To Teach, or Not to Teach?

I have a confession to make: I, along with everyone else and their mother, have ambitions of becoming a yoga teacher. My practice has done so much for me, physically, intellectually, and emotionally that I feel compelled to share it.  And I'm intrigued by the idea of making a little money sharing this practice that I love (and I do mean a little money... I realize it's tough to make a living teaching yoga.  I won't quit my day job... or night job, as it were).  I may not even decide to try to teach right away, but I'd really like to have the option.  I had been looking into teacher training programs in my area a few months ago, but none spoke to my practice, or fit into my schedule while I'm working nights and taking classes in the afternoon. I decided to be patient and put the notion of teacher training on the back-burner, thinking I can always do it when I finish school... whenever that may be.

Then opportunity sidled up and gave me a cheeky tap on the shoulder last week. When I went to the website of the yoga studio I visit on Wednesday to check class times for the afternoon, I saw a little link at the top of the page asking, "Interested in yoga training?"  Why, yes I am!  I clicked the seductive blue letters. Apparently, the studio is hosting a teacher training intensive this summer with Kurt Johnsen of American Power Yoga.  Heard of it?  Neither had I.  Check it out here.  I'm a little apprehensive about this "unique" style of yoga which incorporates elements from varied backgrounds. I do realize that this is a bit hypocritical of me, as I'm no purist, certainly not on my mat.  Mr. Johnsen apparently has a few classes on the Yogavibes class list.  Maybe I should buy one before I make my decision. Has anyone heard of this guy or his style of yoga?
The training is eleven weeks, Friday evenings, and 9-5 Saturdays and Sundays. I could do this! My classes this summer are online, and if I can manage to rearrange my work schedule a little bit, I could conceivably complete this training. I'm excited.  But...

I have many questions.

Is my practice at the level it should be to undertake teacher training? I spend a lot of time on my mat, and my practice is both ritualistic and exploratory.  I sometimes wonder how my solo practice would translate into a teaching method.  I'm also a little afraid of how the training might change my practice.  Change is scary.  One of the reasons I have chosen to stay away from yoga studios is that I have a tendency to be very competitive.  I want to be the best, all the time.  It's  irrational and destructive, but it is.  I am capable of suppressing these competitive urges.  I have never attempted an asana in a class because the person beside me could do it, but I have wanted to.  I've also been inspired and enlightened by the person beside me, or in front of me, during a class, so there's that, I guess.

I also wonder if I have I been to enough studio classes to have a good level of comfort and understanding in a classroom environment.  There has never been a time that I felt unprepared or out of my element in a class.  My home practice, to my sustained astonishment, does not disintegrate when I take it into the light of day.  But these are eight-hour days.

I've read that some programs require 6 months to a year of practice with a teacher.  It does not appear that this program has any such requirements, but I haven't developed much of a relationship with any of the teachers at the studio. I've been teacher-hopping, taking one, two, or three classes with four different instructors... and this is the extent of the instruction I've received (with the exception of many Yoga Today classes, which were very educational).  Is this enough?  I feel pretty confident that I'm capable and ready.  I am dedicated and diligent in my practice, but that is not to say that I don't have doubts about my abilities.

I've gone back and forth since I first learned of the training.  One minute I'm certain I'll do it.  The next, I'm apprehensive.  But some simple math has revealed that, most of the time, I think I should do it.  I'm excited to learn, and optimistic that whether or not I choose to teach when I emerge from the training, the experience is likely to deepen my own practice.

I have not yet decided what I will do... It would give me something interesting to blog about, assuming I can find the time ;)  There's an open house with Kurt Johnsen at the studio this Saturday, which I plan to attend, and perhaps ask some questions.  I will make my decision then.  In the meantime, I'll be practicing, on and off the mat.


  1. I haven't heard of that particular teacher, but I think the open house sounds like a great opportunity for you to meet him and see what your gut tells you about his style and his teacher training program.

    I just did teacher training last year, and now I'm teaching beginner power yoga. Yes, teacher training did change my own practice. There were some days when I was actually quite sad because I worried I'd never get my practice back, but it has evolved and changed several times over at this point and I have no regrets.

    I think, if this is something you want to do (and you like this particular program and teacher), you should by all means do it. You sound so excited about it! Also, one thing I got out of my training that I never expected was a terrific yoga community. When I have questions about my teaching, etc., I have a number of new friends I can ask, and I trust them all. And I've got my own streak of misanthropy :)

  2. You know what they say, when you need a teacher, one will appear. :) Maybe that has just happened for you!

    You're right, change can be scary. But you also need change for growth! Working with a teacher in an environment like a TT was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and not just for my life on the mat.

    I'm sure you will find that your personal practice can benefit enormously from working with an experienced teacher. Just when you think you've got something down, someone comes along and puts a finger in the right place and a pose opens up to you in a whole new way. Or, someone challenges what you think you know and you come out with a deeper understanding. Challenge is good.

    When I went into my TT I had a lot of apprehension about learning one particular 'doctrine' of yoga. I kind of thought I might be inducted into a cult or something! But someone wise said to me, hey, there's nobody who can tell you how to practice or how to teach. So take what you like, and leave what you don't. In the end, I ended up liking pretty much all of it, and I have to say, my students do too. :)

    Whether or not you decide you want to teach, there are few other ways to really deepen your practice and have access to a great teacher. I say if your heart tells you you've found the right fit - just go for it! Hopefully it will be, well, damn good!! ;)

    Plus, you can blog all about it. :D

  3. Tiffany - I'm definitely stupid-excited about it. This element of a yoga community that you mention would be quite wonderful. As it is, I have no yoga friends... just friends who do yoga from time to time. It's not the same as being able to discuss and bounce ideas off of someone else who really loves the practice and seeks the truths it can offer (yoga dorks, I think we're called).

    La Gitane - I have exactly the apprehensions you mention about the "doctrine" of yoga with which I will be imbued. Nothing exclusive or culty, please! I will try to remember to "take what I like, and leave what I don't."

  4. I remembered... that wise person was my Mom. :) It's great that you have the chance to meet your teacher before hand. For me it was a leap of faith, but I ended up really connecting with 2 out of the 3 teachers on my TT.

    Before I went into it I pledged to myself that I wouldn't resist it (Ashtanga). I told myself that for the duration of the training I would stick with it and see if it worked. If I didn't like it afterwards, I could throw it out, but during it, I tried to stay open and receptive. I think this went well for me - one of my fellow TT's was coming from an Iyengar background and she was so angsty and fighting it the whole way. I just tried to ride it and see what happened.

    Can't wait to hear how the open house goes!

  5. Just share your practice ... the best "teachers" are the ones who have a daily practice like yours ... don't worry about getting a certification ... paying into some program and eventually a governing body that means ... what??? You already have the skills you need from your personal practice ... that is evident from this beautiful blog. Go out there and SHARE it baby!

  6. Do it! It never, ever hurts to learn something new. Plus, with your passion for the practice, you would be an amazing teacher. If it is something you really want to do, DO IT! If it isn't, you will find a million excuses not to do it.

  7. Hi Misanthropic Y (a moniker to which I can relate!):

    I've written much about yoga teacher training in my blog. It is a topic of great interest to me.

    I studied yoga for over a dozen years before I started teaching. Is that necessary? No, but when you are ready, you will definitely feel ready. The rate of "readiness" seems to depend on intensity of study; you clearly have the motivation to work hard--and to work independently. Both characteristics bode well for teaching. The degree of practice/knowledge/expertise necessary also depends on the type of yoga you teach: yoga philosophy would probably require more experience than asana.

    Regarding training: I must admit that I am skeptical of teachers who "advertise" their training programs. (I once encountered a teacher who offered other teachers a "finder's fee" if they referred student trainees to him!) In my current Iyengar teacher-training program, my teacher accepts just a handful (literally) of students each year (she would accept zero if no one was appropriate in a given year). We all must have studied with her for two years before we can apply. And the program runs three years, culminating in applying for formal Iyengar certification (which by all accounts is intense and daunting!).

    Again, I don't think this particular program is necessary or "the best." In fact, I didn't choose this program because of "certification." Here's my main point: I chose this training because I think the world of my teacher. I view her as a mentor, a gifted practitioner and teacher (and a teacher's teacher), and simply a good person. There is an apprenticeship component to this program, and it would work for me (or for anyone, I assume), without that mutual respect.

    So, when you do decide to train for teaching, choose a teacher carefully. It is a seminal experience--to teach (and to learn to teach)--and you shouldn't waste time in a mediocre program. Clearly, from your blog, you are a serious student. You deserve to study with a top teacher.