Yoga has clearly become a household name in America, but has every yoga practitioner carefully looked at the qualifications of his or her yoga teachers as an informed consumer or student? Can we even keep up with the kinds of yoga and yoga consumerism out there? A recent article by Seattle Yoga News even pointed out that more people Google “yoga pants” than any other combination word with “yoga” in it. Can we pose a bit to ask the question whether many yoga teachers out there are even qualified to handle human body and consciousness to begin with?
In today’s capitalist business model of yoga, different yoga franchises spend a lot of resources on branding and differentiating themselves from others. Many yoga enthusiasts take yoga classes for awhile and many more begin their yoga study by joining a teacher training program from the start. Quite alarmingly, after a few months or less of training, they “choose” which part of what they have studied to keep and which part to discard or overlook, thus the spouting of “brand names” such as AcroYoga, Purna Yoga, Vari Yoga, Hot Yoga, Yin Yoga, Liquid Yoga and Koga. The traditional methods of Hatha Yoga such as Sivananda, Ashtanga, and Iyengar seem to be confused with the next yoga fads.
The bottom line is that a yoga teacher should be “qualified” to teach. The issue is what type of qualifications and how the qualifications are assessed. In his recent visit to China in 2011, B.K.S. Iyengar pointed out in an interview the followings: “The most important quality of a good teacher is that [s/he]
(1) teaches from the heart not from the brain alone;
(2) Is able to demonstrate the pose;
(3) Takes the time to show and explain each new pose first before asking students to do;
(4) Takes the time to take note of what students are doing and just performing the pose on stage;
(5) Has to build up courage and will power in the student;
(6) Has basic knowledge of the human anatomy;
(7) Know the benefits and effects of each pose. which organs and functions of the body it involves.
He further reminded us: “Yoga is not merely a physical exexcise. It involves the entire man – the cellular, mental, intellectual.”
As Iyengar Yoga is distinguished by its unique focus on postural alignment and details to bodily conditions, Iyengar Yoga teachers are “qualified” by applying for Assessment offered by the various Iyengar Yoga Associations in different countries to get an Iyengar Teacher Certificate signed by B.K.S Iyengar himself. Only with this Certificate can one call himself or herself an Iyengar Yoga teacher.This ensure that all Iyengar Certified teacher has gone through sufficient teacher training to enable him/her to teach. An Iyengar Yoga Introductory-Level Certified teacher has already at least 1,200 hours before applying for the Assessment. Furthermore, there are different levels of certifications for Iyengar Yoga teachers and only teachers certified at an intermediate and higher are qualified to teach yoga to pregnant women and students with special needs. All Iyengar Yoga teachers in the United States are bound by the ethical guidelines by the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States.
So, before trying out a yoga class, ask the teacher WHAT his or her Certificate is and use a critical eye on the trainings and ethics. You as the student and the consumer can ask to see the Certificate. For other styles Yoga, look for a internationally recognized Certificate or a Certificate given out by a renowned teacher/school. There are International organizations which maintain a certain level of qualification for all Yoga Teachers. It is your body after all.