Friday, July 24, 2015

An Instagram Picture Does Not Make A Yoga Teacher

I sit here tonight not as excited as I should be.

My yoga mat is freshly cleaned, my blocks are packed and I have my registration from printed out. I am ready for my first yoga teacher training since 2012.

I actually had to go back through my certifications and check the dates. Yes, it has been more than three years since I last sat in on a yoga teacher training. It makes me very sad to realize how much time has passed and how much of my old life I've lost.

Of course, in my defense, I've been through some shit these past few years. There was that whole divorce fiasco. And then major turmoil with one of my children. I've written very little about that era here on the blog. In fact, I've just recently started speaking out about how addiction destroys families. You can read the first piece I wrote here, where it got picked up by the Yahoo home page  and a different post over here on Rebelle Society.

As you can see, I sure haven't been slacking these past 40 months. Forty months! I've missed sitting in on yoga teacher trainings as much as I've missed leading trainings.

So I should be more excited to get back to what I love. But I'm not because of recent events.

This week I had a new student in class. A woman probably a little older than me, a few extra pounds and by her own admission has only recently begun to be active again. As I always do, I asked if there was anything I needed to be aware of to make her practice safe and enjoyable for her.

She rattled off the usual things; bad knees, back issues and lack of flexibility. Then she mentioned she also had scoliosis and, oh by the way, her neck was in a lot of pain from the headstand she did on Monday.

Headstand? What?

Yes, this woman with legitimate physical issues that require modification, who had never in her life done yoga before Monday (the two days previous to my class), and who has scoliosis attempted a headstand.

Why? Why did you do that?

Because the teacher told her to.

This other "teacher" has no yoga training. I don't believe she even has any group fitness training. But the gym hired her to "teach" yoga.

And now a new yogi is hurt and afraid of yoga.

I asked if she told the teacher about her limitations. She said not only did the teacher not ask but when she said her neck was hurting the teacher told her she just had to get stronger.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to go find the gym owner and scream at him. I wanted to quit on the spot.

But I didn't. I didn't do any of those things because I just don't think quality, certified yoga teacher training matters all that much any more.

When I look around my area, I am the only certified yoga instructor currently teaching. There are other yoga teachers. But they have no training or very limited online training for the bargain price of just $49.99. Many of their students are getting hurt, seeking out my classes or worse even giving up on yoga altogether.

Now, I'm not saying all this to inflate my ego and I really don't mean this to be a personal attack on anyone in particular. I'm upset at the business. I'm disheartened that someone who watches a YouTube video and then calls them self a yoga teacher gets hired and paid the same amount that I do. I believe it's unfair and unethical to members entering the classroom who, as they rightly should, assume their instructor has yoga training. I'm frustrated at the gyms and fitness centers that not only don't ask for certifications, but don't require certified instructors.

And I'm worried about the future of yoga.

Of course not all yoga teacher trainings are created equal, and we all know Yoga Alliance isn't the best at over seeing yoga schools. Yoga training used to be passed down from teacher to student over years and years of practice and study.  I'm sure there are great teachers who aren't RYT certified, yet who have studied under the masters.

I don't think you'll find those teachers in the gyms and fitness centers where most people are now practicing yoga.

Yoga isn't now, and never was meant to be, a fitness trend. It shouldn't be taught like any general group fitness class. It isn't a "no pain no gain" workout that you grunt and struggle your way through.

Yoga is not an Instagram picture.

But I fear that is what it has been reduced to.

I'm going to try real hard to improve my attitude before I walk in to the yoga teacher training tomorrow. And I'm hoping that after being back in that environment, surrounded by like-minded yogis who care about and value the history and philosophy of yoga, I will be revitalized.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for all my years of very expensive and hours upon hours upon hours of study and training. I welcome those students whose bodies don't look like an Instagram picture and I'll never get tired of watching their excitement as they realize that, because of yoga, their back no longer hurts or their neck pain is gone.

I accept that the only thing I can do, the only way I can hope to bring about change, is to keep studying and to keep teaching. And pass along the yoga to anyone who comes in search of it.


  1. Online International Yoga teachers training program in India helps us about different Yoga Life Courses...

  2. You are an amazing instructor. I am looking forward to finding time to take one of your classes again.... .....
    Have fun with your training...I hope that I am back in a teacher training soon..and really hope that my schedule settles down enough that I can teach again. I really miss it....