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What They Don’t Tell You Before You Sign Up for Yoga Teacher Training

in For Teachers, YD News, Yogitorials

Guest blogger Jay Fields, yoga teacher and founder of Grace&Grit.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience to mine: you stumbled upon yoga, got hooked, and it changed your life for the better so much that you decided you’d become a yoga teacher.

“If practicing yoga makes me feel this peaceful, happy and together, “ you thought, “imagine what teaching yoga would feel like!”

And thus, shining inwardly as you imagined all the students whose lives you would transform through your teaching, you gleefully signed up for teacher training.

Maybe it was during your teacher training, maybe it was a few months or years into teaching, but at some point, it happened. The practice that had at one point saved your life seemed suddenly to blow it to pieces. The sanctuary that had been your mat now felt like solitary confinement. The teachings that had consoled you now taunted you.

You felt abandoned by yoga. Betrayed. Hurt. If you could have punched yoga in the face, you would have. If you never did another sun salutation again it would be too soon. And so after practicing religiously, you swore off your practice and walked away from your mat.

If you’re in this place right now, please know: You are not alone.

Also know this: Congratulations! Your practice is working.

Though I suppose you won’t appreciate this second statement if you’re in the dark night. I wouldn’t have when I was there. In fact, three months post graduation from my YTT, standing devastated in the debris of what had been my marriage and my life as I had known it, if you would have told me that my practice was working I probably would have said, “Screw you, and screw yoga!”

I barely practiced for the entire rest of that year, terrified that each time I stepped on my mat I would trigger another destructive bomb in my life. Boom! There goes another relationship. Boom! There goes the job I defined myself through. Boom! There goes the belief system that held everything together.

But underneath the pain, fear and feelings of betrayal, I still loved yoga. I just didn’t know what to do with it.

It would be years before I would find the mentors and the personal experience that would allow me to see that the end of my honeymoon with yoga had marked the beginning of my deepened relationship with it. Once I dropped the expectation that teaching yoga would make me into the happiest version of myself, I could begin to accept the gift that it did have to offer: the tools to simply become myself.

For those of you who have been there, you know this is a mixed blessing. Becoming yourself means that everything that is not in alignment with the truth of who you are, whether internal or external, whether your mind is on board with it or not, will go away. This can be excruciating.

But becoming yourself also means that you get to have you. Which is better than anything else in the world. And also scary. And hugely vulnerable.

So this is why you know your practice is working, because you wouldn’t have gotten to the point where everything seemingly falls apart if you hadn’t gained enough skill to be with yourself in discomfort. And you wouldn’t be able to feel when something was out of alignment in your life if you hadn’t grown enough sensitivity to open the door to your own vulnerability.

If you’re in that place right now, what I would say to you is this: Let your heart break for all that you’re losing and all that you’re scared of. But also let it crack open with the profound joy of falling in love with who you really are.

I know of nothing more beautiful or terrifying.

I feel honored now to get to mentor teachers through this process. Again today, working with a new client, I felt such immense compassion for how lost and alone he felt, as well as such sweetness for how I could see him beginning to grow an allegiance to himself in the process.

He’ll need this allegiance. Because after 14 years of my own process as a teacher and through mentoring dozens of other teachers I’ve learned that this is not the only time in his path as a yoga teacher that he will feel this way. It’s not an easy path. Teaching yoga exposes your vulnerabilities so readily, and it’s really damn hard to make a living doing it. And those are just two of a myriad of reasons why teaching yoga is not for sissies.

So I say that he’ll need this allegiance to self because there’s something else I’ve come to appreciate about the practice of yoga: Yoga doesn’t abandon you, it just clearly mirrors how you abandon yourself.

The times when my practice felt prickly or confrontational were times when something happened in my life that I didn’t want to feel. Since yoga demands that you feel, the last thing I would want to do was go to my mat. Instead I would resist the feeling and shut down. I’d channel my hurt feelings into blaming yoga for not being there for me when in reality, it was me who was not there for me.

Until you drop the expectation that yoga is meant to take away your pain or suffering, you will always feel betrayed or abandoned by yoga when you feel broken open, scared as hell or totally lost.

You have to trust that your practice is big enough to hold your rage, despair and confusion as well as your love, bliss and purpose. You also have to trust that your practice has given you the tools to be with the full spectrum of who you are. It’s up to you to not abandon yourself, to stop resisting your own becoming and to muster the courage to get back to yourself on your mat.

Your students don’t want a rock star teacher. They don’t even want a rock. They want someone who has been there to, someone who has integrity, someone they can trust. With that, I leave you with one of my favorite Rumi poems:

Very little grows on jagged rock,

Be ground, be crumbled

So wildflowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stoney for too many years

Try something different


Jay Fields is a yoga teacher and writer who credits occasional rock hurling in remote natural places just as much as daily down dogs for what sanity and groundedness she does possess. Jay offers public yoga classes in Ojai, CA, leads workshops for teachers and students internationally and nationally, and mentors yoga teachers in how not to be a poser. Visit her atwww.graceandgrityoga.com and stay tuned for her forthcoming book, How Not to be a Poser: 12 Tips for Teaching People, Not Poses.



79 comments… add one
  • Karmela

    So I don’t get it. If you were to bullet-point your essay, what are the “things” that “they” don’t tell you before you sign up for YTT? The only point I got was:

    “Until you drop the expectation that yoga is meant to take away your pain or suffering, you will always feel betrayed or abandoned by yoga when you feel broken open, scared as hell or totally lost.”

    What does that have to do with YTT or being a yoga teacher? It sounds more like general advice to practitioners, not to YTTs or teaching yoga specifically. I’m not being smart alecky–on the contrary, I really do want to know. I’m toying with the process of going thru YTT myself and want to know.

    • jay

      Thanks for asking for the clarification, Karmela.

      What I was trying to convey (whether it’s something that others would necessarily agree with or not), is that it’s been my experience that many people sign up for yoga teacher training with the idea (conscious or not) that they’ll turn into a rock star yoga teacher who’s life is easier or happier or more comfortable than it was pre-YTT. And though much joy and ease does come from choosing this path, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.

      And that, yes, as you reiterated, I think it would be a service to people in YTT’s to let it be known that part of the journey is releasing the expectation that everything will get better–and celebrating that things will get messy as a positive thing!

      You’re right–this could be about practitioners, or it could be about any other practice of self-inquiry. I just happen to have experience as a yoga teacher and as a mentor to new yoga teachers and have had direct experience with it in this way.

      Hope that helps.

  • Agreed and so beautifully said. Thank you.

  • Andy

    Why does everyone think they need to be a teacher? Didn’t you notice there is a glut of teachers out there? You’re doing a disservice to the practice of yoga by thinking you have something to teach others when you’ve barely practiced yourself. Keep it in your pants and just become a better practitioner.

    • wondering

      I’m more interested in how long an instructor has been practicing, than how long they have been teaching. I would much rather learn from an instructor who has been practicing for 15 years and teaching for 2, than practicing and teaching for ” a few years”…ever since they discovered yoga and fell in love w/it. I would love to see the trend move towards something like… a mininum 10 years practice before even considering teaching…yeah, I know, not likely. so many start teaching quite early on in their yoga experience. Maybe w/ a little more understanding of yoga, potential teachers would realize it’s a glorious, vast, multi layered subject and not be so quick to wanna share their limited bit. How come so many of these newbies are so incredibly confident?…that always blows my mind. I feel like, if they had a better understanding of this beautiful ancient discipline, they would have a bit more respect, and realize how little they know.

      • There is a difference between Instructor and teacher. I see these confident, flexible girls with gymnastic body, they hardly practiced or know much about yoga or its philosophy, but they are popular instructor among those who want to replace their workout time with a yoga class. A good experienced teacher may not be able to do a perfect pose, but would know how it feels and the movement of energy in the pose.

    • jay

      I agree with you that there are a glut of teachers, and that typically the longer one practices before becoming a teacher the better. But the tricky thing is, just because you’ve practiced a long time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good teacher.

      And as most things go, if someone really is doing a huge disservice, they usually don’t last very long in said service. Or they last long enough to get to the point of having enough skill to be doing a great service–but either way, you don’t have to be their student in the meantime.

    • I have to say that part of the reason why “everyone thinks this” is because there aren’t alternatives.

      Teacher trainings are marketed as “Become a teacher, or just Deepen your practice!”

      These are two completely different things. The “calling” (I hate that word, but can’t think of another right now! LOL) to be a teacher is not simply because one wants a ‘deeper’ practice. And, the skill-set to become a teacher (and to make a living at it if that is what one wants) is a completely different skill set than what “deepening the practice.”

      What I have started to suggest to various studios and teachers is that we divide these into two different things.

      First, we know that after about a year, year and a half, these “bombs” happen. This is also when people usually start and/or finish teacher training. But, because their practice really hasn’t “deepened” into these areas with proper guidance, the poor souls are let loose on unsuspecting clients, and typically — that teacher’s “stuff” gets “worked out” on them (this is also why supervision is vital for teachers, imo). This is uncool.

      These “bombs” of yoga are *normal*. They should happen, and it’s how you know yoga is working. I also recommend taking a conservative approach. Don’t end your marriage, quit your job, and move to another planet. Stay put and breathe — watch, see what happens, make decisions after the dust has settled a bit. Most people discover that everything is A-OK, they just have a new relationship to it all now — as opposed to “my life is destroyed, must change everything.” It’s this second thing that gives the impression, btw, that yoga folks are “flakey.” Bomb goes off, and instead of waiting and seeing (like breathing through a difficult posture), we jump ship and “change everything!” Sad, really.

      But I digress (what’s new?).

      What should be happening — in my opinion, and it’s happening in my studio — is that there is a pathway for people to *actually deepen their practice.*

      And then, there is a pathway for those who want to become teachers.

      For me, the first prerequisite is that you have lived through several of these “bombs.” This is why I tend to train only those students whom I have taught personally, or who come highly recommended from another teacher, who has a clear sense of the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and “maturity” in yoga (i.e., can express that this person has lived through “bombs”).

      Thus, as a teacher, I need to carry my student to these “bombs” and then also *through* them. I have to teach them what these are, and what to do when they experience them (wait, breathe, hold steady).

      And *that* is deepening their practice. And it may be that just before the first “bomb” — which you can usually see coming for the student — you begin to offer “deepening your practice” opportunities for them.

      In my studio, we offer a free, once-a-month class for students who have been coming for 6 months or more. This is still honey-moon, pre-“bomb” phase. But, we work harder postures, and I start to talk theory with them.

      After 3 months of these, I added “touch up” private lessons — 30 minute lessons where students can get questions answered. Sometimes it focuses on postures, sometimes it’s all talking about what yoga is, how it works, or answering other questions that they may have. These are affordable for the students in time/money, and have become quite popular.

      In another 3 months, I’ll add an “advanced class” — a class for those students who have been attending the free class and/or “touch up” lessons. This will provide the opportunity to start setting the ground work for understanding why bombs happen and what to do when you experience one.

      This will start to lead into workshops, day retreats, and other opportunities which will allow students to deepen their practice.

      And out of this group, there will be a *minority* who feel the call to teach, and in my perspective, have the “spark” of a teacher. Everyone has a spark. Some sparks are engineer sparks, others painting, and others writing blogs. Some are teachers. It’s not that one is better than the other. It’s just that I know it when I see it. But just because someone has the spark, doesn’t mean that they have the calling. And that’s ok.

      And then, lets talk economics.

      Teacher training is big money. But here is what it does:

      1. earns big money for the teacher;
      2. gluts a market with poorly trained teachers;
      3. trains teachers but doesn’t deepen practices because the *intention* is to train teachers (skill set) not deepen practices (experience process).

      And, the ethics of this is questionable.

      Whereas, if a teacher runs a program focused on deepening the practice of the student, what happens?

      1. teacher earns money on classes, private lessons, workshops, and retreats;

      2. students deepen their understanding of yoga and the practice matures for them in a safe and consistent way;

      3. no one feels pressured to take these workshops/classes, or to do anything with that material (i.e. teach) after they finish taking these classes/workshops;

      4. a few students will come forward who feel a calling to become teachers — and they will already have a mature practice and begin to understand the real lifestyle of a teacher and feel the desire to take on both the joys and burdens of that calling; which leads to

      4b. the teacher earns income also training those select few teachers.

      The outcome of 4b is that

      1. the teacher earns money training teachers;

      2. fewer teachers enter the market, slowing the issue of “glut;”

      3. teachers are highly trained and experienced in yoga, such that they are better prepared to teach yoga, and they also have the maturity of practice to see what is coming for their students and prepare them for it, while also having the skill set to effectively teach them.

      Voila. Problems solved.

      Get to work, teachers, get to work! 😀

      • Kat

        Well said, Jenifer. I think your suggestions for reducing the number of poorly trained teachers is brilliant. Let’s hope your ideas catch on!

      • David

        I think this is wonderful and absolutely spot on. Thank you for sharing Jenifer, truly.

      • jay

        Somehow I missed this wonderful comment until today…

        Jenifer, I could not agree more with you!! You have beautifully described a method of steeping in the practice and true *training* for teaching that I believe is sorely lacking. I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that you are out there offering this structure and form that leads to a healthier teacher and yoga community.

        For years I have been a proponent of mentoring and supervision rather than “training.” This is how I first learned–I apprenticed with my teacher for four years. I learned one-on-one with her, assisted her, had her supervision when I began to teach, and always had someone to go to with questions about the intersection of my practice and my life. It was THIS, and not my teacher training that taught me first how to be a serious student and then how to teach.

        I would very much like to see the trend away from mass trainings where anyone who has a passing interest in yoga can sign up, and toward the type of mentoring or apprenticeship that is comparable with learning any other craft.

        • Cathy Owens

          My beautiful teachers Don and Amba Stapleton of Nosara Yoga Institute have the perspective of taking a teacher training so you can be the “best teacher for yourself”, no one else necessarily. That has been a valuable lesson for me as a lifelong yogi and eventually a teacher. I can only teach from the center of what I know deeply in body/mind/spirit, it has grown effectively, slowly from a place of grounded self-knowledge. They are the ultimate anti-guru, gurus.

          • jay

            I love this, Cathy.

            My very dear friend Chris Crotty teaches with Don and Amba and I have heard only the best about them and their teacher trainings. I look forward to meeting them someday.

      • Kelly

        I love your idea! “deepen your path” vs. “teacher”… BRILLIANT! Please bring your ideas to as many studios and as much of the public as possible! Wish I had looked deeper before I took my TTP but like many ppl, I read a bit, talked to a studio owner, had a senior instructor “scout” me and POOF! Sold! ^_^ and I couldn’t even afford it in the first place lol

    • Anne Hungerford

      Well said Andy. Couldn’t agree more.

    • Thank you! People typically don’t practice long enough before they are ready to teach.

  • Kell

    Amazing how these articles pop on my FB page at the RIGHT TIME, I am at this place now, and finding that when I do self practice (which has become quite sporadic) I find the simpler the asana the better I feel.. thank you for this article, I get it.

    • jay

      Amen to simplicity! I found that when I gave myself permission to be super simple in my home practice, the more easily I went to my mat.

  • What a beautifully written article, thanks!! Particularly love this:

    “Let your heart break for all that you’re losing and all that you’re scared of. But also let it crack open with the profound joy of falling in love with who you really are.”

    Fab. Also agree with Kell – just what I needed to hear right now 😉


  • kristi

    Jay – Such a beautiful piece! While reading, I found myself replacing ‘yoga’ with dance, since dance was my first love and what I wanted to punch in the face the most. It brought me to yoga and yet…
    Now, I want to punch yoga in the face (and I’m only toying with the idea of YTT) but it’s good to know, that just means it’s working 🙂

    • jay

      Ha! Sounds like you know the phenomenon well! Congratulations on having flourishing (if not at times infuriating) practices. 🙂

  • Thanks Jay for such a heartfelt and raw accounting of your journey. Its in the sharing that we all can open up to our own being human. Yoga offers gifts in so many guises. I think you’ve helped others see.

  • The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. I’ve been quoting this line for years, but unfortunately I have no idea who first said it. Thank you Jay, for a sweet and heartfelt piece!

  • lilyogi

    I am not a teacher but a practioner of a little over 3 years … I have to agree that I did not understsand the correlation between the article and YTT (which i have contemplated many times but really no need as of right now…) but as somebody who practices almost daily, this article slapped me in the face … a ‘good way’. people sign up for yoga thinking when am i supposed to feel this / that? life isn’t perfect and we all go through shit. i get annoyed with people and i just have to deal and breathe 😛 xxoo

    • jay

      Glad it was the good kind of being slapped in the face. 🙂 And yes, anyone who has been practicing yoga long enough (regardless of whether they have done a YTT) will get it. Thanks for your comment.

  • I think this is a wonderful article. I practiced bikram for 10 years and suddenly couldn’t step foot in a yoga studio for almost three years simply from burn out. I let go of my ego and need to be perfect last year as was recovering from a crippling car crash and went with my fiance to his first yoga class ever. The gentle flow class with candles every where and his sweet hand in mine at the very end woke my heart up to yoga once again. I am now getting my Pilates certification and enjoying practicing yoga peacefully own my own every day. Thank you for sharing the idea that the only type of perfection there really is is being your truest self.

    • jay

      Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for touching me with your story.

  • David

    Two things my teachers have said in the past have always been a help to me and resonate with what Jay has written:

    “Self improvement is like home improvement, it always takes three times as long and costs four times as much as you think it should.”

    “One trait shared by all truly transformative experiences is that half way through you wish you had never started.”

  • I know about a dozen yoga teachers I’m going to forward this to. Thanks.

  • Karen

    Just completed YTT and the transformation continues…trying to be a sponge and soak in whatever else comes. Really great read and thoughts to munch on.
    Thank you!

    • jay

      You’re welcome, Karen. Blessing to you as you venture further on your teaching journey…

  • Wonderfully written. I just read this and your previous piece about humiliation and bankruptcy. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’ve been practicing for about 10 years and have been considering YTT (especially after going to some classes where I was more helpful to my fellow students than the teacher was). I haven’t done it yet because the time and money I assumed were involved – it looks like my assumption was correct. Thank you for putting this out there – it reached me right when I needed it!

    • jay

      Amen for perfect timing. And I would say, as per Jenifer’s comment above, there are other ways to go about training to be a teacher, and other financial outcomes. I would just ask you to consider *why* you want to teach, and if the reason seems more soulful than mental then you’ll find your way.

      • Awesome – Thanks! I suspect that it’s one of those things that if I can’t *not* do it, I’ll have my answer… Much like writing. Namaste.

  • Allison

    Hi Jay:
    Thank you for putting into words what I have felt about my yoga practice/teaching experience! It’s so true — yoga saved my life and I felt that it had always been there for me. I knew that as a teacher I would really be able to connect with people and get them to feel a pose, the way teachers did for me. The experience of teacher training was horrific — although I did learn a lot, the battle of egos between the teachers and the students made everyone’s aggression come out (ironically) and I spent a lot of nights crying myself to sleep! Like you, I felt distanced from my practice and I didn’t do any yoga for awhile after training ended. I am getting back into it now and I’m discovering that no matter what happens, no one can really take yoga away from you. I did feel bereft for awhile there. Thanks for this article. 🙂

    • jay

      Amen–well said…no one (and no ego!) can take your yoga away from you. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try!

  • I can really relate to this article. I think I felt that happen as I went through YTT. As the studies deepened my practice, but also sometimes made me step away from my mat (which broke my heart), I started feeling like I was both “a mess” and “more together than ever before.” I think it’s because YTT changed my practice. I studied yoga more deeply and started analyzing how I could use it to help other people. Metaphorically, it was as if the yoga practitioner self follows one yoga, and the yoga teacher self sees something else. What changes it, maybe, is that the “yoga teacher” part of myself leads, speaks out, takes charge, and communicates a little differently. My yoga practice is silent and internal. My yoga teaching is more mentally active and verbal. It’s as if adding those tools to the yoga toolbox, and finding ways to hand it over to someone else, opens your heart up in a different spot.

    I am hoping I’ll be a good yoga teacher. I have only dabbled with the actual teaching so far. But I agree with the article. It took me four years to finally decide to go to a teacher training. When I finally did (Pacific Yoga, Seattle), it was cathartic in ways I really didn’t expect.

  • jay

    Beautifully said–that having to convey your practice to another person opens your heart up in a different way. I have had a similar experience–I notice that at first both my practitioner self and my teacher self were quite cerebral. As I taught longer, I found it hard to turn off my cerebral self when I was practicing. And now I find (on my best days) both my teaching and practicing are more feeling-based. But the constant challenge for me is how to articulate as a teacher from the inward, quiet place of the practitioner, and how not to let the teacher in my analyze my practice too much while I’m doing it. 🙂

  • Blissboy

    I have noticed for many years that studios like YOGAWORKS just churn out yoga teachers like puppy mills. Just because you do a 300 hour course dose not qualify someone to teach. I once received an invitation e mail from them to participate in one of their courses. I told the studio manager that it was silly to send me an invitation as if she had locked at my practice she would have realized that I was far form ready.
    This is why I love my Iyanger teachers. Their training is rigorous and they do not move forward until they are Truely ready.
    After 10 years of yoga I have no desire to teachas they’r is just too much more to learn.
    If everyone becomes a teacher then their will be no students.
    Like most teaching programs, be it cooking, designing, dancing or acting, most students will not make it to being rock stars so best to become a teacher for the vocation first and if the money come then good for you.
    I am so thankful to the great teachers I have met along the way.

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself. I was on the path to med school when my life as a yoga teacher became less of a choice and more of a necessity.
    In the past 4 years, my practice has encouraged me to step into my creative self and now I am a performing musician…talk about vulnerability.
    Ultimately, yoga teachers need stable mentors that make the process of transformation much more supported and grounded. When I found people I could talk to, who offered advice, and who had been there before, I felt more confident in myself and stopped blaming the practice.
    Thank you for posting this blog. Hopefully it can offer some support to those in need.

  • Thank you so much Jay, this piece was beautifully and eloquently expressed. Since I started (and completed) my YTT last year, I have felt the most happy and the most devastated I have ever been in my life. I am waking up to the truth of finally being myself, stripped of all the b.s. that has built up and laid dormant for years now. It is awkward and uncomfortable, and so exquisitely freeing! Teaching brings everything full circle for me, and in the handful of classes I have taught so far, I’ve experienced more fear, love, and utter blissful joy than I can ever remember. You are so right that yoga is NOT for sissies! My practice has broken me down and built me up on a new foundation of brutal honesty with myself, which allows me to teach from a place of authenticity and compassion rather than a from a superficial place of wanting to be liked, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

  • It has been almost 2 years since I took the red pill and fell down the rabbit hole, it has been a wild ride of loss, yoga, self discovery, travel, cancer and love. Now that it has come to an end or a lull, I find my self yearning for the things that I “gave up” in the first place for yoga, and sometimes find myself resenting it. What used to be my refuge is beginning to become my nightmare and I am having a hard time redefining myself in a place and a self that at times is no longer familiar to me. That being said, I wouldn’t trade the last two years of experience and growth for anything, my choice has been made (by me or for me) and I have no choice but to deal with it, yet it is comforting to know that I am not alone. Thank you!

    As for the comments on the glut of teachers out there, remember, teacher or not, we are all still beginners and should always approach yoga with a beginners mind. Not all people that take a YTT intend to become teachers, but do have an interest in learning and growing. Your practice is where YOU are at at this moment, as teachers it is our responsibility to keep learning and remain students ourselves. No one is the perfect in their practice, not even Iyengar, everyone’s practice is their own, the more open you are to learn, the better teacher you can become. A reminder for us all to drop the ego and if a teacher claims to know it all, run the other way……ok, now I must jump off my soapbox on to my mat….I think this helped! Thanks again!

  • Nancy

    The most important note, for me, that you hit, is finding a mentor. One needs to have a strong and consistent relationship with a teacher. First as a practioner and then especially as a teacher. Young teachers need guidance. I am amazed at how many teachers out there don’t have a teacher. Really, this to me is the traditon of yoga. This does not imply blind trust, but discernment and careful study, and the trust that comes from knowing some one over a long period of time.

    • jay

      You bring up a good point, Nancy–that having a teacher or a mentor doesn’t imply blind trust. I think that might be a reason why some people don’t seek out a teacher–not wanting to give themselves over to someone else. But a wise mentor or teacher will always, always point you back to your own knowing. And they’re out there. I’ve been blessed to have a few, and I am who I am as a teacher and a person today in large part due to their guidance.

  • D

    Jay, thanks for this. My experience has been a disillusionment with some of the teachers and other practitioners. I thought that building my life around yoga and doing successive and overlapping tt would connect me more deeply into the yoga and the yoga community as my tsanga. And what Ive fond is that there is a strong vein of people, teachers and practitioners who are so focused on being a bad ass yogi (mainly asana) that there is no room left for emotional and/or psychological processes that inevitably come up in a group of people who are regularly stirring the pot deeply. Ive left 2 teacher trainings and one major teacher and one studio as a result of what Ive experienced. The major teacher is one of the biggest deals in the bay area for a rather strict lineage and to call a spade a spade, he is an abusive asshole and everyone who doesn’t take that position is complicit with his abuse. Another senior teacher in this lineage is so brittle and defended and hides behind her senior certificate rather than take any responsibility for how she treats her students. Another teacher is as narcissistic as they come and is busy trying to get with his students on the side. And the people who have chosen these teachers are resonant enough with this frequency to pick them initially and are taking on these energies through the inevitable shakti pat that the teacher student represents. In the studio Ive left I experienced more drama than I did in junior high.
    So is this the yoga? I dont know. I know that I am commited to it and it works for me like nothing else does but I feel really at a loss after each of these ‘bombs’ and 3 1.2 years and about 15 grand and counting into tt’s. Any insight? If yoga was any less important to me, I’d leave it in the dust, but that’s not an option. Im not even hell bent on teaching, even less so now. I just want to finish my last year of tt and find my long term relationship to yoga in all its facets.
    Yoga did not start out in this classroom environment and I wonder how much that has to do with it. Anyway, this article is the first thing Ive read that helped a bit. Thanks

    • jay

      Glad what I wrote helped, D. And to your question, “So this is yoga?” I think absolutely not. It’s posturing, in all it’s different forms. And I’ve thought many times about how yoga wasn’t originally in the classroom format, and how that must have something to do with it. But more than that, I think it’s mostly human nature–showing up fully, embracing your vulnerability while confidently, yet humbly, sharing your expertise–this takes a serious amount of personal work. And if yoga isn’t practice in tandem with (or in such a way that it evokes) some sort of psychological inquiry, I think it has the potential to just add to imbalances and insecurities.
      So what now? Maybe you take all that you’ve learned and let it deepen your own practice. Maybe you go forth into teaching and do it in a way that feels in integrity for you.
      On a related note, if you haven’t seen this article on Yoga Modern, I think you might find it interesting: http://yogamodern.com/categories/to-teach-or-not-to-teach-3-essential-qualities-of-great-yoga-teachers/
      My best to you.

  • Wendy Nichols

    I have had similar experience. (I guess) 😀

    At the end of 2008, teaching full-time I moved (left 12 years of students), and Everything changed. Not only could I not find work teaching yoga (every studio wanted me to take their yoga teacher training course first ($$$$), and…MAYBE, then I would be put on their already arm-length list of waiting teachers. Other places I went to just treated me as if I was “soliciting”. After a few months I just didn’t even feel the need to keep searching for anyone who wanted what I had to give. I still advertised through yogafinder.com, but even the location didn’t seem to provide as many inquiries as where I used to live. It was very discouraging. I worked a couple jobs to get by but really missed the connection of teaching. Eventually, a private class brought my teaching back-to-life for over a year. (Grateful) Then a quick decision and I moved back east…
    Those 4 years were truly the most struggling years of my life; clear across the other side of the country with no friends, not much on-the-mat asanas, but in my heart & soul yoga was still a big part of who I was.
    Now I am within 7 minutes from a small studio, I’m beginning again and enjoying where I am at. As a practitioner.
    Some friends are questioning the WHY taking, not teaching, but I’m going with my heart and what I need right now. I have a bit of healing to do.
    Bless all our teachers in this life!
    (your article inspired some of this catharsis) Thank You <3

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  • Paula

    I’m one of those people who have fallen in love with yoga, and wish to become a teacher of yoga. I have no intention of trying to make it a full time job; in fact, if my imagined timetable plays out, I will be of retirement age and moving toward a different “chapter” in life. I’m fairly sure I’ve already gone through many (though certainly not all) of the life-discovery struggles you describe in this essay.
    I should also say that I’ve been a teacher for 35 years, and, at least as many former students have told me, a good one. I want to become a yoga teacher because I know I’m already good at being a teacher, and I want to deepen my knowledge and my practice in a systematic way. I will probably never be able to do many complicated poses, but I’m fairly sure there’s something I can give to others, maybe especially those in the “autumn” of life, like me; and lifelong musicians, also like me.
    The thing I struggle with is, how do I know I’m ready to train to become a teacher? Is there a prescribed skillset I should have, or dare I trust my instincts and just dive in? The thoughts of the author and any others are quite welcome.

  • jay


    Good question. I would first turn it back to you–how do YOU know you’re ready to train to become a teacher?

    It sounds as if it’s because you know you love the practice, you have decades of teaching experience to build on and you feel you have something to offer, especially to other people in the “autumn” of their life (so needed!) and to lifelong musicians (a very dedicated group of practitioners if there ever was one!)

    The fact that this will correspond with your retirement and a new chapter in your life suggests that teaching yoga may also be a way for you to experience yourself in a whole new way.

    I say all of this because I think you know when you’re ready when you get the inner call in an undeniable way. Whether you could flesh it out or not, you just know in your bones that you want to teach.

    And in light of the above article, I would say that you’re ready when you realize that first and foremost becoming a teacher is about your own learning and you’re willing to face yourself in new ways.

    So to speak to the other side of things, in my opinion you’re NOT ready when you think it’s all about the externals–the who, what and where you will teach and how much you will make and/or how cool you will be for teaching yoga. (I don’t hear that at all from you!)

    Also, I feel you’re not ready until you have *at least* a year’s practice under your belt. It’s fine to take a teacher training early on just to deepen your own understanding, but if you want to teach I feel it takes some time to steep in the practice and the teachings before one has enough of a foundation upon which to work with the teachings from the training.

    Don’t sweat that you can’t do all the poses. If you can be present to yourself in the process of working with the postures you will have everything you need to be a stellar teacher.

    Have fun!

    I’m curious to hear what others have to say…

  • Suzette McAtee

    Oh Bless You Jay & Jenifer and so many others! I am so grateful to you for sharing these truths. The three years since I finished my immersion yoga teacher training have essentially been a long Dark Night of the Soul, followed by living in many shadows (lots of bombs). Your words help me to heal, to forgive myself for not “doing it” like I’ve seen so many other teachers “apparently” do. And especially, you’ve resolved huge self-doubt from not immediately aggressively pursuing teaching positions. I love my more traditional hatha yoga teacher training experience and now understand and embrace some of the fundamental differences in my yoga philosophy from the fitness yoga trend which seems to dominate in my state.
    As a teacher, it is now time for me to find MY teacher. Thank you for helping me understand that.

  • Julie

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been teaching for about a year now, but this revolution of sorts that you’re discussing here has been happening over and over again in waves in the 2 years since I’ve started this yoga teacher journey. It is amazing and fascinating and heartbreaking. I recently started an Ashtanga yoga practice which I feel like has put me back in that teacher training mindset, although as you know with a mysore practice, it is mostly just you on your mat. I don’t have the benefit of processing with my tightknit community of teachers. I have described it like a battle. I want to cry during my practice almost every day. I’m shedding an ego Identity I once had and it is shocking how the universe has showed up to help me put it in the past. I know I’ll emerge better, as I have before, but as you noted here…I’m learning how to not abandon myself. trust myself and be stronger this time. Thank you so much for putting this into words and giving voice to what I’m experiencing. I’m working up the courage to share my experience on my own blog. Thank you again!

  • There’s this conundrum that I do not understand……a number of articles I have read over the years about how taking a YTT does not make you ready to teach yoga. And it’s true. This article was valuable and courageously written. As a studio owner, I have observed many teachers fresh from YTT who do not know where to begin. The thing is, YTT is still pitched and sold to people constantly by reputable teachers/studios for income. Most people (few) will earn back their investment in any reasonable amount of time, if ever. It’s one of the worst career investments scams on the general public ever perpetrated. In fact yoga itself offers so many seeming promises to a hurting and vulnerable general public. It’s a set-up and a slap down for those trying to improve their lives, who are then told basically, “You don’t know jack”. It takes a very strong person to understand the gifts brought by things breaking apart, and yet yoga beckons to the fragile of heart. Thanks for a thought-provoking article, and the many helpful comments. Namaste.

  • Jay

    I found your comment very thought-provoking, too, Zan. It is certainly time for the business of yoga teacher trainings to mature. Perhaps it begins with offering a track that is less explicitly a YTT, and more an immersion for deepening one’s practice, as I think many people who sign up for YTT don’t intend to teach, they simply don’t have another outlet to commit more deeply to the practice. As a matter of fact, I think that’s what the current YTT is best suited for. It’s time to reimagine teacher trainings all together, which I believe looks more like direct mentoring rather than mass-marketed training.

  • Rahul

    Whole problem is because, yoga is being limited to few Asanas, which is actually just a fraction of whole practice so everyone who know how to put his / her head upside down want teach yoga. It’s a science and a way of life, Yoga class is not a substitute for Gym or a weird / hippie thing.

    If you are beginning of your yoga practice with a business expectation, adding another brand in to the yoga market, Better to be pure businessman than trying to sale yoga. You will never regret.

  • When choosing a Yoga Teacher Training:or Certification Verify the qualifications of the institution & the yoga teacher faculty. Check the reviews /feedback of individuals whom have completed the particular yoga teacher training. Check the value of the yoga institution’s certification. Is the certification recognized throughout the world or just within a particular city or region? Will the yoga certification open doors? Compare each Yoga Teacher Training Curriculum. Is the training a 200 hour, 500 hour or 24 hour certification? What does the instruction cover? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTjJaFe94u4

  • christi-an

    hi jay,
    great article. i wonder if you might reconsider using the word sissie. it seems a word that could cause harm and i suspect that is not your intention of what you are really trying to say.
    with care,

  • There may be lots of TT courses out there but off all the courses that are offered, only a few are going to be good enough to turn out good yoga teachers. Of those few only a few are going to have the courage to take a leap into teaching. Of those few only a few are going to make it past the first year. Only very good teachers will be teaching after 5 years.

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