Not another yoga teacher
OK time to get more traction for THIS conversation but first an apology to my Yoga studio owning friends who may not like what I am about to say. I hope you can take it in and give it some thought and perhaps make a shift in your offerings.
Owning a Yoga studio is hard work. It is not a place where fortunes are made. Fortunes are spent. Sleep is lost. Hair turns grey. If you are one of the lucky ones, you can keep it going and not need to take out a second mortgage, get some sleep, maintain your marriage, and not need to sell a vital organ to pay the rent.
Too many good studios have closed because they just can not find the balance. J Brown's studio in Brooklyn is going to close at the end of this year due primarily to the cost of rent and he is one of the successful ones in NYC.
I have managed 4 studios in my career and I know it is a battle. I also know that the owners are good people (well there was that one owner who I will write about someday but not today) who love and believe in this practice. Unfortunately they are not always the best at business and managing the demands of studio ownership or they just have bad luck.
So, to make the payroll and rent happen many studios offer Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) programs to the tune of thousands of dollars per trainee. I have seen studios pack their YTT programs to bursting with students they barely know who show only a passing interest in Yoga. Some studios know the students, know their quirks, know that they are not "serious"and cash the checks anyway hoping that the quirks will not be too disruptive.
I understand that this is a revenue stream and a way to keep the studio going and allow the owner to keep their vital organs and home intact. I get it that we live in a world where everyone can be their own boss regardless of their situation and abilities. But what about the greater good of the Yoga Practice? What about the profession of Yoga teacher? What about what the world really needs now?
Does the world need another (mostly white female), inexperienced, undisciplined, infatuated with the feel good vibes of Yoga regurgitating some half heard and less than half understood concept about meditation and breathing practices and standing on ones head? Most of the new teachers I meet have only practiced asana for a SHORT TIME and are barely able to sit and Meditate. They are more into their Instagram accounts, calling themselves a Yoga teacher, wearing the gear, and dream of traveling to Bali for free to "lead" a "transformative" retreat at a 5 star hotel where they will be the star and hold court for their attendants (hell there are even old established teachers who do this too).
Most of these new teachers have terrible listening skills because they are too busy talking and espousing their take on dharma to really hear and understand what their students (some of them potentially very broken and hurt) are in need of. Many have barely worked on their own shadows let alone even looked at them. The training they received in the average 200 hour YTT (sometimes led by teachers and studio owners who have their own shadow selves to work on-again more about that someday) did not prepare them to address PTSD, depression, eating disorders, disease, injury, racial inequalities and injustice, religious questions, and many other issues that actually come up in a Yoga class. These are issues that professional therapists spend years studying and training to address. The average YTT student does not know how to compassionately communicate with their students and fumble at teaching to mixed groups leading to a class environment that is at best exclusionary and at worst dangerous. With the best of intentions they talk of fasting diets and health supplements not even aware that there may be someone listening who has an eating disorder and should not be told how this juice/pill/tea/diet/etc will change their life.
This is not simply a failing of the studio offering the training, or the Yoga Alliance for not providing good enough standards for training or oversight, or capitalism driving over marketing of the Yoga "phenomenon", or the trainees themselves for allowing their excitement to push them into something that might not be right for them. Rather it is a complex combination of factors that should be talked about and thought about and openly questioned because there is alot of training going on right now and it is making for a very sorry state of the profession.
I propose that what the world does need is more Yogis. Yogis of all colors, shapes, abilities, religions, and economic status who feel welcomed into a program that takes them on a deeper dive into the physical, mental, and spiritual (YES SPIRITUAL) aspects of this wonderful practice. Yogis who do more than just bend and stretch and sweat on a fancy mat. The world needs people who practice what they have been preached and are willing to continue to learn and do the work even when it gets hard. Yogis who do the work even when it is private and not flashy and not something that can be posted online or Tweeted about.
What if all of the YTT programs made a shift to drop one of the Ts and become Yogi Training (YT) programs to be an avenue for the excited and enthusiastic student to take their practice deeper? What if we simply offered YT programs that covered asana breakdowns, history, mythology, philosophy, anatomy and physiology, conscious communication, yoga in action, ethics, and chanting with an aim not to create teachers but to create Yogis and members of the community? Imagine if we could spend alot of dedicated time to the language and choice of language in the Sutras, discussion of ethics, look at meditation and the darker sides of the practice, exploration of language and the use of language, train in understanding how and when to seek professional assistance for health all without worrying about framing the discussion through a perspective of a teacher training! Students can then become leaders in the community through their practice and not because they are leading the community as a teacher.
Wouldn't this help all of professional teachers and studio owners (not to mention retreat leaders and retreat center operators and professional educators ) cultivate a solid audience to work with and grow? Wouldn't our communities become stronger? Wouldn't our conversations become deeper? Wouldn't our health improve? And these Yogis can go on to develop as a teacher if they feel called after they have done deeper work.
I think this world needs Yogis. I think studios can get this accomplished and still keep a revenue stream that helps make ends meet. I think a new approach will raise the bar for all of us and help our world heal.