Yoga teacher – job or vocation?
Editorial by Dr. Daya Mullins, European College of Yoga and Therapy, Germany
For those who are thinking of becoming yoga teachers, there are many ways and offers available today. What should one look for in the yoga "marketplace"? The offers range from one weekend, four weeks, education in accordance with the minimum European standard of the yoga unions of about 650 teaching units (of 45 minutes), to the more comprehensive and profound studies of yoga schools, yoga colleges and yoga universities.
Obviously, we cannot really teach yoga when we have only learned it from books. We may get a first introduction that way, but then must come a deeper exploration into this universal and many faceted teaching. At that point, we must look for a qualified yoga teacher, who can contribute to our physical and mental health, and make our life more spiritual.
As yoga has become more mechanical and fashionable, we often meet yoga as something merely technical, reduced to a number of exercises thrown in with no understanding of their use, or how each step is built on the previous one and forms a holistic teaching.
Therefore, it is important to realize what you are looking for, and what you are willing to give to achieve it: Set your goal and pursue it when you have a clear purpose. Yoga teaching is too often limited to "let's work-out together and have a nice cup of tea afterwards" ...this is nice but, for those who wish and long for a deeper insight, it is just the first step … to be carried on from there.
People usually see themselves in the image given to them by the surroundings, and they strive to adapt to this image. But living on such a concept probably feels rather empty. In our society, there is a risk, a tendency, to emphasize living the outer life, getting hooked on power, thereby neglecting or totally ignoring the ability to live from the inside.
To draw on the teachings of yoga, in order to eventually become a yoga teacher - moving to higher levels of understanding and expertise - takes commitment and perseverance. If you are lucky enough to find a teacher that you correspond with, it becomes easier, but learning to emphasize the inner work is not without effort.
As yoga teachers or yoga teacher aspirants, there is an important choice to be made, the choice between imagination and reality - this should be based on the insight that if we do not really live our own lives, but rather follow other people's opinions and concepts, we live in an illusion.
Should we live on adoring others, or should we find our individual inner path, exploring who we really are and enriching our lives? Making this choice in favour of being, and acting upon it can be a self-initiation to the path of yoga.
We can find a teacher that we are delighted with, but the task we receive in yoga is to live fully and adapt to the reality of our own life. A serious teacher will challenge us. That is in the very nature of things. How else can the student learn to bridge the often limited ways of thinking and reacting? However, the student will have a feeling of being understood and supported by the teacher. Should that not be the case, it may be time to look for a better suited teacher.
So clearly, as yoga practitioners wishing to become yoga teachers, we have the task of finding out where we stand, where we want to go…and how. If there is a serious interest, there has to be the corresponding commitment and a decision to make a prolonged effort in a long term training plus a daily individual practice. Four years of study to become a yoga teacher can here be seen as a necessary minimum, although the task is a lifelong one.
You can find authentic teachers, but you must look carefully. Take time to get a sense of the teacher that you are drawn to, how he/she works, and how you feel in his/her presence. The surroundings have a big influence on the individual. They can bring out the best in us or strong negative sides in our character, so we should think of the seriousness and commitment of the fellow students.
There are many superficial offers of yoga today, and some teach a yoga that has not reached the inner yoga, but has remained in the outer glamour. That is inconsistent with the spirit of yoga, which offers a teaching so profound that it can only really be revealed and understood through skilful and attentive application over a long time.