|Image source: http://www.bikramyoga.com/TeacherTraining/AboutTeacherTraining.php|
Only a few months into yoga, I attended a free information session for a one-month intensive yoga teacher training program with at a studio at the far side of town, not because I wanted to become a yoga teacher myself, but because I was on a mission to find out what it takes to become a yoga teacher. I was expecting them to tell me I should practice for at least 2-3 years before I sign up. I was shocked when this teacher told me anyone can sign up for teacher training. I asked her how could I expect myself to teach people if I couldn't even do the most basic arm balance poses like bakasana. The teacher smoothly answered, "Maybe you'll be able to get into one during this teacher training". Hmm.... I have no doubt she would be able to teach me all the theoretical stuff about yoga, and I am confident in my memorization and understanding skills. But some poses take a lot of practice in order to get the strengthening, balance, and flexibility in place. How could she be confident that I would gain enough strength to do those poses within one month? Ironically, her attempt to ease my concerns made me more sure that teacher training was not worth my money at that time. She reassuringly told me, "Don't worry, you won't have to learn how to put your foot behind your head". Why not? I thought at the time. For $3000+, shouldn't I be able to learn how to do almost every single yoga pose?
At the time I did believe that all certified yoga teachers knew all the poses. Now I know that you can have a great asana practice yourself but suck as a teacher, and you don't have to pull off perfect asanas yourself in order to be a great teacher. I've been to simple hatha classes without any advanced balance or strength poses, and walked out of class feeling that my body had a well-rounded stretch, my core was sufficiently challenged, and my energy were properly balanced. I've also gone to power classes where I got really aggravated because I couldn't breath with the teacher's "choreography", or I was asked to attempt an advanced pose when my hamstrings weren't sufficiently prepped top open up fully in the warm up sequences leading up to the pose. Teacher training program can only teach you technical stuff and give you some basic tips on how to lead a safe, logical yoga class. But amazing rock star teachers shine through with their own unique charisma, through a combination of teaching experience as well as their innate ability to connect with students and inspire. With Ashtanga teaching, the sequencing of primary series already makes mechanical sense in systematically opening up the body, where the beginning poses prep for later poses. The greatest challenges are to figure out how to engage the students and keep them interested, and how to lead beginners who are stiff and not very body aware through the sequence without having them feel defeated and over-challenged.
After all the serious investigations and analyses I've secretly conducted, violating drishti focus every class by curiously watching how my teacher adjusts other students, observing other students' poses, analyzing what are the alignment corrections for that particular version of the pose, what are the modifications that can be provided for that particular student, trying to figure out why the teacher would choose to adjust some students but not others, I think I am finally ready to stop being a busybody and settle down as a yoga student to focus on my own yoga practice. Yah I know, I'm weird this way :)
p.s. To learn how to put your foot behind your head at no cost to you whatsoever, see this video for instructions. It worked for me! (after a few months of hip opening poses practicing yoga. My hips were pretty open to begin with though.)