Teachers training comprise a large component of the world wide yoga business. Loads of yoga teachers feed into development of the yoga segment of the fitness industry, the modern yoga studio boom, and the allure of yoga itself. And plenty individuals are doing teachers training courses for personal development, not necessarily to teach or work as yoga teachers.
Yoga is expanding, is the teaching?
One may debate issues of commerciality vs exclusivity, quantity and quality, or supply and demand vs creating demand. Still, without any doubt, for yoga to “be yoga”, there:
● Has to be an understanding of the greater yoga
● Acknowledgement that whatever one learns is relative wisdom
● Teaching yoga teachers is best backed by trainers with extensive and relevant experience of yoga
What should teachers training courses teach?
Because yoga is a vast discipline it is impossible to teach “all of it” in one course. This acknowledgement that there is too much to learn in a lifetime, and yet having the confidence of a solid grasp and firm working knowledge of the basics in context of the course is is a good place to begin with. The ability to manage an effective representation of the aims and outcomes the training with sound techniques and practices in context of the course learned, knowing and understanding cautions and limitations of the course content and its application, combined with an understanding of what yoga, where its heart lies, and what its potential is, and not getting lost in its multitude of techniues rattle with a brief through history and theory.
● Wisdom is knowledge that has seen some application/action
● All learning takes place on a level unique to the learner and its application
● The tricks of one trade does not always apply to all trades
What is yoga really?
With refrence to the oldest texts in existence that mentions “yoga” it is clear that it is a philosophy with a metaphysics of meditation and spirituality at its core. Exercise is not its centre – yet asana is an integrated part of yoga practice. Meditation and spirituality should inform asana and all yoga practices, else it is simply not yoga.
● Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras around 400 CE from older traditions and presents a useful vantage point of “ancient” yoga for the modern times. It outlines a concise consideration of what “being yogic” is. Without a deep understanding (not merely reading or giving a nod) of these “commandments” – what not to do, and what to do, a yoga practice is essentially deficient.
The first of five yamas or “things not to do” is “ahimsa” or non-violence. To strive for this quality in everything done in and around yoga, and life itself. Applied to asana and attitude for instance, the practical lesson is “safety first”. Don’t hurt your body, or the bodies of others, with ambition or ego, and follow the natural flow of life. The second principle, truthfulness, suggests a way of integrity and transparency – also an important ethic of our times. The is applicable to any practice or teaching of yoga, be it asana in a yoga class or meditation, or those as aspects of any other modality.
In the Sutras there are also five niyamas or “personal observances” that relate to one’s inner world. This is applicable for anyone committed to teaching yoga in context of its greater spiritual and philosophical meaning. (Sacha) purity, (Santosh) contentment, (Tapas) self-discipline, training your senses, (Svadhyaya) self-study, inner exploration, (Ishvara Pranidhana) surrender (to God).
● The techniques of hatha yoga as a “whole yoga” should be presented in context of a clear understanding of anatomical wisdom according to body-mind-spirit yoga. Deep consideration of what the chakra system represents with regards to the perhaps untapped ancient knowledge and modern therapies contributions in context of common sense and medical information, cannot be brushed over or presented as list of facts. Wearing a symbol on a t-shirt and saying cool yoga things is not yoga.
● Teach from beyond yoga. Self-realisation has always been the essence of why yoga practice. To go “beyond” yoga just is to not mistake the technique or anything else in yoga or life as the goal. The “ultimate” in yoga is to constantly explore personal evolution of greater consciousness.
● A personal yoga practice in view of teaching yoga that includes, at the very least, a grasp of the above essentials of the greater yoga will ensure that the teacher will walk the talk and be the path, not just look the part, or be part of an incomplete and misrepresentation of what yoga really is.
● Training teachers and teachers teaching would do well to acknowledge that everyone in yoga is on a personal journey and that whatever is taught or learned is only the tip of the iceberg of integrating its knowledge into greater wisdom.
Teaching teachers: sharing the observations of my own experiences
As a yoga teacher my prime motivation is to share what I love about yoga – its practical genius and its status as the most advanced system of personal development available on the planet.
The above is not hard to convey within a common sense mix of information and insight, the building blocks of knowledge and wisdom. Approaching the unfathomable scope of life itself, or the meaning of life includes aforementioned, but is only really applicable for those interested in the greater yogic goal of self-realisation.
It is useful for yoga teachers, teachers of yoga teachers and prospective yoga students to know that “self” is the main source, that direct observation of others and self, the world surrounding us, and guidance from those who have done so with pertinence and sustained effort.
Having been blessed by receiving teachers training from the very best in the Sivananda lineage I can humbly share some simple, authorative principles:
● Teach from simple basics that you know well or have mastered yourself
● Strive to be what you teach, else your teaching will have little authority, integrity and may even appear hollow
● Strive to be an effective, inspiring teacher
● It is the understanding of yoga you teach that matters most, not only the doing or facts of any of its practices
● Be who you are, don’t pretend you are more, or less than you are. Be humble yes, also honour yourself and know your limitation and potential. Keep on growing into the latter.
Yoga for other modalities
Crossover training such as yoga for nurses, for massage or sports and other modalities, cutting edge sports science and integrative medicine is important but also playing its part in the dilution of the “real message” of yoga teacher training as briefly stated in receding notes. Although a force by which yoga is becoming part of everyday world life it is important to impart a solid hint of the existence of the “greater yoga”.
When a teacher teaches
Presenting a yoga class is a personal representation of yoga, and an interpretation of yoga. No one teacher is the ultimate authority. Yoga teaching and practicing is in itself at best a representation of the “greater union” of “all that is”. It is useful to keep an eye on the fact that any wisdom that is imparted via yoga is really an energy – call it prank or chi or consciousness – that comes “comes through one”. Don’t mistake yourself as the guru.
On a practical point always remember that when you teach you are practicing teaching, not doing your own yoga. The focus is on the client or class. And on yourself, honing your teaching skills, not your practice or ego.
Push the envelope within yourself. Make time for more study and innovation, expand, question, research and study. Just keep on learning. And keep on sticking to the basics and basic truths. Be guided by the yoga energy or Prana, life itself, and you will get the job done and grow in your own understanding of yoga.
Yoga teacher training with Johann Kotze
With full-time teaching dating from 1990 I enjoy active engagement in sharing my experience.
Currently I don’t offer ceritifed teachers training – there is enough of that on offer 🙂
Instead I am focussed on development of simple Masterclass Modules, for workshops, at my studio or at host venues, and online.
Workshop schedule and eBook teachers training modules are coming soon (November 2016).
Should you be interested to deepen your understanding of what I consider to be the “advanced basics” that yoga teachers and anyone interested in the field may benefit from please contact me with enquiries for formal or informal teachers training or yoga for self-development via the email form.
● When the student is ready, the teacher appears
● When the teacher is ready, the student appears
● When the teacher is ready, the teaching is there
In Yoga, Cape Town