becoming a real yoga teacher

“Find a teacher who will tell you the truth about yourself rather than just sign your certificate.” – Dr. Scott Blossom

Enjoyed a calmly passionate conversation at Kripalu this morning sparked by questions about learning yoga and teaching it. They earned the above response from Ayurveda Psychology guest lecturer and TCM practitioner, Dr. Scott Blossom, who studied with his teacher for 10 years before teaching Shadow Yoga. (I imagine that requiring a microphone to speak doused some of the flames burning in the crowd and tempered responses.)

Before I begin another teacher training, and the morning after I drafted an email to my TT alumni, I’m contemplating the transactional nature of teacher trainings that Dr. Scott chatted about. He said that most people see their yoga education as a purchase, like purchasing a painting. It’s a moment in time with a clearly defined product they can own, when it really never can be. Yoga is an art form, and you can’t buy an art form, you can only practice it.

This is not a piece on “there are too many yoga teachers”, because I’m not in that camp. The truth is that many people develop into being teachers before they’ve actually developed a student consciousness, and especially if they earn money for it, they then often cut off a connection to an ongoing teacher who will ensure evolution. Without evolution, it’s not yoga, it’s just exercise. (Which is physically healthy and spiritually devoid.)

The feedback and the growth work for students/teachers has to be dosed gradually. If my teacher had told me the full truth about myself when I first met her, I may have given up on life, let alone the yoga path. We don’t live in a culture that can offer the depth of treatment and practice needed to heal the dis-eased state of mind that people begin with on their yoga path. If Mona had an ashram I could live at full time, she could have said, “here’s the truth about you, now stay, be fed, do some cleaning, listen, work hard, and in a few years, you can be more balanced and Sattvic.”

But Mona lives in a bungalow, and I wasn’t invited. So little by little, over the years, my teachers, my students and my study and self-study (Svadhyaya) reveals where I have work to do. I resolve one piece of karma, accrue a little more through a misstep because I’m human, and then move on to the next one.

Most of us have access to only new teachers (which I count myself as), and that’s okay. Some access to some teachings is much better than none at all. Over the decades, yoga’s reach will widen and deepen, and deeper teachings will be shared and better work will be done.

If you’re a teacher, hold the teacher’s seat with a specific integrity, a gravitas implied by guru, which can be translated as heavy. Return to the same teacher over the years – of course you can have multiple, but keep one – and continue your practice. It’s your sacred duty.