Second to Last Day

Penultimate Class Session

Tomorrow is my second to last day teaching in Bakersfield until I book a new gig. I enjoy teaching the teachers I taught within the Bakersfield Public Schools. Feedback was good. I lowered some blood pressure. I report some got off their pain meds. I so value my opportunity to actually instruct as opposed to merely leading a class. At yoga studios I sometimes get the impression that the random students who show up prefer for me merely to lead the class and not get any funny ideas about passing out information. ouch. So I shut up. There anyway. Here at my informational blog, I can pass out free information to my heart’s content.

That Awkward Moment when I sense instruction is not welcome

That awkward moment is the direct result of the plethora of newly minted yoga teachers. Graduates of 200hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher trainings. These quickie industry-recognized certifications run the gamut from glorified spa vacation to cram schools that focus on prep not comprehension. I know a school is selling certificates not education when no one ever fails. . .Still, to be Yoga Alliance approved these courses must present basics of anatomy, history, philosophy and general emphasis on how to lead a class. The majority of professional yoga teachers minted in the last five years specialize in leading classes. For the consumer who practices yoga on a groupon, switching to zumba, Pilates, foam rollers or what-not when the groupon ends – this is a good match.

Feeding the Hungry Consumer

For myself, I long for deeper instruction. I know I’m not badass. I knew I reached a plateau about two years after I start visiting urban studios. My own teacher in Frazier Park probably could have worked with me forever in a traditional teacher/student relationship, but she relocated, abruptly, leaving me in the lurch. I sit in the air-conditioned room of the orientation hearing the blah blah blah sales pitch of my first yoga teacher training. They justify their several thousand dollar course by saying it will “deepen” my practice even if I don’t go on to teach. This is true. If you want to know how to get from level one classes to proprioception you can keep reading my blogs (there’s over 700) or sign up for a teacher training where that knowledge is set forward. My only gripe on that is the hours spent practice teaching are a bit of a waste for the person seeking to learn for one’s own self alone.

Increasing Demands to Fill the Field

The longer your teacher has been teaching the less likely they have even a 200hr credential. Why? Because back in the 70s people studied for years not hours. Mentorship isn’t traditional, but it’s a tad closer to tradition than selling certificates. Mentoring also creates teachers with more broad range of knowledge of pranayama, asana, meditation and philosophy. That said, I recently heard a 17-year veteran of the field say on a yoga podcast that “Even a 200hr certificate isn’t enough to get a job nowadays. . . .” I am not sure if she was referring to the dearth of information covered in the basic level of teacher training or the stark competition. I was discouraged by her comment. More people than ever are practicing yoga meaning more job opportunities for the yoga aficionado. If you’ve got the spirit of an entrepreneur and a the heart of a teacher, by that I mean if you’re in love with the work – you will find your way. If you have the mind of an employee, however, and you’re considering paying what amounts to the same cost as a four-year college tuition to get a ten-dollar an hour job – you might be sorely disappointed.

What you can do with that first 200 hr certificate

The average 200hr teacher training is plenty good enough to apply for work at a fitness club, a gym, a cruise ship, or your local Home Owners Association clubhouse. Getting out in the field between your first training and your second positions you. Seriously. After plunking down three to seven thousand for your first training it is only good common sense to decide if you even like teaching. Why bother spending an additional five to ten thousand more for a 300hr or 500hr certification if you discover teaching is not for you? Even if you don’t move directly into employee-ship, you can definitely try striking out on your own via Thumbtack or Task Rabbit giving private lessons.

Rude Awakening?

There are quite a few things that classroom experience can never transmit. For example what it’s like to teach all kinds of bodies all kinds of things. In yoga school my “students” are all other yoga lovers. They follow my every cue like pros. There’s not much to teach them. They are better athletes than me. I am assigned “warrior 2” to practice teach.  I’m given high marks. Lalala. Don’t let praise go to yer head Kumari. I translate that to teaching my motorcycle riding good-natured friends, the ones who humor me, letting me practice on them. From them I learn that “breathe into your hands, legs, chest etc.” are all super irritating cues for average ordinaries. If I want to bring people into the yoga subculture I’ll have to learn how to cue in everyday-language, something mos def not covered in my course. oops.

Leading Question

There’s nothing wrong with spending a few years leading classes before you teach. There’s a hot market right now for led classes. Yoga, which once prided herself on being slightly arcane, occult, and hippie has become mainstream, secular and fitness oriented. For people used to zumba, Pilates, bootcamp, and aerobics lecture in the yoga studio is – well – weird. Nobody in a zumba class busts out Sanskrit. No one in a Jane Fonda aerobics class ever mentioned anatomy. Somatic yoga can be disappointing to a person who expects a yoga class like a very slow dance. So don’t be ashamed of leading classes or learning how to lead classes or becoming proficient in leading classes. You may never be called upon to actually teach.

Hey, I don’t make the rules. I just make wry observations based on my own personal experience.

What I loved most about teaching the teachers

Corporate classes are not take all comers. They are run and promoted by HR departments. Corporate yoga often has very specific goals to boost morale, decrease stress and increase wellness. These students often need to know short useful sequences they can practice at their desk during breaks or at home every morning or in the evening to relax. They may or may not ever take themselves to a yoga studio. Lots of them show up in shorts and tee shirts in lieu of spandex and lycra. When everyone has a similar job working for the same company I walk into a built-in subculture complete with existing friendships – the students cajole, encourage and work with each other to understand the yoga. It’s a very different and very gratifying experience to teach people who plan on folding yoga into their lifestyle. It’s very different from the consumer who plans on keeping yoga segregated to the studio.

In closing I’ll add that for myself I prefer teaching people I have a chance to get to know. We’re able to work on projects that take longer than one hour and can be continued next week. They’re able to chart progress and I receive feedback. The course can then self-adjust, tailoring to meet real-time needs. Retreats and workshops are fun but they’re not the same. With a sigh of mono no aware (beauty in sadness) as my mom would have said – I hang up my hat for the summer hiatus after two more sessions.

Now y’all play nice!

Sat Nam