Teacher Training

Does completing a 200‐hour yoga teacher training (TT) program make you a yoga teacher? I can say with certainty that many teacher trainings don’t teach much about teaching. In all fairness to the trainings, at the very least, teacher trainees are taught how to consistently practice, which is no small feat in itself.

How appropriate is it however that these same trainees are then allowed to begin teaching, having just learned how to practice themselves?
The reality is that many students who sign up for a 200‐hour program in yoga are beginners, often only having been exposed to handful of asana classes for 6 months to a year, and having had very little if any tutelage under experienced teachers. I have encountered very few trainees that have a dedicated regular practice, and even more shockingly, many of them enter a training program only having heard of asana out of the eight limbs of the classical path of yoga. Another type of student I often encounter tells me they’ve been practicing “on‐and‐off for about 2‐3 years”, an even more vague reference to their understanding of what it is to practice.

Why don’t these trainees understand that yoga is a lifestyle and not just exercise, and that yoga is more than selecting a favorite playlist, linking together a bunch of standing poses, referring to something superficially spiritual and then closing your eyes to “go inside”?

It’s true that some trainees’ motivation comes from the celebrity culture that Western yoga and its media cultivate. The messages expressed in images of lithe bodies in expensive spandex, arriving effortlessly into beautiful postures, invoking the possibly of becoming more light, loving, beautiful beings filled with peace, happiness and bliss ‐ these are obviously seductive in many ways, and may account for part of an answer to the question above. Seeking to really understand a trainee’s motivation for undertaking a training however quickly reveals itself as a
dead end of generalizations and half truths, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that the answers have less to do with the nature of the students or the content of the trainings, and more to do with the standards for accepting trainees into these training programs.

An aside as well, to preempt possible misguided criticism ‐ I am not advocating for a higher bar of entry to the profession in order to maintain its exclusivity or increase its cachet. I am advocating for a more rigorous and systematic approach to the preparation and cultivation of future teachers. I believe this is necessary in order to avoid the continually perpetuated condition in which so many trainees are so ill informed of the discipline they are taking on.

An issue that I’ve observed is that many yoga studios are unaware of this situation, for a variety of reasons. Some seem to be more concerned with their bottom line than with the quality of teacher they are producing. Others have bought into selling an image and have lost touch with their roots of yoga practice. Whatever the reason, the unfortunate result is that the vague understanding many trainees possess of yoga practice leads them to believe that 200 hours of intensive study will not only deepen their practice but also qualify them to teach.

As a few popular contemporary studies have made clear, 200 hours is not all that much time in the space of a lifetime of study, nor is it all that much time to learn, assimilate, practice and then teach anything! Perhaps the notion of 10,000 hours of study should be emphasized on this path as much as any other.

It is my opinion that a deepening of one’s practice will lead to a point in which the impetus to teach arises organically as a way of further deepening practice and delving more fully into the global and communal aspects of yoga.

If it’s not clear already, let me be explicit in saying I believe it is the yoga studios’ responsibility to educate their prospective trainees more fully. Most studios rely on teacher trainings to help pay the rent, which is fair, as they’re running a business.

Yet wouldn’t these teacher training applicants be better off simply developing the disciplines of an asana practice, daily breath awareness, concentration, and self‐study practices which would fortify them in their lives and ultimately allow them to be content and more effective in any line of work? Perhaps it is not even necessary to make these training programs about teaching yoga when in fact they can fully stand alone as transformative experiences. What the yoga community always needs are more educated, devoted practitioners who are a part of bringing an ever increasing clarity and sense of purpose to our shared practice.

‐Anonymous

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5 comments

  1. I think we have to refer to the individual, too – does she or he innately have what it takes to teach. If no, then a 200hr training is not going to turn that person into a teacher. If yes, then 200hr is a good base upon which to add experience and further training. And I would refer to motivation. If the trainee’s motivation is to be glamorous, then that will tend to lead the practice in a direction. If the trainee’s motivation is to help out in the world by sharing the practice, then that will lead in a certain direction.

    So I guess it comes to what is the school’s motivation. What does the school understand yoga to be, and what is the school’s belief about yoga’s role? Tremendous pressure in our economic system to produce, to crank it out. That’s not going to change. So people will be concerned with quantity.

    Personally I think we have, or will have, those who teach the eight limbs, and those who teach a yoga-influenced form of exercise that has its own pop style. In either case teacher competence is important, so this is a good conversation to have. Thank you for hosting the conversation.
    upon
    which to add experience and

  2. ubiquityyoga · · Reply

    This is really well said and well written. I am a recent YTT graduate of the 200 hour Hatha Flow Program. I have been practicing yoga since 2008 and have had a consistent almost daily home practice since 2009.
    When I started getting to know some of my classmates in YTT I was suprised by how few had a home practice. It really puzzled me and still does.

  3. It’s funny because many in the yoga community don’t respect the certification process of the Yoga Alliance but won’t give someone the oppourtinity to teach without the RYT. Even if you have experience and are an amazing teacher if you took any other path to teaching that wasn’t through the Yoga Alliance they don’t consider you legit even though their process in many ways isn’t legit. Interesting.

  4. Lo Flow · · Reply

    The YA is a registry, not a certifying body; no one from YA observes registrant’s teaching or practice. The Iyengar Association, uses a tiered assessment process to qualify prospective teachers.
    There is a lot of poor teaching going on in the community. We’ve allowed the public to have whatever they want, hence ‘hip hop flow’ etc. Students are not being taught nearly enough fundamentals and there are a lot of avoidable injuries, not to mention practical approaches to common conditions that are not being taught.
    A 200 hr training without evaluation to make one an instructor is suspect.

  5. wildyogahearts · · Reply

    i am so glad to see this post, I have in the past few years become more and more aware of how out of whack things have gotten with teaching and studios etc… the ‘straw that broke the camels back’ was when I found out that a sex addict with a severe mental illness, that cant get a full time job because he would lose his benefits, was able to take TT on a scholarship and then he was teaching in a studio that didnt have a clue who or what he had!!!! it got me thinking, how many teachers are addicted, mentally ill, have protection orders for domestic abuse, abusers, or even criminals teaching classes, gaining a following or worse having private sessions with naive women/men only to abuse them in some way?? i started seeing how students look up to and give a following to teachers because of blind trust in the studio owners… they have no concept of where or who or even how qualified the teacher is… Most studios do not screen or even know who comes through their programs, except for the short time in TT every month… what is so wrong with mentor programs, with getting to know why or who is going thru your programs… I mean that is how it was 1000s of years ago… i do believe that if it was mandatory to screen and check backgrounds of people in TT training programs, studios would be very selective because it costs money for that… and i know it is not full proof but if we made it so that studios had to have mentor programs for new teachers and that they had to at least check and screen better we would see less teachers being pumped out in’ assembly line’ style .. Also the quality of teacher would be better because only the truly dedicated will stay… in the meantime i do agree with one of comments above, it does fall down to us as individuals for now to activate a change in how we teach … i educate my classes and clients and workshops on what YA is, how to look up teachers, do not be afraid to ask questions, to understand what teachers really are and not blindly follow but educate themselves and most important, never be afraid to leave a studio if you cannot get answers or if it is all about how much money you give (it is their money that helps to keep the doors open so why are they giving it away if it is potentially dangerous) if more students left studios then things would start changing as well….teaching truth does make a difference and it is appreciated by students … and keep talking about it in yoga community and beyond, to be rebels of truth and stand in our power of bring Yoga back to what it is meant to be, it is slow and a challenge but after all we have lifetimes right? 😀

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