Why I’m a Certified Yoga Teacher


HKD_Jivamukti 800-HourI’m a certified yoga teacher. It’s true – says so right on my certificate: “Teacher Certification”.  My teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, have certified that I’ve “successfully completed” 800 hours of training that qualifies me to teach the style of yoga they developed, Jivamukti Yoga.

And I’m a teacher of teachers: I participate in a lot of different Yoga Teacher Training programs. I’ve even signed certificates to confirm the successful completion of trainings by program graduates. I’m not just certified; I’m a certifier.

One could make an argument that this makes me complicit in a system that certifies people who are not actually qualified to teach yoga. Well, nolo contendre – some of the people who have successfully completed programs I’m affiliated with are not qualified to teach yoga. And, thankfully, as far as I know, none of those people are teaching yoga.

The question of being “certified” or not, along with nine other teacher training pet peeves, came up recently when my friend and colleague, Peg Mulqueen, kicked the beehive over the fence in her blog post, “Why (Almost) Everything You Learned in Teacher Training is Wrong”.

While the title beckons to graduates of Teacher Training programs, Peg’s post is actually directed toward yoga studios with pre-packaged training programs that offer an education of dubious value while encouraging delusions of grandeur. And If the comments are any indication, Peg’s tirade (there’s no shortage of attitude in Peg’s writing) was well received by an overwhelming majority of readers. Cyndi Lee received a similar ovation on her Facebook page a couple of weeks ago when she kicked some sand on the Yoga Alliance credentialing system. The specific issues are different but yoga teacher training was at the center of each critique. It seems that a lot of people in the yoga community are not impressed by the current state of yoga teacher training programs or the system by which yoga schools acquire their credentials.

Provoking questions and stirring debate is a good thing. But there’s a dark lining inside this silver cloud: for some new teachers who’ve recently completed a Teacher Training program, Peg’s message was “your training probably sucked and therefore you, by extension, also probably suck. And you’re not really certified by anyone that matters so you’re a fraud to boot”

As such, I was saddened, but not too surprised, to find one comment among the many on Peg’s post that read “As a new teacher this just makes me feel that I’m not good enough.”

That was the comment that pushed me over the edge because I know why people aspire to become yoga teachers. When I first meet a new group of trainees the first thing I want to know, besides their names, is why they’re taking a yoga teacher training course. Those who expressly want to become yoga teachers all have the same answer in one form or another: “yoga changed my life in an incredibly positive way and I’m so grateful for all that yoga has done for me that I want to give that same experience to other people.”

And that, as far as I’m concerned, is the first and foremost qualification to teach yoga: a desire to offer service to others that’s inspired by gratitude and guided by humility. If you can honestly say that this is how you approach teaching yoga, then you’re good enough.

That’s not saying you’ll be an expert teacher by the time you graduate from a 200-Hour training. On the contrary, you’ll barely be ready to take off the training wheels and ride without a grown-up running along side of you (which is not to say you shouldn’t have a mentor). Steadiness, to say nothing of wheelies and double back-flips, will come with time: if you’re sincere about teaching as a service then eventually, but inevitably, you’ll acquire the requisite skills to go with that service.

About 6 years ago I was in Vrindavan, India, and one of my Bhakti Yoga teachers said to me, “Hari-kirtana, you should become a teacher. You have a natural aptitude for it. It would be good for you and good for others. You need to find a way to teach. That should be your service.”

And that’s why I’m a certified yoga teacher.

10 Comments

  1. Stacy
    Posted March 27, 2014 at 8:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent post – something I’ve been thinking about as I near the completion of my first 200 hr. training. I’ve learned how little I know! I hope by remaining a lifelong student, maintaining an attitude of humility, and focusing on my practice/teaching as a service to others, that I will become a teacher worthy of the label.

    • Posted April 8, 2014 at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Stacy:

      Thanks for your comment. Humility is the mandatory pre-requisite for knowledge and the fundamental symptom of wisdom. I have no doubt that your approach to learning will make you an excellent teacher. Good luck with the completion of your TT program.

  2. Posted March 27, 2014 at 8:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for writing this. I was left feeling much the same way after reading Peg’s article. As a student and teacher, I am always learning and share that same view point with my students. I appreciate that you point out the good and bad here. And yes, a desire to serve is the first and greatest qualification for aspiring teachers. Well said!

    • Posted March 27, 2014 at 3:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Rachel: Thanks so much for your comments and for sharing my post.

  3. Posted March 27, 2014 at 3:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this well written piece – couldn’t agree more!

    • Posted March 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Then we’ll file this in the ‘great minds think alike’ drawer ; ) – Thanks for your comment, Kate.

  4. Posted March 27, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Love this so much HKD!! Thank you for being a warm, clear voice in this crazy world.

    • Posted March 27, 2014 at 8:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Thank you, Francesca. Hopefully spring will stick around and I can go back to being a crazy voice in a warm, clear world.

  5. Julia
    Posted March 30, 2014 at 10:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you, Hari-kirtana, for this piece. It is scary to be a new teacher, and I appreciate the reminder that if I am teaching with the intention of service, I’m on the right track.

    • Posted April 8, 2014 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It’s scary to be an old teacher, too. ; ) Either way, intention is the primary determinant of the sanctity of a deed, including teaching. Thanks for your comment, Julia.

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