Many yoga practitioners are turning their passion for yoga into a career. There are plenty of wonderful Teacher Trainings to choose from, but there is also an abundance of poor quality Teacher Trainings. Trainees are often faced with inexperienced teachers, second-rate methodology and insubstantial curricula. The outcome is that many first time students will never set foot in a yoga studio again.
How can the yoga community ensure that trainees are protected from bad Teacher Trainings? Perhaps by looking back to India, the source of our science for guidance, we can find professional integrity.
Having lived and worked in India for the last 7 years, I have witnessed an influx of new trends and styles of yoga. Although I appreciate the open minded and inclusive practice that is yoga today I have also seen some negative changes caused by deviation from traditional practices. One deviation is the lack of professional and personal reflection. It appears that self-inquiry, and a senior teacher to be a mentor, is rarely a part of a modern day practice.
Teachers are missing a Guru or elder with in their yoga community to look up to and be accountable to.
Most trainees are not offered a continuing relationship with their mentors.
We can greatly improve Yoga Teacher Trainings through the practice of responsibility. By respecting the deep importance of lineage and of self-reflection, we become better practitioners and teachers. In an indigenous setting, lineage is highly valuable and deeply sacred to the practitioner. It provides students with a history and a future path on which to take their practice. Being initiated into a particular lineage is a great privilege and responsibility. To tarnish the reputation of your Guru, to sully the teachings that have been pure for thousands of years with your own ego or bad behaviour would be a betrayal of your yogic ancestry. For most indigenous yoga practitioners, severing or damaging your lineage would mean becoming spiritually lost.
Lineage provides students with a history and a future path. Lineage in this capacity may seem restrictive for the student but the traditional practice of teaching your students to be entirely nondependent on you balances out this potential issue. The practice of non-attachment between student and Guru ensures freedom from being bound by your teacher but we will always have someone to be accountable to with each step we take. An accomplished teacher is one who remains an eternal student. Without spiritual self-inquiry and leadership we can begin to feel like the source of knowledge rather than a conduit for this knowledge. If each yoga practitioner takes responsibility for their own spiritual growth, professional development and yoga practice on a holistic level, we should be able to self-regulate.
Are we truly teachers if we cease being open to learn and thus stop giving to our students? It is entirely up to each individual that makes up our yoga community as a whole to practice the most important path a yogi will ever step upon- the path of self-inquiry. It is our responsibility to become better teachers, mentors and individuals. As trainers we must be the first ones to put our hands up to be evaluated and reviewed. Professional transparency and accountability can bring genuine integrity to schools wishing to establish themselves as credible trainers. Fresh graduates of a Foundation 200 hour program are fledglings in the world of yoga; they need guidance and direction. As teacher trainers it is not ethical to send out new teachers without giving them an anchor to attach to professionally.
Developing a relationship with Yoga Alliance Professionals and being available as trainers, not just for 200 hours but for a lifetime, is this anchor.
The act of becoming responsible to our trainees through a shared undertaking will emulate the role the Guru plays in a traditional sense, questioning all aspects of who we are on every level to bring positive growth.
As yogis it is time to take individual and organisational responsibility by creating positive gatekeepers of the yoga precept to stay healthy, honest and grounded as a community. When we first stepped onto a yoga mat we consciously or subconsciously began a journey of self-determination and personal responsibility. We became accountable to ourselves through our practice. As a collective if we wish to see an improvement in standards we need to carry over these qualities we first connected with to our professional standards.