Friday, May 7, 2010

Yoga Thought Bubble 2: How do I become a yoga teacher?

This is definitely one of the most FAQs I am asked, and I love it because the more people we have in our world really dedicating their lives to sharing and spreading the yoga, the better. As with all things, there are many different pathways you can take. I'll share bits of my own ever-continuing journey, offer some additional suggestions, and include some other related thoughts.

I think it's pretty safe to say that first things first: practice. For me when I was first preparing to teach, this meant an asana practice for at least a couple hours a day (with an occasional, sometimes reluctant day of rest, insisted on by my teacher), reading lots of books (from the ancient to the current) and a daily (often less than super successful) attempt at meditation. I also enrolled in a Yoga Studies program at a nearby university (UC Irvine), which served as a wonderful introduction to various yoga-related subjects including philosophy, subtle energy, Sanskrit, and Buddhism. I was so fiercely in love with my practice that I saved some money and quit my job (at the time I was in investor relations) so I could just do yoga all the time. I loved my studio so much that I started volunteering there (sweeping the floors and emptying the trash), which eventually led to working in the retail store, managing the studio, and becoming Bryan Kest's assistant. Talk about "immersion".

Next up: find a main teacher that you can practice with on a regular basis (addressed in Yoga Thought Bubble 1). This is particularly true for those on the teaching path. Again, it doesn't mean to only ever study with one teacher, but having one main teacher will be immensely helpful. She will get to know your physical practice and be able to guide and support you better. For example, I had a major fear of Tripod Headstand. I couldn't even figure out how to approach it. After months of shying away from it, my teacher helped me after class. She didn't physically support me, but just through her words and because of my total trust in her, I got into it and was laughing at how much easier it was than I'd imagined. And, ask your teacher what his yoga journey has been like, and discover which of his footsteps you'd like to follow. Dare to ask beyond "Who have you studied with?" because I bet there is so much more to why he is the amazing teacher, yogi, and person that he is.

And of course: attend a Teacher Training. I urge you to put a lot of thought into the Teacher Trainings you will attend (yes, trainings plural, as there will likely be more than your first one). Know that TTs are a huge business within the yoga industry, and oftentimes you're asked to commit thousands of dollars and hours upon hours before you'll be deemed worthy of using their brand name, and this almost never comes with any real guarantee that you'll find teaching jobs. I admit that I am biased when it comes to the so-called official certification process, but rather than get into it right now, I will paste the words of Bryan Kest (www.poweryoga.com), who addressed this brilliantly in a recent newsletter:

"We are not associated with Yoga Alliance. If I were to follow their guidelines I would not be able to follow my own guidelines. Their guidelines have no place in my training and should have no place in anyone’s teacher training other than that of their own. I am not an advocate of systematizing the dissemination of love. Yoga has always been passed down freely from teacher to student, in any format the teacher chooses and according to the teacher’s experiences and how the teacher feels they can best give their knowledge to the student. This beautiful practice, that has been happening for 6,000 years, does not need Yoga Alliance’s blessing or anybody else’s.

I am actually not sure why Yoga Alliance exists. Maybe their intentions are benevolent but the result is a fucking bureaucratic mess, tons of red tape and loads of unnecessary paperwork, not to mention more money!"

So I'm just saying to choose wisely. Listen to your gut and intuition as to what is most right for you. Are you really inspired by the teacher leading the TT and are you really interested in learning more about that particular style of yoga? Or are you more drawn in by the number of hours and credibility the TT boasts? Just make sure it will serve to nourish and nudge you forward in your practice.

As for when you're ready to attend your first TT, it's really personal. If you don't know Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or if you haven't yet experience the bliss of Savasana, it might better serve you to practice a bit more first, just so that you can get more out of the TT. But don't worry about not being able to stand on your hands or levitate (yet).

I started doing my own home practice after my first TT (with the magnificent Erich Schiffmann), and it really helped me to understand how to sequence, how to verbalize the body's movement and experience, and how to access my own voice. I enlisted (ok, maybe coerced) my loved ones to be my yogi guinea pigs and taught them classes in my living room. I practiced eliminating "uh" and "um" and "oops, sorry!" and nervous laughter.

For me, all of this was the perfect foundation for teaching. With the help of my teacher, I got my first job at a gym, and I kept expanding from there, to other gyms, small studios, private clients, and my home studio. I said YES to every teaching opportunity that came up, and in a few months time, I was teaching 25 times a week. It was great practice and got me into the groove of really becoming and being a teacher. But that many classes proved not to be so sustainable, so I pared it down to about a dozen (only to move to HK and teach an average of 18 classes a week, half of them in a heated room, which I swear makes teaching 1 class feel like 2!). This again is really personal; you'll figure out what's perfect for you.

Finally, know that there will always be more to learn and be open to all of it. I have dabbled in different styles and I attend lots of workshops and trainings with different teachers. Since moving to HK, I also make it a point to go back to my yoga home of Santa Monica once a year and snuggle back into my roots. It is all "continuing education", a beautiful process of always learning, receiving, practicing, and then offering it back out.

So, in short: practice, find a main teacher, attend a TT, do your own practice, teach loved ones, and say YES!

14 comments:

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My daughter is very interested in Yoga. I will let her read your post. Great job:)

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