Thursday, November 18, 2010

Minimum Standards?

"If you're a yoga teacher, you have no business using the wall for headstand!"

The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them.


The mind was disturbed. How can people teach yoga-asana to others if they cannot themselves perform the basic postures?

I said as much to the student - who stayed away from the wall, and did the headstand without it.

A couple of days later, the same thing happened; another student in class, also a yoga teacher, could not perform the headstand without using the wall.

And I thought, not for the first time, "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

In other words, How can you teach what you haven't yet mastered?

Perhaps it is part of a larger dumbing-down of yoga.

Or perhaps there is something wrong with me - and my ideas about the study and teaching of yoga.

Today, while watching a video of Boodiba's Viparita Dandasana exits, I saw an ad for a week-long yoga teacher training course. Oy!

And then I saw an ad for a mail-order yoga teacher training program that boasted that it has trained over 1,000 teachers. Vey!

And I thought, What does it take to be a yoga teacher these days?

And I recalled a conversation I had earlier this year, with Lino Miele:

When I asked what makes a good teacher, he said. "Gray hair. Experience makes a good teacher. Guruji was always repeating that yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory. You can read hundreds and hundreds of books, but it does not make you a good teacher. You have knowledge from your life and your body, and then you can teach.

"Instead of wanting to be students, people want to be teachers right away. I am against it. This is not a job. This is a passion. Tradition is important. Whatever my guru taught me, I am teaching you.

"He taught me how to act, how to be with people. How many people had the chance to speak with our guru, eat with our teacher, live with our teacher? Otherwise it becomes 'Bla bla bla.'

"Everything I know, my guru taught me."

When asked what makes a good student, he said, "Constant determination towards the practice, and being with the teacher. The teacher will take care of the student. How can you be a student without a teacher, if you practice on your own all the time?

"The student must respect the teacher all the time, and listen to what the teacher says."

Then I recalled a conversation I had with Lino back in 2008:

“A teacher becomes a teacher after many years of being with the teacher,” he explained. “They do not get up in the morning after two or three weeks and become a teacher after doing a teacher training, only because of their flexibility. That does not make you a teacher. Traditionally your teacher should tell you to teach. It takes many years to reach that point. You don’t become one because of your practice. Teaching means to share.”

And I recalled yet again the words of Chandra Om:

“You cannot teach what you have not personally experienced. You cannot teach spiritual knowledge unless you have some yourself. You cannot straighten out another until you have straightened yourself, so you really have something to say. Teaching is information passing through you--that’s why it’s not about you, or your personality. You’re transmitting your personal environment. Once you’ve cleaned up your own self, you give up your personality and ego and who you think you are, so God can pass through you and use you, so your lower self does not get in the way.”


  1. I am them and they are me.

  2. Anonymous11:28 PM


  3. Yogi Bear11:36 PM

    Mail order yoga teaching!
    Is it run by the Chicago outfit?

    Q. What did the sign in the window of the yoga master searching for a new disciple say?
    A. Inquire within!

  4. Today yoga is the easiest profession that anyone can enter with minimum entry barriers .All you need is to invest a month /few weeks and some money to do a one month TTC or few weeks of weekend TTC and once u get a Certificate with Yoga alliance registration you become a Yoga teacher and u can start making money right away while people from other professions like Lawyers ,Engineers ,Doctors spend nearly 5-10 years of full time study investing enormous amount of money to become some sort of sensible professionals . Today every Tom , Dick and Harry are opening yoga centres and conducting TTC Courses, organizing yoga retreats and that is now causing a lot of headache as thousands of incompetent yoga teachers are getting produced year after year and while some of them are really dedicated in what they do ,for the rest it is just an easy entry for earning few bucks as a supplementary income .I have no complaints against these people as long as they understand their limitations and do teach a safe and simple class along with their continued education under a competent teacher /institution for a longer time before they undertake larger responsibilities in yoga . So unless the entry barriers are strengthened and made more stringent we will continue to produce such sub standard yoga teachers and the victims are not only the general public but also the entire yoga community will get a bad name .I think that BKS Iyengar has laid some very strict standards for certification of teachers and so does Ashtaga Yoga of Pattabhi Jois . As I said before that I have no problem with these one month /weekend TTCs as long as they advise their graduates to understand their limitations and restrict themselves to teaching a simple/gentle form of yoga and urge them to keep upgrading their knowledge and standards through an ongoing yoga education before they take larger yoga responsibilities .

  5. I completely agree with you! How can you teach if you don't know?! Being a yoga teacher of course goes further than just knowing how to do a pose. I went to a workshop recently with a well-known and respected Ashtanga teacher. She basically said that a lot of the current 'instructor training' is just that. Training for an instructor, not a teacher. And to be a teacher is so much more!

  6. Oh my! I don't even let my students use a wall! Oh dear......I'm with you, and Chandra on this one. You must teach from your experience, in total, life experience. I was a reluctant teacher, not at all ready, but our teacher left and I didn't want the class to break up so led a class for the equivalent of 2 dollars a person, just towards the room. People knew my experience and I was just one step infront of the class. Now after 6 years, much much study and even more practice I still feel like their is so much to learn. To teach it is so important to be a student, and to always only ever teach from your experience. It is a hard question. 20 years olds with limited life experience teaching such a powerful life changing practice. At times I can't wait until I'm sixty to see what kind class I will have then. I too cannot understand why everyone wants to teach. As I said I was a reluctant teacher, I was so happy being a student, but teaching seemed to agree with me and as a teachers we continue to learn even more, I am so grateful to my students for giving me the chance to teach.

  7. Dear Cara,
    I agree with you.
    Nevertheles I'm provoked to write why a not experienced teacher can be better than no teacher at all.

    Let's see. I'm not sure what flies out of my fingers and if I can publish this.

    xx U