Let’s Break This Down - On Becoming A Yoga Instructor
There’s been some press on the yoga industry as of late.
Wellness is becoming more and more of a focus.
Here in the U.S. alone, the “baby boomer” generation is aging and retiring (sorry mom and dad, but its the truth). Healthcare, to say it nicely, is dysfunctional. Prescription medication is leading to losses of the population that are astounding and heart breaking all at the same time.
We are looking for alternative ways to care for ourselves.
In addition technology, social media, video games, and whatever you want to insert here for hand-held little devices that consume us are causing human interaction to disintegrate.
Maybe without even knowing it, we are craving more human interaction. Possibly without even realizing we need it.
I am willing to bet all of us can relate to one of more of these.
Life is moving fast, there are ore humans than ever on the planet, all of us are looking for reprieve to slow it down; something that allows a deep breath, a safe environment, a place where you can go and feel held, and a place that you can trust.
Yoga is one of the things that many of us have turned to. Yoga studios are abounding, and so are yoga instructors.
When we fall in love with something that makes us feel good, we want more. We dig deeper, we ask questions, we want a “piece” of it, and we want to feel connected to it.
Of course, the next natural step for a yogi, who practices regularly and falls in love, is teacher training. I would encourage any student who has inquisitiveness on this practice, to ask. There is history and learning abound! Two hundred hours of teacher training just scratches the surface of this practice.
This may sound harsh and difficult to understand, but not all those that graduate and hold the title of “yoga teacher”, “yoga instructor”, “certified yoga teacher” etc., will teach or should teach.
Like most professions, and maybe this one a little more, from the outside looking in, it probably looks so euphoric. You enter a space, everyone is hugging, and it is a community, acceptance, non-judgment, all the warm and fuzzy that of course every human wants to feel! In addition you leave the space with a sense of peace and calm and for a little while at least your problems have faded and stress have left your body. Why wouldn’t we all want to be yoga instructors and own yoga studios!?
Consider this, could every football player be a football coach? What about every person that does cross fit - could they all be part of the cross-fit games or be a coach at a cross-fit gym?
If you are a schoolteacher, would you automatically be a good yoga teacher?
I was speaking with a friend on this concept the other night; she works in the school system and practices yoga regularly. When I asked her about this idea on what makes a good yoga instructor, and if she believed everyone could be one, her reply was “just because you have a doctorate degree, doesn’t mean you all of a sudden you can teach what you have a degree in”
Take it even a step further, if you are good at math are you meant to be an accountant?
Good yoga practitioners does not equate to a good yoga teacher.
Maybe this sounds obvious, or maybe you completely disagree with these suggestions, but the skills required to be a yoga instructor are not to be overlooked. It is a skill that requires heart, energy, confidence, clarity in communication, intuition, balanced with humbleness, respect for the practice, and constant reflection of yourself.
As a yoga teacher you are constantly holding up a mirror, to yourself, and then for others. At times it required you to pour your heart and soul into the room, and other times it requires you hold the space and allow the silence for your students.
The energy and openness that you share - both students and teacher - is what makes the experience. Comparable to a sports team being lead by a coach, or a classroom being lead by a schoolteacher - there is a teacher, and the students will follow. The energy, passion and willingness to be vulnerable and show who you are is what will create the experience.
Being a yoga teacher is an honor and with this honor comes great responsibility.
Yoga means to “yoke” to “unite” - this union of mind, body, spirit requires us to feel, and at times when we look in the mirror what we feel can be heavy. Being able to continue to hold space during these times is a practice. It’s also a challenge.
Sure, you can take the 200-hour TT, and call yourself certified, and walk into a room and begin calling out yoga instruction and poses, but this is not what will keep your students coming back. Two hundred hours of teacher training is where your journey begins.
Becoming a yoga instructor is a journey that never ends.
Along the route, it takes a person’s willingness to be seen in front of a room full of people. It takes holding space, and giving of your attention and dedication to the students in front of you. It takes intuitiveness to read the energy and watch the people in front of you and at times you feel exactly what they are feeling. It is an experience. This is what we have created and sourced and asked of this practice for decades.
When students arrive to your class, the experience you craft allows them to arrive as they are, and for a little while to be guided and held, and lead into poses that at times are awkward, vulnerable, and hard!
Our jobs are to empower them, to give them the opportunity to reflect, zone out, feel their physical bodies, work through any emotions that bubble up and no matter what their experience, to tow the line and hold the space. This experience allows them to simply just observe the sensations of their body, watch their reactive mind, and breathe. Our job is to build community, create trust, and encourage our students to find their way back onto their mat - for themselves.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t try and I am certain not writing this to sway anyone from becoming a yoga teacher if you truly feel it - with persistence, passion and determination we can achieve our desires. There are also incredible benefits if you are a practitioner to taking a teacher training and deepening your own self practice. Teacher training for many is life changing - but it does not always equate to instruction.
Like one of my heroes, (who practices yoga by the way) Tom Brady was the 199th draft pick! His persistence, determination, practice, planning and heart - and help from his teammates and coach along the way - is what has lead him to being the greatest of all time.
My objective is to point out that if the expectation is that after teacher training you will be able to step into a room and create the environment continuously over and over without skipping a beat, this is unreasonable.
Yoga is a way of life.
It is not a franchise, it is not the equivalent to a coffee-chain, and it is not just about the physical asana and benefit of a strong, slender body - it is a mind-set that you live everyday. This mindset becomes engrained in you the more you explore everything this practice has to offer.
It almost (sometimes it does) brings me to tears when I think about what an honor it is to hold space for others who are willing to step into my class - sometimes in a room that is heated to upwards of 100 degrees, and where students move their bodies in vulnerable positions, feel emotions like anger, fear, and gratitude - however, there are absolutely times when I struggle and being a yoga teacher is hard.
However, I choose this practice - everyday. I choose to continue creating this experience that allows my students space and time where they can gather and release, where they can show-up exactly how they are, and work through whatever is happening inside of them.
I passionately believe that the world needs yoga more than ever before. The kind of yoga that goes deeper than the asana, the kind of yoga that allows everyone to feel more connected to themselves, and those around them.