I remember when I first got really excited about yoga and would talk about it to everyone and their mother about how amazing it is, and I dreamed of becoming a teacher. The best advice I received was to keep practicing. Notice the teachers and forms of yoga you gravitate towards and go from there, be patient. Find a teacher or better yet practice with your teacher’s teacher and keep going up until you find the one that shows you the way. Find a teacher who has insight and adds an edge of discomfort to your practice that means you’re going deeper.
As I embark on my 300 hour teacher training, which started at the beginning of this past September, I realized the question I have been asked most by students interested in teaching, is ‘where did you go for teacher training?’ It isn’t like finding the right grocery store where you can get the same products just anywhere. This is the person who is going to shape your views of yoga and teach you yoga philosophy, not all are equal. I have talked to teachers that I think in fact were not given a particularly good background in yoga, anatomy and philosophy, 200 hours is in fact not that long when it comes to training. I have heard of trainings that picked a random a form of yoga, since they did not have one, to register with yoga alliance. One teacher trainee came to the ashtanga shala, where I used to teach at, and hadn’t even learned the basic sequence for ashtanga and was in an ashtanga teacher training. She was going to receive a training certificate for ashtanga and would probably not learn the ahstanga sequence. I may sound overly critical, but students looking for teacher trainings should be demanding more and shopping harder. If you aren’t sure, do not spend thousands of dollars on just any training, with just any teacher. The teacher makes or breaks the training.
While I was in Encinitas, in southern California, I found that numerous people have attended a yoga teacher training. The culture in SoCal is more open to spiritual healing in general and yoga teacher trainings are signed up for all the time from those planning to teach and those who are not. In the New England area sometimes students take a teacher training just to learn more about the practice, but more often than not it is with the intention to become a teacher. If you draw the distinction that you want to take a training to become a teacher, don’t go to just anyone. Find a teacher that inspires you and that will help you become an inspiring teacher in your own right. Participating in a training because of the location and price, be prepared to get what you pay for. The more you are dedicated to doing a training the harder you should look and search for a teacher that will help you to dive in further. You can study yoga, Ayurveda, chanting, chakras, sutras, etc., for the rest of your life and not learn everything yoga has to offer. It is important to find a teacher that speaks to you and will pick the teachings that are really going to nourish you as a teacher and student.
If you think of the classes with some of your favorite teachers where you felt the most transformed, most likely those teachers are doing their work on and off the mat. They went to trainings, spent the time, effort, sweat, tears and taught difficult classes with not so easy students to stand in front of you and deliver an awesome class. There aren’t any short cuts or cheap trainings to becoming a good yoga teacher. If you want to stand in front of people and deliver a message make sure you go to a good school and to a good teacher.
Above I mention an ashtanga teacher trainee coming into the shala I used to work at. This is not a student taking the teacher training from the shala I was teaching at or from any training in the seacoast area. It was from a training a number of hours away. The point I was trying to make is that some trainings are run of the mill and may be lacking in information and tradition and tried to reference a student that appeared to not be receiving the appropriate support.
On further reflection with a beloved teacher about this post we discussed that students all learn differently and this student could have been attending a wonderful training but not taught for their particular learning style. In other terms she may have been given this information and just did not digest it fully yet.
Ashtanga is also a term used in Patanjali’s yoga sutras meaning ‘eight limbs’ of yoga; yama, niyama, asana, parayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi. If you are studying the eight limbs by Patanjali you could be technically practicing ashtanga yoga and not the sequence of postures taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois which he called the ashtanga sequence. This could also be an issue of semantics and verbiage.
I think these reflections are important, but the message of the post is still the same. Look for depth in your yoga practice and in your teacher training. This blog post was not meant to be posted in response to any specific trainings that I know of. Just the general onslaught of trainings you can find these days. Much love peace and light! J