Teacher Training (TT) programs often avoid the spiritual aspect of yoga. Just a brief review of some of these schools and seminar offerings will reveal that in many modern yoga teacher training programs, only a small percentage of the curriculum deals with the spiritual aspects of Yoga, and these spiritual aspects are to be the true focus of yoga. Here again we see this modern focus leaning heavily toward the physical aspects of yoga and so limited compared to the authentic yoga of the ancients.
In many of these TT programs one can become a "certified" yoga teacher without having spent a single minute engaging the face-to-face instruction of a teacher studying the traditional yoga texts.
Do you really want to become certified with no face-to-face teaching of authentic yoga? The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras are two of the most authoritative texts in Yoga. Sadly, as a common example of the current state of modern yoga teacher training, the most well known agency in America (that claims certifying authority for yoga schools) has structured its standards with such a focus on the physical that it is possible for a student to become a certified yoga teacher without having spent a single minute in the face-to-face instruction of a teacher who is well versed in these texts or any of the other traditional Yoga texts.
About yoga in the US: Georg Feurstein, a well recognized scholar and teacher says: "It's a mess"
As if the state of yoga and yoga teacher training here in the west were not already bad enough, there’s an online company that has started to offer a $49.99 online yoga teacher training program. All you have to do is purchase their program via credit card, read their material, and take a written online exam, which consists of multiple choice questions. You can become a "Certified Yoga Instructor" and will also receive an online transcript that mentions your score, which can be used "to prove your certified credentials". Interestingly, their promotional material even explains that the certificate that you will receive does not even mention the word “online.”
When asked by LA Yoga Magazine, “How would you describe Yoga in the US today?” Georg Feurstein elaborates:
“It’s a mess. And you can quote me on that. Anything that comes to America or the West in general, immediately gets individualized and commercialized. There has always been great diversity in traditional Yoga, and this diversity was based on the experience of masters. Today even beginning teachers feel qualified to innovate and create their own trademarked Yoga system.
"So, looking at the Yoga movement today, part of me feels very saddened by it, but then I also see that it contains the seeds of something better. Also, amazingly, Yoga can be beneficial even when it is reduced down to posture practice. But people shortchange themselves when they strip Yoga of its spiritual side."
It’s distressing that there are Asana teachers who say that they do understand the authentic goals of yoga, and would like to share these higher teachings with their students. However, some of them who teach at well known "Yoga Studios" around the country (USA) have privately confided that they have been directly told by studio owners to not teach this, and that if they do, they will no longer be allowed to teach there. This puts these teachers in an awkward position. Even though they understand and seek authentic yoga in their personal lives they’re discouraged (sometimes forbidden) from sharing this with students out of fear for losing students and their payments for classes.
Be positive, there’s a good chance the pendulum will swing back. Although modern yoga teaching may have gone far off track in recent years, there is some movement towards providing training that focuses on the authentic and every yoga teacher should be encouraged to head in that direction. It seems that the pendulum has swung so far away that it might slowly be starting to swing back to the real goals of authentic and traditional yoga.
Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 15).” This next blog article will illustrate some modern styles of yoga, their names and how they differ from the four traditional schools of yoga.
Rae Indigo is ERYT 500