, personal teacher-student relationship. Many studios accept students to their teacher trainings based on one single class observation—people they barely know anything about.

Well, except, of course, that they can pay the fee (no refunds—sorry).

What we are missing is responsible teachers. When students tell me they want to quit their job and do a teacher training I usually ask them what they are running away from. Are you miserable with your life and why do you think doing a yoga teacher training will solve that in any way? I think it’s a question that needs to be asked more often.

I think some people need to be smacked over the head with a rolled up yoga mat.

Isn’t that what we’re doing yoga for? Self-reflection? No?

There are so many bright people out there, investing their time into yoga teacher trainings and struggling as yoga teachers, when really their passion and talents are somewhere else. You don’t have to do a yoga teacher training to follow a spiritual path.

There are a lot of lost souls out there, thinking teaching yoga is their calling, when it’s really not.

There are certainly teachers who do have this connection with their students. They just don’t stand in the spotlight. They are not the ones producing a gazillion new teachers each year to finance their studio or traveling. They observe and evaluate and teach in their own personal, in a quiet way.

Perhaps some of them smack their students over the head. Not literally. Not with the rolled up mat. I hope not. They make talents shine in their own surrounding—on and off the mat.

As teachers we have the tremendous responsibility to teach our students well and help them find their path.

Yoga is becoming a flea market and not the six in the morning kind—more like the four in the afternoon kind, where we have to dig for the good stuff.

I think we must find a way to better structure the yoga profession and establish quality standards.

I’m sorry, I can’t end with a recommendation of whether you should do this yoga teacher training or not (if you’re thinking about it). My recommendation would be to skip it and invest in your own practice. Then again—you just might be the next Krichnamacharya.

I just want to say this: let’s make sure yoga doesn’t turn to shit. With all the fun and joy we have in yoga—let’s not forget it’s a serious business, best treated with humility and respect.

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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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