Anybody can plunk down 3 grand in Fiji, eat quinoa twice a day and drink fresh coconuts for three weeks and be declared: presto chang-o A YOGA TEACHER!
Before you react and take this personally, I’ll be the first to say I did this too. For many people — most — transitioning from a ‘traditional’ lifestyle or continuing on a ‘non traditional' trajectory, Immersive Teacher Training is a great first step to becoming a teacher. (As a side note, In 2020 everyone will graduate Liberal Arts college as a 200 hr certified yoga teacher and yoga will be so pervasive that it will be the subject of feature length movies and several long running television shows. It’s already dominating fashion.)
Being a yoga teacher is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It requires all of my skills and aptitudes applied in real time. I have to be present for 90 minutes in the room plus 30 minutes before and after. My old job where I sat at a desk and raked in the pay check and benefits? I think I was present there for less than 6 minutes a day. In fact I was checked out altogether, which was really the only way to make peace with the soulless drone that is most corporate jobs.
Recently I learned from a friend that the teacher training he is attending is less than adequate. This is a huge disappointment and personal embarrassment since I recommended the training! I don’t even recommend a book unless I’ve read it. In the case of this training, I did not attend and therefore I cannot vouch for it with my personal experience but I had heard good things and read many of the teachers writings, which led me to believe it would be of quality.
Right now in the “Bikram” world there are a lot of alternative trainings popping up. In the absence of Bikram, who has traditionally led the trainings, a vacuum needs to be filled as there is a labor shortage of new teachers to teach and an excess of people who want to be trained. Naturally this has led to a market, which some teachers/studios are capitalizing on.
But how do you know the training you're attending is a “real” training? After all, for the thousands of people who attended Bikram’s “training” there may be a variety of perspectives but very few of those perspectives would avow that the training was accredited (it wasn’t) or highly informational (Bikram’s lectures were the rambles of a XXXXX (fill in the blank). Certainly accreditation (200 hour, 500 hour) seems to be a good standard.
In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter who led your 200 or 500 hour training. Certainly not all trainings are of the same quality just like all teachers (and prospective teachers for that matter) are not of the same quality or integrity. Ultimately, only time will tell whose trainings are of value and whose are not. As for the aspiring teachers, after 6 years on the job, here are a few observations that may be of help in the quest to determine how to be a teacher and what makes a real teacher.
This is a learn on the job kind of job. Regardless of who led your training, you have access to become the teacher you want to be by … TEACHING.
There is a very high attrition rate of yoga teachers. Among many reasons why teachers drop out, perhaps one of the most obvious is because yoga teaching is one of the only jobs that costs more than it pays! Haha!
Once you choose to become a teacher, it will change your practice and the way you experience “going to yoga.” For many, it becomes a job and they drop out before they ever establish themselves as a teacher and – furthermore – they lose the love of the practice, which is a huge loss. Be patient! You can become a teacher whenever you like. Do not rush!
Don’t make your yoga teaching your primary source of income. As a teacher who did this, it was a big mistake. The most successful teachers (with the exception of like Rodney Yee) have successful careers and their yoga teaching is a second job.
Teachers take on new ideas and practices in order to remain connected to what it feels like to be a beginner : the bravery it takes to try something new will keep you connected to how it feels for a new students to walk into the yoga studio and try yoga. A teacher of mine recently started learning the ukulele!
The best teachers are the best students. No matter what, keep learning. And learn EVERYWHERE and from EVERYONE.
If you want to be a “real” teacher, take yoga teaching on as a job that will last the rest of your life. Teach in the way you are in the world.
Lastly, a final word on the intensive teacher training. The immersion is a great first step. Good Luck!
What advice do you have for prospective teachers?