This is the fourth article in a series which has examined what it takes to become a yoga teacher.
And who wouldn’t want to be a yoga teacher?
You get to do yoga all day long, swanning around the world attending workshops and teacher trainings is part of your job, and you’re blissed out all the time.
Plus you’ve got hordes of adoring students hanging on your every word.
What a great career yoga teaching must be!
Sign me up now!
But it’s not quite like that… and as Mike Berghan of Te Aro Astanga points out in his article on this topic, So you want to be a yoga teacher, traditionally it was your teacher that determined if and when you were ready to teach.
This week, three more teachers weigh in on the discussion.
From Rhys Latton:
This is a topic that has been a constant conversation point between us and other friends recently. With the latest yoga renaissance comes an explosion of people wanting to teach – with good, as well as… less good apprehensions of YOGA and TEACHING.
One aspect I feel is being over emphasised in the 2 articles I’ve read in the Lunchbox (which I agree has it’s truth) is that one has to find one’s inner-tuition: find your regular practice.
The insightful yoga teachers who have contributed are answering as insightful yoga teachers (the journey continues well after coming out of courses, workshops, it’s about one’s continued search etc) – fair enough, but nothing I have read emphasises the fundamental use a really good foundation teacher-training course with a reknowned and respected master teacher can be.
From Marianne Elliot:
How do we become yoga teachers? Speaking for myself, this is how I became a yoga teacher.
First I become myself. Yoga helps me bring my head and heart, body and mind, breath and spirit all into alignment. As I have become more my own authentic, healthy self, I have become of more service to everyone around me. For me, teaching yoga is part of that service.
So first there was my own process of unfolding and reuniting with myself through yoga. Then there was a deepening of my desire to serve, which seems to have arisen naturally from that process. In that deepening was a desire to share this process, yoga, which have given me so much.
Then came the work of equipping myself with the skills to teach. Teaching yoga is not the same as practicing yoga, nor is it quite the same as ‘instructing’ yoga.
I agree with Roger and Bruce that there is a process of deepening into the role of teaching yoga just as there is a process of deepening into our yoga sadhana. I’m not sure I would make quite such a clear distinction between two or three ‘levels’ of teachers, but I agree entirely with the idea that teaching is predominantly about a relationship between the teacher and the student. The quality of that relationship plays a large part in determining the quality of the teaching.
It’s a symbiotic relationship, the learning and the rewards flow in both direction. But there is a specific responsibility upon the teacher, so ensuring that I have the skills and knowledge (as well as the personal practice and commitment to our own constant unfolding) to teach wisely and safely is a fundamental requirement for me.
There are many ways to develop those skills and that knowledge. Some of us will have teaching, coaching, mentoring and communication skills from other areas of our lives that will serve us well as teachers of yoga. Some of us will learn to teach yoga predominantly from our own yoga teacher, in the process of being taught. Others will attend specialized yoga teacher training courses. All these are valuable paths. None of them can guarantee us that we are ready to teach.
How do we know if we are ready to teach?
For that we have to be honest with ourselves and listen to the best teacher we all have, the wise and profoundly truthful voice within us that already knows the answer to all our questions.
From Angela Gervan:
The most valuable learning I have received in my yoga journey is to establish a self practice – a time and space each day dedicated to yoga but not limited to asana.
From having a self practice each day, I believe you are ready to teach.
Simple reason being, you are able to listen to yourself, give your self what you need and from having this grounding, take your experience forward, serve and inspire others.
A teacher training is a step towards deepening your self practice, somewhere to connect with like minds, prioritize a set time in life to further knowledge and inquiry but life itself also offers invites and rewards to naturally grow and gain teaching experience.
Although I have completed an impacting and inspiring teacher training, this came after I had already been teaching. I was invited to lead a class in my time living in Japan, in a small (by Japan size) city which had no yoga studio.
I was committed to inviting yoga into my life after a meaningful chat with a dedicated astanga yogi on my first night arriving in Japan, 8 years ago. This person shared with me how Yoga changed their life, I was curious and felt a calling to explore – the very next day I meet my now closest friend, who taught me all she knew from her commitment to attending classes in San Francisco before she had moved to Japan.
Our friendship grew, our yoga inquiry grew, we traveled to India together, read books, attended classes in Japanese and made a set time together each week to share practice. From there we attracted other keen participants. Before long we had a community class in a beautiful tatami room. This beautiful group of women, 7 years later, still gather to practice – each participant takes turns at leading the class and after they go for sushi to connect on the week just passed. Now living in NZ, I receive regular updates of how they are and am warmed to hear how the class continues to gather new members.
That to me is teaching yoga, sharing on the experience, leading and inspiring others to continue this growth. This is what my first teacher and dear friend passed on to me, to which I intend to pass onto others.
My friend moved on from Japan. I stayed and continued developing the class, I found workshops to attend and dedicated weekends to traveling from where I was living to learn more. I was given Donna Farhi’s book Bringing Yoga to Life, and completed teacher training with her in Vancouver 2006. Such was perfect for me at the time – a western teacher during a time of re-integrating into the western world after 4 years in Japan and traveling Asia. The learning was deep and transforming. Thoughts and teachings acquired in the training continue to teach me today.
A friend staying with me from Finland told me:
If we wish to learn, read a book. If we wish to have wisdom, teach.
Angela teaches at www.theinnerspace.co.nz, co-ordinates retreats and studies at the NZ Collage of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.