It's been a few years now, since I started writing this 'series' on wanting to become a yoga teacher. Much of what I previously wrote, I may no longer stand behind. Because there's no fixed 'me' that has fixed opinions. And there's no objective truth. This is one of the things we learn as yogis.
A few weeks ago I attended a 2-week silent meditation retreat as a student. At the end of the retreat, there was a little bit of time set aside for questions and answers. And one question that came was: How does one become a meditation teacher?
Jenny, one of the teachers, which is a long-time teacher, with a long history of contemplative practice (probably 40 + years) answered that maybe that wasn't the right question to ask, that maybe one should instead think about how to continue exploring the practice, falling deeper and deeper in love with it, and then slowly, and quite naturally opportunities to share it would appear.
About a year ago I started attending a pottery class. When I've been showing off my lopsided works in progress many people have asked me: Are you going to start selling them?
It seems these days, that it's hard to do something just for the love of it, without feeling like one has to turn it into a side hustle.
And, as I've discussed earlier, if you want to teach yoga because you love yoga, remember that as a yoga teacher you may end of spending way more time doing really boring stuff, like bookkeeping, social media updates and bill paying, than yoga. You're likely to spend more time in front of a screen than in front of yoga students. And also, teaching yoga is very different from practicing yoga.
Now I have another question for you. When you say you want to be a yoga teacher, do you mean you want to be a yoga asana teacher? This is how we tend to see the whole of yoga these days, as an exercise routine that also makes us calm. I find this deeply problematic. Exercise is super duper important. Becoming calm is a good thing. But yoga is so much bigger than that, and has so much more to offer than exercise and calm.
Even Hatha yoga ( the physical part of yoga, which yes would include modern styles like vinyasa, ashtanga, jivamukti, yin etc) was not intended for strengthening and stretching, but to work on the more subtle part of the body, the energy body, the pranamaya kosha. This part of our body can't be seen, at least not in the same way as our flesh and blood body. But we feel it, in ourselves and others. And asana is meant to clear blockages, and let the energy move through us.
And furthermore, hatha yoga is a small part of the entire system of yoga and all the contradicting streams, traditions and lineages within it. Definitely not something that can be learned in 200 hours. A lot of the stuff is also experiential. meaning, it's not theory to be studied in a book, but practices to explore again and again and again, until one gets the hang of it. And then, maybe we can think about sharing them.
Of course, that's not how it went for me. I, like most people, fell in love with yoga asana, or maybe with how I felt after I'd sweated for 90 minutes on the mat, and lay, blissed out in savasana, in a room full of other people, having a shared experience. I was born long-limbed and naturally flexible, so I could get into many of the asanas other people in class couldn't. Which meant I started to believe I was quite good at it, which went straight to my head. I would say that I had a bigger need for validation and adoration than the average human.
I had recently turned thirty, I was still waiting tables. And it started to dawn on me I would probably never become the indie rock star I'd moved to New York to be. So prancing around in front of a room full of people, pretzeling my body into impressive shapes seemed like a consolation price. Of course this is not how I reasoned in my conscious mind back in 2006 when I decided to use up my tiny savings to attend a 200 hour YTT course. And naturally, as a failed rock star (and with a theatre background) I was more comfortable leading a class than many of my classmates, I got a lot of praise from my teachers, which made me feel pretty confident that I was ready to stun the yoga world with my amazing classes.
Of course, there's a part of me that always was interested in the big metaphysical questions that yoga tries to answer. I am extremely curious. And I've always wondered about the meaning of life. And about what happens after life. I've never felt that the Big Bang theory explained much. And the idea of black holes in the universe scared the living shit out of me.
Now, looking back at almost sixteen years of teaching yoga and nearly twenty-five of practicing, I see that the biggest part of my 'career' (if you can call it that) I spent teaching exercise. And even though I love exercise, I do feel slightly ashamed about this. Because I don't think that's what I should have done with my life.
I'm trying to change that now.
So you want to become a yoga teacher?