It’s confusing for me to answer questions like:”How long did it take you to master this pose or that pose?” or “Can you now do pose X or pose Y?” or “How’s the progress of your practice? Do you manage to do the advanced options now that you have mastered the basic?”
I came to yoga as a pure hobbyist so the idea that we must master certain poses or techniques in a specified amount of time is way beyond my ken. Why should I approach yoga like a mission to accomplish, enemy to conquer or a problem to tackle? I simply want to enjoy the journey without much burden or expectation. I want to be like the nature, it never hastes yet everything is accomplished. If you aim right, you’ll get there anyhow.
I don’t know about you, but that’s my approach to yoga, which I fully understand will never fit anyone’s needs especially those who plan to go professional (read: to earn a living by doing and teaching yoga).
Why yoga teaching certificates matter?
I read some exchanges of thoughts somewhere on the social network. Some gurus argued over the importance of being a certified yoga teacher.
To be honest, it has been a constant source of debates, controversies, and arguments. That said, it raises a question in my mind: How vital is a yoga teacher certification for students?
Pujiastuti Sindu, the founder of Yoga Leaf, reasons at her site that all the fuss about certification is primarily because of standardization. I cannot agree more on that. Certified yoga teachers are assumed to be more knowldgeable and prepared on yoga realm than uncertified ones. Certification seems to answer the problems we have been dealing so far, such as the discrepancies of yoga teachings understanding. Certification ensures everyone signed up for it is taught the same way and gets relatively more or less the same curricula. Thus, there will be more
Yet, there are a number of downsides of this undertaking. By applying the certification policy, yoga enters the domain of business world. Yogapreneurship, writes Sindhu, emerges. And some people who were never interested in teaching yoga begin reconsidering this. Certification offers them an opportunity of upgrading in terms of incomes. Yes, they can’t deny that certification is the best way to justify a raise in salary because certificates help the holder look way more professional, a lot more experienced, and in some way, more credible in the eyes of students. It is not an easy and cheap way to get oneself certified so why should one stay in the current salary amount if s/he can make money more with the hard-earned sheets of papers?
Through the perspective of students, of course we appreciate more people with certificates. Students can trust a certified yoga teacher more because the certificate helps him to make sure a yoga teacher is really competent or not.
But it is not an end at all. The high appreciation and respect may be then revalued and reassessed over time. Gurus, or anyone claiming they’re gurus, could and should undergone a competence overhaul for a certain period of time. And to some extent, the overhaul in fact takes place every single day. A yoga teacher can lose what s/he actually deserves once s/he commits ethical codes, codes of conducts violations.
Experience, however, should accompany a certificate. Without the two, it is very unlikely to have a close-to-ideal yoga teacher. Experience is another crucial factor that can only be built and proven over time. Though Sindhu argues that experience is on top of credibility earned through certification, I would like to add that one’s natural talent of teaching is also another important factor. We have seen some people who are smart and talented in yoga practice but they don’t feel like teaching is their path. They just love to share yoga with him or herself or the closest. And there’re also some others who don’t really achieve a good mastery of yoga but they’re very good at teaching. Some who are unfortunate enough to neither possess teaching talent nor yoga mastery.
As for a future or aspiring yoga teacher, they ought to have the inward sensibility. Suppose a yogi/ni is an institution (just like schools, governments), s/he too must have the high sensibility and judgment on whether s/he deserves teaching or not. In other words, after receiving a teaching certificate, a future yoga teacher is supposed to be examining him/herself. S/he has now gotten a weapon in hand, what’s next?
That brings us to the next question: How prepared one’s mentality and well-being to teach yoga after obtaining a certificate? This proves to be the most crucial query yet the most delicate and challenging one to tackle. Only you can decide if you’re ready to teach or not. No one else can.
It was quite a surprise, to be blunt. Everything was ill-planned this very morning. I had to teach in a very short notice. I was called on the phone and within 15-20 minutes I simply had to be at the park teaching. Saying no was not an answer apparently. He just called in a rush and hung up the phone, leaving me all alone in complete panic.
“How am I supposed to do now?” I asked myself frantically. Still dumbfounded by the shocking request, I said to myself I might have run away, fled the situation but how about responsibility? Gosh, I was such in awe because under such a circumstance I was still taking that into account.
Another yoga friend was asking on the messenger how long I would arrive there and I felt horrible for coming unfashionably late! This was not what I pictured in my mind about my first class attended by a lot of people (around 10-20 people at a public area). Complete chaos was what I would shortly undergo, I shouted at myself.
And the people were sitting there while I was dashing with my mat on my back. I was trembling to tell you all the truth but there was no time to complain, I knew I could only rely on no one but myself and the Divine.
So with my greatest effort, I tried my best to calm myself first, accompanied with the emerging sense of self confidence. I guessed everyone there read my body languages, that I was not fully prepared for this. I was struggling inside out!
Apart from the panic and fuzzy hatred out of my helplessness, I stealthily gathered my shattered courage because no matter what I had to lead the class waiting for me impatiently. Inhale deeply and focus as I was sitting down on the rolled blue mat one of my teachers gave me. Damn hard but I tried to proceed and survive. I said to them, “Centering. Focus on your inner self…” But that was directed to myself as well. The student inside me was dragging me down with the instruction, but the teacher of me pushed me back to the hard cold truth that morning: “You’re a teacher, the authority here. Stay aware of students and of course yourself. Take that responsibility and suck it up.”
I opened my eyes and here was a flock of people in front of me, staring at me, watching closely what I did. “Forget it and show them what you want to share,” a voice inside me whispered. That’d be easy, I supposed. Just focus on sharing what I have got, period. Who cared if someone sneered at my techniques or asanas or cues or … Whatever. It was a struggle to remain ignorant of these things throughout the practice.
So I started the practice with some gentle stretching here and there. And oh I forgot twisting poses but that was absolutely ok because I just realized now, not before the class. That was not a big deal. No one noticed, or no one dared to question me. Yoga students are mostly too polite to challenge novice teachers. And thank God, I was spared.
But the self critic inside me constantly blurting, “Tsk, you forgot that and this..and these and those.”
And came an Iyengar yoga teacher, catching me off guard. I had literally no idea about his presence, which was good. My single-mindedness (or nervousness) seemed to be working best. A friend who taught yoga several weeks ago here lost his focus while teaching as he knew this Iyengar yoga teacher. He was so scared of being visually observed and thus judged and criticized. You know when it comes to perfection pursuit, Iyengar teachers teach with utmost discipline like that of soldiers. Obviously, ignorance is a total bliss!
Unlike the asanas captured on the majority of photos I always upload on the web, the asanas I chose to perform during the class were considerably easier and way less challenging to even a beginner (so I thought). But as I observed the participants, I discovered one or two with advanced yoga skills. That could be either because they are regular students somewhere else or they’re basically light and found it effortless to stand upside down.
A caucasian lady in her 50s was among the crowd. In an instant, I knew she is an avid yogini. She was quite familiar with the atmosphere of yoga class. She even could smart-guess my gesture without listening to my bilingual instructions. I spoke both English and Indonesian while teaching, in order not to leave her puzzled. She wasn’t but I was! I was puzzled because I failed to arrange the flow of the class in an orderly way. Blame it on the nervousness. I came from sitting poses to standing, squatting, and then standing in balance, and backbending and finally inversion poses. As random as the order might seem, what made more concerned was whether they realized I was struggling to find my class flow. It didn’t take a genius to come to complete realization that I am an amateurish instructor or a poser trying to give one or two bites of instruction, order, explanation, and sometimes, jokes. Jokes that were intended more to make myself comfortable in front of these people, instead of making this class a little bit more lively.
As if the nervousness and lack of preparation and teaching skills were not enough, the battery of the microphone I was using gradually ran out. To say I was frustrated even more was an overstatement. I was too powerless to get furious and furthermore I didn’t know who to reprimand. I let the frustration and anger go. “And maybe this is the right time to conclude the class”, I mumbled. Class is over. Namaste…
Jakarta, July 7, 2013
It was not a yoga class you attend biweekly at a nearby gym or fitness center. They, my so-called students shun such places. So do I.
And here we were, sitting without mats on a cemented badminton and basketball field. We didn’t complain and just enjoyed what we could enjoy: ourselves.