Today, I am writing out of frustration and anger. I know, it’s not normally like me but I have a few things to say and those things are really ticking me off. Today, I want to discuss what is happening in the yoga world regarding who is leading yoga classes…and more importantly, what I think you should do about it.
Over the past few years, I have seen a pretty intent influx of people coming into the yoga community. Student bases are growing like crazy as more and more people are beginning to understand the benefits of a yoga practice. I also have been seeing an increase in instructors…or people who think they can lead yoga classes. Here is where my anger comes in – most of them have not had a single bit of yoga instruction training before they hop on the floor to start leading classes. They might be people who are personal or group fitness instructors and had a class dumped into their laps. Perhaps they are teaching other classes and decided to add yoga to their line up of offerings as a way to cash in on the trend. Maybe…they have been practicing for a while on their own and they somehow feel that THAT is what qualifies them to lead a yoga class. All 3 of the scenarios mentioned frighten me to no end.
When I began my journey into the fitness world, I snatched up my certification as a Personal Trainer and a Nutrition Counselor. Both required a bit of knowledge about basic diet, nutrition, and the human body. I also had to have a bit of anatomy and kinesiology study under my belt. Made sense as I was instructing people how to move their body and eat properly. From there, I took some classes to learn how to lead group exercise classes and then got certified as a running coach. It was also during THAT time, that yoga hit my radar. After a bit of dabbling as a student, I took the plunge to become a yoga instructor. I LOVED the process but I am the first to tell people that it isn’t for the weak or lazy. I had to have knowledge of parts of the body that I had zero clue even existed. We learned about energy moving through the subtle body. (Do YOU know that we have a subtle body?) We learned about the effects that our brain plays during a yoga practice because despite how “easy” yoga looks, it is the only form of movement where your ENTIRE body is involved. Breath, organs, muscles, bones….all of it. And to think that there are people out there who think its ok to lead people into this deep of a class without having THAT pile of knowledge – TICKS ME OFF.
To have people who don’t have this training, trying to immerse themselves in that world, the world that I take great pride in being a part of, when they have NONE of that knowledge – makes me angry.
If a student attends a yoga class that is lead by someone who doesn’t have that training, and they get injured, the student is then turned off to yoga as a whole. They don’t blame the individual instructor. They blame YOGA. I know this because, I have heard it straight from people’s mouths. “I can’t do yoga anymore because I hurt my back the last time I practiced.” It’s the untrained instructors who are most likely supporting movements and a practice that caused the injury!!!
So, knowing that there are non qualified people out there teaching classes, what are you going to do about it?
First, ASK! As an instructor, I am SHOCKED at how few of my students have ever asked about my training. I, in no way would be offended if they did. Although they might wind up bored when I ramble off the list of trainings that I have completed. This really IS the easiest way to weed out the want to be teachers from the true teachers. I am in no way telling you that your instructor should have a million hours of classes under their belt either – but at the very least, I would think that someone who is asking you to put your head down and feet up in the air while balancing on the top of your head and compressing your neck should have SOME sort of training, don’t you think? (BTW, compressing the neck is NOT safe. Headstands are but that instructor should know how to get you up there without smashing your vertebrae.
Keep in mind that not all instructors are registered with the Yoga Alliance either. THAT is not a requirement. But they should have credentialed training – even if they elect NOT to pay the fees and be listed in the YA registry.
Secondly, Don’t be afraid to walk out. If you are not comfy with an instructor, leave. Really. It’s ok. Again, keeping in mind that you aren’t going to fall in love with every instructor that you meet. Sometimes people have bad days. Sometimes you come to your mat from a bad day…but know that you are not OBLIGATED to stay especially if you don’t feel safe.
If you are new to yoga, it is even more imperative that you find an accredited teacher because bad habits, and alignment are instilled pretty early in our practices. If someone isn’t taking that part of the practice seriously, they are putting you at risk right from the start.
Don’t assume that people know what they are doing – even if you are new to yoga. Ask questions and go with your gut. If an instructor is going to blow you off, they don’t deserve your time, your energy or your money. Find someone that will nurture you as a new student and help you find your own practice. THOSE are the instructors that will keep you safe and teach you how to live your yoga practice even when you aren’t on your mat.
Remember that just because someone may be leading classes at a facility, doesn’t mean they have had yoga training. I have seen it happen countless times in the fitness world. Subs are needed. People call in sick. Staff is of short supply and people do what they have to. But with yoga, it needs to be taken seriously. Usually, if I know my classes will be covered by someone who isn’t certified, I let the students know WELL ahead of time and I also give that instructor freedom to do something they are much more knowledgeable in teaching. It’s a win win that way.
Lastly, do some research. Ask around. There are studios and yoga classes popping up EVERYWHERE. Don’t settle for untrained “instructors”. Its your health and your body. Love and respect it by making sure that the people you entrust to keep it safe and healthy are qualified.