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.”