Dear Yogi Marlon,
I can do most postures the first time I try them. Seeing this, the owner of the studio asked me if I’d like to sub there. I’ve been studying 3 months. Am I ready?
In a word: No. The best advice my teacher ever gave me about becoming a yoga teacher was to “Be a yogi first.” If I were you, I’d doubt that the studio from which the invitation came, professed any real understanding of yoga. Although it is common to be deemed a teacher by one of a myriad of teacher training courses, it does not mean you will have had the opportunity to gain the depth of knowledge a true, practicing yogi has cultivated. One Santa Barbara retreat center appoints a teacher’s certificate after 16-day workshop. Another Hermosa Beach corporation has made a multi-million dollar business out of prepping fitness teachers to teach yoga at gyms. Their website promises that for a $299 2-day course, participants will learn how to teach 40+ poses. As part of the package you receive your very own yoga mat. These are examples of the ramped over-simplification of a vast body of ancient knowledge, which I strongly advise against. What’s more, if owning a yoga franchise is your motivation to teach, for the sake of the sacredness of yoga, kindly courtesy out now. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to teach a couple of friends how to link some simple movements with the rotation of the breath, go right ahead.
Having a room full of students, who rely on you for safety, expertise and knowledge on more than elementary poses, is another thing entirely. Here are some guidelines to the path of becoming a yogi, and subsequently a yoga teacher:
- Practice asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation minimum 4 times per week.
- Sample a variety of teachers until you find one or a few that resonate, and study with them conscientiously.
- Make sure your teacher is an admirable person and accomplished yogi him/herself, who can teach you each of the classical eight limbs of yoga and their theological significance.
- Learn proper sequencing from a master, please.
- Spend time studying the Vedic scriptures from which yoga came, as well as reading books written by accomplished yogis. (My personal favorites are Swami Rama, Yogananda, Sivananda, Johari, Isherwood & Svoboda.
- Do not teach any specific yoga technique until you have mastered it yourself. Do your personal practice and the one you teach separately. To do otherwise, puts you at risk of incurring the karmas of your students.
- Repeat a protective mantra before beginning each and every class. (Pure Yoga includes this in its curriculum.)
- Understand your dosha and follow the nutritional and lifestyle guidelines to best support it.
- Contemplate whether teaching yoga truly fulfills your dharma.
Ultimately, deciding when you are ready to teach is a matter of consciousness and intuition. Here’s a metaphorical test: Imagining yourself at the pearly gates, could you honestly say to the divine being who greets you, that you taught yoga with all its deserved reverence or were you just another hippy dippy, pseudo-yogi looking for a cool cover?
Look for 4 new DVD titles in stores & on-line at http://askyogimarlon.com/dvd.html this Fall:
Yoga for a Healthy Back, Yoga for the ‘Golden Years’, Getting Well with Yoga, and Esoteric Yoga Practices.
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