3 reasons to get real about being a yoga teacher?

Byron Yoga Teacher Training with Rachel Zinman YogaLets face  it these days everybody and their dog has either taught yoga, is teaching yoga or wants to teach yoga. In fact a teacher of mine once said when the checkout chick is an International yoga teacher running retreats and workshops, it’s time to consider your options.

Lately it seems like every time I scroll down my newsfeed I read about the pitfalls and issues involved in scoping out the best teacher training or the dilemmas of being an unemployed yoga teacher. In fact one blog emphasises that any teacher-training program that guarantees you’ll get a job is just duping you out of your $3000.

So what’s the scoop? Why do we think that being a yoga teacher is such a big deal and what is the deeper and more meaningful reason we might want to embark on the road to being a yoga teacher?

Byron Yoga Teacher Training in the Ishta System

To be honest I never planned to be a yoga teacher. In fact when I first started yoga I didn’t even like it. I was coerced into practice purely to manage my back pain. I was a dancer and for me yoga was about physical longevity nothing more. I was interested in finding a style and practice that provided a mechanistic view of the body. It wasn’t that I wasn’t philosophical, I had always questioned my existence, but existential thinking and yoga? They were two separate things. Yoga teaching was also something I stumbled into. I was pregnant when a fellow yogi approached me to teach a prenatal class. I became a teacher without ever having done a formal teacher training.

As my teaching and practice evolved so did my curiosity and eventually the existential question “why am I here, what is this all about and what’s the point,” merged with my experience of practice.

Byron Yoga Teacher Training

At 34 after more than 10 years of practice and teaching I began to see yoga as a path. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I was sure I’d find out. That same year I met my teacher Alan Finger the founder of Ishta yoga.

So what was the next step? Did I finally take a teacher training and gain certification? No… by then it was too late and apparently back then I was too experienced.  Instead I was invited to help develop the teacher training program and to train the teachers at Alan’s school another unexpected opportunity. Some of today’s top teacher trainers trained with us in Alan’s teacher training program.

Why was it so successful ?

1. It was before yoga boomed, before global yogi perks, gargantuan yoga festivals, acro and hoop yoga and ayahuasca cacao ceremonies. Back then yoga was for serious and sincere yoga practitioners looking for answers. Their practice was the priority, teaching a byproduct of passion and enthusiasm.

2. Most people when asked why they signed up replied, “I found yoga healing, peaceful, it changed my life so much, gave me hope, helped me to find out more about how to manage my life and I wanted to share that with others.”

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3. Back in the day the motivation was to help others, not to help yourself.

So what’s happened? How did we fall into the mass consumption of yoga to the point that most teachers are no more than glorified gym instructors? When did the cost of a training, location and length outweigh the need to study with experienced and sincere teachers who could actually answer the questions that brought us to yoga in the first place?

Basically we got lazy. We turned yoga into a business and sacrificed it on the altar of commercialism. It’s a down-dog world out there and we all want our market share.

Byron Yoga Teacher TrainingDon’t get me wrong I absolutely believe in yoga and it’s benefits I’ve taken hard knocks like everyone else and learned that yoga is not a path to bliss. Nothing “out there” can answer my questions. Because any experience I have in a relative sense can never tell me about the experiencer. No matter how much I study, read and practice it can’t tell me about the one who is asking the questions.


Byron Yoga Teacher Training

Because when I look for answers in a book or in a practice I’ll always take the default position. Choosing what’s comfortable or what I relate too. That’s the nature of mind. It doesn’t know anything other than what it knows. And that’s why we are all caught in this yoga loop. A sincere and passionate person is easily seduced by a less is more attitude. Cheap and fast in an exotic location, beats experience any day.

So what’s the solution? We can’t turn back the clock and erase the proliferation of yoga any more than we can ‘save ‘ the planet. What we can do is get real and get informed and sincerely question our real motivation for considering teacher training.

Sincerely seeking answers and wanting to share your passion and enthusiasm for yoga in a down to earth and practical way? We still have a few spaces left in this years Byron Yoga Teacher Training in the Ishta System October 21- November 29. 2013.  Early bird special closes August 21st.

18 thoughts on “3 reasons to get real about being a yoga teacher?

  1. I love your mind and insight.
    You couldn’t be anymore right.
    Yoga, like anything else in the western world, has become a mass consumption product. To be part of the beautiful people and in crowd it’s almost imperative to practice a certain style of yoga. Similar as the Home & Timber Hardware ad, ‘go where the celebs go’.
    I have just completed my Kundalini Yoga training and wow, is sitting there in front of the students now an mind boggling responsibility.
    Kundalini Yoga has become my absolute passion and I want to make it my life’s purpose to share this wonderful opportunity to find some answers within oneself and open the heart and live for peace.
    So I wish you well and thank you for the perspective. If you ever come to Sydney please visit us at KM Yoga at Bondi Junction. It would be great talking to you.
    I have also founded the Kundalini Shed. Yoga classes for men only. Because we guys have to learn to live from the heart if we want to do something about peace on this planet.
    Wahe Guru
    Sham Sunder

  2. God bless check out chicks, and all yoga teachers – and their dogs.

    Every trained yoga teacher means one more committed yogi – isn’t that making the world a better place?

    Many paths, one destination.

    I’m thankful that there are so many options for training. Some cannot commit to many months at a stretch, some cannot endure a short and sweet (aka demanding in disguise!) course, no matter the exotic locale

    Keep up your wonderful work, training more committed yogis!
    Respect others who do the same.
    Most of all, love your check outchick. Many a good soul did time as a checkout chick.

  3. Great Article Rachel. I totally agree and have recently become really passionate about this in particular. I go to so many different studios around the world to work with their training students who have learned so little and seem to not really care. They are more interested in making sure the rest of their lives are still running according to appointments and social events rather then spend the time in the studio that they have signed up for. I’m bewildered, why even bother? Do you really want to teach or do you just think this is something interesting to do and see if you can make it as a teacher later on?

    I realised that the there is a huge hole in the market. Most studios run trainings in order to make money. There is no money in running daily classes, it just about covers overheads as anyone who owns or runs a studio knows. But the problem is that so many people who aren’t really that passionate about their path as a yogi, who are just interested in learning more, get convinced to do these trainings, because the studios want the numbers up. Then the content of the course gets watered down due to the fact that the course leader often has to keep things simple, meaning more experienced students and seekers of deeper knowledge can’t really get any depth.

    There needs to be more “practitioners intensive” courses or, as Anusara called it “immersions”. No teachings about “how to teach”, communication skills and adjustments and how to hold space (which is not really being taught with much depth these days). Instead focus on teaching people about what yoga really is. A course that needs to be done before anyone takes on board a teacher training. Perhaps even level 1 and 2 and maybe even 3. That way the standard of the actual teacher trainings can be so much higher. Those that find they are not interested in taking it to so much depth later on will realise that perhaps teaching yoga is not their path.

    I believe it is up to us (those that offer the trainings and the teachings) that need to emphasise how important this information is. And how there is an enormous responsibility to share this information. It is not about getting a good work out and we know that, but it is also our job to make sure interested students are totally clear about it before they get drawn down the road to being a “glamorous yoga teacher” (she says sitting in a cold flat in The Hague halfway through an adjustment training, longing for comforts of home and a practice that is just about my own body and not about what I have to teach later!)

    Love ya Rach!

  4. What I love about your teacher training is that it focuses on who we are, not what we do… I feel I live yoga thanks to you rather than just teaching asana!

  5. With the “mcdonaldization” of yoga teacher training programs : cheaper faster and full of “empty calories” this article is long overdue! Very insightful! Thank you!!!

  6. An excellent article .The need of the hour is for teachers to be more dedicated practitioners of Yoga themselves both on and off the mat .

  7. So what’s happened? It entered the mainstream is what happened and as always happens its tailored to become more palatable by watering it down and in doing so becoming a distant version of what it once was.

    Corporations jumped on the band wagon resulting in a multi-billion dollar industry.

    Couldnt agree with you more that about teachers being glorified aerobics instructors.

    Patanjali says “yoga chitta vritti nirodha.” your practice should be leading you to the stilling of the mind; not projecting out all the ideas you have about this practice but emptying the cup.

    The oldest texts on yoga make mention only of asanas for opening the hips (to sit in meditation). Most teachers these days have barely done a 10 day meditation retreat; its all about their personality and being rock stars..

    Very few teachers really have know idea about liberating oneself from oneself, just love to talk about ‘transformation’; and making money from those that also dont know… the blind leading the blind

  8. Good points Rachel and Julie.
    I was thinking so many people do the training for personal development. SO i said how about we do the personal development without the mechanics of teaching like, finding a voice, adjusting people etc. The meeting for a TT gets 35 people and 3 turn up for the personal deveopment. no cert, no interest!

  9. Thank you Rachel..I like you am a long time Yoga seeker and teacher and also see this distraction of Yoga as a business to the true path. However it is here now and as long as those of us who choose to continue to develop our students with a deep understanding of the truth with an emphasis on its spiritual aspects and healing as a whole person to overide the perils of ego, Yoga will continue to grow. Lets hope that those interested in learning more about the Yoga path choose to do so with an interest in that not a certificate of teaching. Thank you for your courage to write what many of us have been thinking for a long time.


  10. Great Blog Rachel. And full of truths I was discussing with close friends after a weekend of shooting some pics for Yoga Journal here in Germany. All extremely young, all Acro-Yogis, Paddle-Board yogis, you get the picture. Doesn’t anyone just practice..you know..Yoga anymore? Breathe, move, smile, go inward? I tried to connect with everyone I met, and in more than one instance was offered a postcard/ business card “with all the info” you know….who needs to talk or share when you can text, post, show off your brand….anyway it was depressing. The essence of Yoga was missing. The caring, the path, the ability to do a backbend (!), Sanskrit names of the Asana (translation was needed),…. the OM Shanti. Glad to hear there’s more practicing yogis out there. It was a lonely weekend full of people pushing their product.

  11. Rachel,

    I totally agree with what you are saying and at the same time find it to be a bit of a double edge sword.

    Yes there are far too many yoga teachers these days and often the spiritual side of yoga is lost in the teaching.

    Long gone the days of the Roses, Clives Louisas ….. who like you became yoga teacher without qualifications just because they had found something special and powerful they wanted to pass on to other people!

    Then came all the yoga teacher trainings courses churning qualified yoga teachers after 6 weeks, 2, months training….
    Often, out of a new group only 2 or 3 of the students will end up teaching.

    Nevertheless, in amongst these new students/teachers some of them might be quite brilliant.

    So, where do we draw the line? One day I’m sure there will be a big window open for senior, older teachers to pass on their knowledge.

    The main thing is to keep practicing and keep the spirituality of yoga alive!

  12. Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this site needs far more attention.
    I’ll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!

  13. Hi Rachel,
    I love your blogs, thank you.
    The love of movement, health, and community is what pulled me to yoga 20 years ago. I had the grace and discernment to choose a teacher full of integrity who also transmitted a frequency of quiet and joyful inner presence. I have had many teachers along the way, and continue to learn and study and benefit by so many beautiful beings and the styles and tools they use to share their gifts. There seems to be a natural place for all kinds of teachers…I guess as long as there is a demand for fast food yoga there will be a supply. Slowly, maybe, there will be an inclination as a global community to refine and to serve peace, love, transparency, authenticity, where we as a community move towards well being indivually and for one another. I love the way you teach, so full of knowledge yet it is your pure presence which illuminates the room effortlessly guiding us into ourselves to replenish and renew from within. Om xxxx

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