Yoga Teacher Training - Demystified
Become a yoga teacher – what does that mean?
Yoga is an interesting cultural phenomenon. It nestles many a border: between hard science & faith mysticism, autonomy & dogma, maturity & insanity, sexuality & celibacy.
It includes everything, and its specific. Its a context and a history, as well as a booming modern industry. And, as in many other cases, the general public is widely uneducated and misled in regards to what the forces are that shape this industry.
“Yoga Teaching” is an unregulated industry. This can be hazardous because it means the individuals themselves are responsible for education, training and maintaining minimum standards. There is an abundance of noise, and a huge lack of critical thinking.
Uh-oh bad news coming.
It is currently a global, wide-spread belief that the main regulatory & certification body for our entire planet is Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance, however, in no way offers certificates or regulates the standards for yoga teachers. Repeat. Its neither a regulatory or a certification body. That is a myth! It can be a sad ignorance, and sometimes a downright lie that is being proliferated by uneducated studios, teachers and communities.
What is Yoga Alliance then? It is a yoga ‘registry’. This means its like a directory you sign up and pay to be a part of and to be listed on their website. They give you a stamp to say that you submitted your course to be approved by them (and paid lots of money). With 15,000 teachers being pumped out every year by Yoga Alliance registered studios, these people are loaded, and the industry – misguided. Yoga Alliance in no way confirms the standards of the schools and teachers that they ‘register’.
Its one of those things where we all know something is off – “Really? So-and-so is a yoga teacher?” But in our humanness, we don’t question the processes. We don’t question the institutions. For Godsake… we don’t question anything! (Like who or what we are, why we’re here and what existence is – don’t get me started.)
So, what is the current process, then, in the yoga teacher ‘certification’ world?
It more than likely flows like this:
1. Someone is attracted to yoga: Movement and meditation may have changed their life. They want a career change or a #yoga-lifestyle. Maybe they want to add a skillset to their life. Etc.
2. They want to undergo training. They want a program that they trust is going to be good value, high standards and offer them a qualification at the end.
3. They see that a yoga studio has a yoga alliance sticker, and the studio assures them that their course is certified with Yoga Alliance – the largest certifying body, and highest standard on the planet.
Oh no. It happened again. This is not true. Yoga Alliance does not hand out certificates or take any responsibility whatsoever for a yoga teachers activities in the community. They do not uphold a standard or quality for the teachers that receive their ‘registered’ certificates. They are not recognised by insurance companies. Unlike the naive, wide-eyed yogis, an insurance broker knows crystal clear, that there is no recognised regulatory body over our little (booming) meditation, energy, yoga industry.
The superficiality of the 1 month trainings without follow ups, minimum standards and depth of practice, means we have a lot of weird characters and practices lumped into one industry.
So what do you need to become a yoga teacher? How can you get qualified, and how do you embark on a journey that is coherent, valuable and complete.
Here is my opinion.
- Practice. Why would you teach anything that you haven’t digested and experienced deeply yourself? How could you even know it works? This kind of superficiality – lack of practice – has led to an ongoing dilution of the study itself.
- Study. We need to study the art form. We need to learn, to enquire, to test and to question. This is turn deepens our experience of the practice. Study exercise physiology, study meditation, movement and science. Watch ted talks, and troll youtube for anatomy & science videos. Study philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, religion, spirituality, relationships, communication & neuroscience… Yoga is an art of human mastery, awareness, expansion, discovery. So study existence, and don’t fool yourself that a qualification to teach comes from a piece of paper.
- A community. Don’t just practice by yourself, find others who can verify, witness, question and validate your experience. They point you further, and you point them. Support, compassion, communication. I mean, aren’t these basics for teaching anything? We need to experience this relationship, we need to experience being a student! Over years, and in real time. To witness the impact the student-teacher relationship has in our life – good and bad.
Oh s*, you’re a yoga teacher now!
Not joking this time. If you’ve done the above over a period of at least 3 years, you probably have what it takes to start to share the basics of your practice with one of more other people.
These are the things that ‘qualify you’. And the best part: insurance also (in Australia at least) does not actually sell you insurance based on a certificate, rather on the proof that you are qualified (what I’ve listed above). Because there’s no legitimate regulatory body for yoga in any country, to be insured for teaching yoga only requires you prove to them you have the knowledge, experience and teaching practice to go about those activities. This is in part conveyed by the certificate you receive from a teacher training, whether its ‘yoga alliance’ stamped or not.
What else: I also highly recommend:
i) intensive retreats to help you dive deep into your practice
ii) dedication to a teacher and a particular teaching to explore it fully
iii) training in how to teach not just instruct vinyasa dance parties.
Yes, – lest I say a teacher training, in order to refine your capacity to give sessions, hold space, and model after teachers your appreciate.
As in other areas of human consciousness on our planet, I see sleepy eyes in the industry start to wake up.
Fast food teacher trainings, pumping out unskilled, unstable yogi egos – I boycott.
Ok, I guess we need to answer to this as well. Since 2017 we have been issuing 200hr Certificates that are registered with yoga alliance. Although this is standard practice, it is far less than what we believe actually makes a professional yoga teacher.
As people wake up from this illusion in the yoga & fitness industry, there has been a huge cry from teachers, and from studios, for people to stop feeding into this illusion. There has been a request for more clarity and more rigorous courses of study, that go beyond a 3-week, 200hr course. There is no way we can resonate with this call and continue to proliferate the misconception that yoga alliance certificates are a real certificate.
We have re-designed our teacher training programs to layout 300hrs minimum of refined, relevant yoga study and practice, to set you miles ahead and apart of the cookie cutter courses.
More importantly, they coherently weave into the on-going study & practice in our physical studio. Intensive retreats, philosophy and practical courses as well as mentorships are the kind of support, community, study and practice that will assist your yoga and teaching practice flourish, and to hold you accountable to a higher standard. Spanda School has been internationally recognised as a high quality yoga, meditation and philosophy institute, as well as a teacher training facility, and has been commended for breaking the mould.
Our standards are based on cutting edge research, and cutting edge practice. Our curriculum changes every single year, and often month to month, to accommodate what science and the human community are really reflecting back to us. Not just what looks agreeable on paper.
Yoga study is a science of physical anatomy, energy anatomy, pure consciousness and worldly success. We are choosing to move towards a standard that doesn’t claim a mastery of teaching status after a 3 week course.
We invite you to do the research. Check out this article about the standard from teacher training Alexandra Crow: ARTICLE
For more on this topic, listen to the podcasts on Yoga.