According to a recent Assocham (The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India) survey, there has been a spurt in the number of people that have taken up yoga by up to 30 per cent over the last one year; most of whom have been inspired by many celebrities and media attention that yoga has garnered because of International Yoga Day. As we go on and about Yoga Day, it’s time we roll out some not-so-healthy facts about yoga as a profession. While there is no exact science on what makes a good yoga teacher, some basics need to be in place to regularize and streamline this profession.
*“Yoga is a very subtle technology; it’s not a form of exercise.” – Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Over the years yoga has become a highly touted medium of fitness by the masses as well as the classes. It has become the new currency of fitness. Unfortunately, its growing popularity has unleashed a dangerous breed of ‘yogapreneurs’ on the unsuspecting public; causing injury and tarnishing the name of a sacred and ancient tradition. The proliferation of yoga training courses is an indication of what lies ahead. Today, you can become a yoga instructor in as little as two months! Not to mention, the yoga teacher certificates readily available online for a song. Many a time, I get enquiries from eager students if I will be able to give them a teaching certificate after conducting a certain number of sessions. Seriously?
Yoga, if done correctly, is effortless but there is ‘sadhana’, too…..and quite a bit of it! It’s all about persistence, patience, discipline and inner strength. It gets me cringing to see improperly-trained gym instructors turn yoga teachers overnight. Their sessions usually include countless non-stop cycles of Surya Namaskar and some popular yoga postures. It’s no wonder, back and knee injuries are a common occurrence post these sessions. Without doubt, half-baked yoga teachers are dangerous for health. It’s time we pay heed to the twisted side of yoga.
Yoga is much more than just contorting the body. It’s about awareness, mindfulness, inner well-being and transformation. Each asana, no matter how easy it may seem, is a journey of self discovery and transformation. Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra, yoga guru at The Yoga Institute (the oldest yoga institute in the world) used to tell us students that we needn’t do ten poses every day. Just practice one. Be with it. Live and breathe it. Today, after more than a decade as a yoga practitioner, this advice has constantly helped me intensify my practices while bringing in awareness and strength in all that I do.
*“What you practice is more important than what you know.” – Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra
Lofty as it may sound teaching yoga carries a great deal of responsibility. It’s not only teaching but also mentoring. A good yoga teacher need not be a great demonstrator of one-armed handstands. That may look mighty impressive initially but can leave students high and dry without proper support and insight. So, what makes a yoga teacher good?
Present Over Perfect: Good yoga teachers are present. They needn’t be perfect. They are cued in to the strengths and limitations of their students. It makes no sense if the teacher keeps getting into one perfect pose after another without being mindful of what the students need for them to develop their own yoga practice.
Passion and Depth: Yoga is a way of life. It touches every aspect of our being. It’s work in progress. One need not be a levitating yogi but as teachers, we definitely need to practice what we teach (NOT preach!) Basic understanding of anatomy, alignment, sequencing, benefits, contraindications etc is important. Equally important is the way we conduct ourselves with our students. A good yoga teacher will be able to address the mental state of the students and help them deal with their physical challenges, at the same time.
Care and Connection: If teachers care deeply about their practices, there will be a natural connection with their students. They will go that extra step to ensure all students get the maximum benefit. Gentle yet firm. Good yoga teachers will gently push the students to break through their limitations without injuring themselves. They will carefully guide their students to transition gracefully from one posture to another.
Clear Communication: A highly underrated requirement that needs equal priority if not more. Proficient yoga teachers will communicate realistically, from the heart. It’s important that students feel inclusive and comfortable during a class. Effective communication in yoga not only includes having good presentation skills but also listening, observing the body language and taking cues when needed. When communication is clear, students can explore deeper without worrying whether they are doing something right.
Fortunately, the Ministry of AYUSH has launched a scheme for voluntary certification of yoga professionals to bring about some standardization in the profession. The scheme has been developed by the Quality Council of India (QCI), who have expertise in developing such quality frameworks based on international best practices. The QCI is an autonomous body that provides accreditation standards for various sectors. The scheme for has been developed by adopting the principles and requirements laid down in the international standard ISO: 17024, and will evaluate four levels of competence of the applicants, namely, Yoga Instructor, Yoga Teacher, Yoga Master, and Yoga Acharya (being the advanced level).
This is just a fraction of what’s required as compared to the overall regulatory needs, but it is still a positive way forward. What’s needed most is not self-imposing laws but self-discipline and honesty in the profession. Like they say, there is no such thing as a bad yoga class, only dangerous ones. It’s time we steer clear and weed them out of the system.
Yasmin Remedios is a freelance writer and yoga teacher. After healing a chronic back with yoga, she quit her full-time corporate career and trained for a year to become a yoga teacher at The Yoga Institute, Santacruz. Yoga helped her evolve physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. She’s never looked back since then.