Is the current teaching method of yoga failing you?
Do you ever wonder if you’re *actually* learning something in your yoga classes?
I can’t help but notice the flux of studios opening and closing.
The churning out of yoga graduates in teacher trainings.
Which are providing yoga teacher graduates with a cookie-cutter sequence to teach.
And while we all need guidance or training wheels in the beginning of any new venture, the yoga industry is forgetting a fundamental aspect of being a teacher.
Keep reading to find out what that is!
The latest news with YogaWorks employees starting to form a union due to low pay, irregular scheduling, and inadequate benefits demonstrates the lack of support and connection between studios, teachers, and the demand for yoga by students.
An anonymous women states that “Yoga teachers, by my calculation, in New York City and other places are earning under what’s considered the poverty line.” The women continues to explain that she doesn’t think students know how low their wages are considering how much they are paying for studio membership.
Harsh, but true.
Why is the current yoga teaching method failing?
I hypothesize it’s based on the current yoga pedagogy. Or lack, thereof.
What I often see is misconnection between studio owner(s), teachers, and YOU, the yoga student.
The main reason yoga studios and yoga teachers are failing, in my opinion, is because we are not seeing this as a subject to teach.
Yoga students don’t know what they need to know. Because when we’re students we just don’t know what we don’t know.
Classes are labeled as “all levels” allowing anyone to join. Would that happen in grade school? Would there ever be an “all levels math class”? All levels PhD programs?
Taken from Stanford’s essential aspect of effective teaching,
“To help students learn, instructors need to break down these complex concepts or tasks into their component parts, provide students opportunities to perform these skills or cognitive processes separately…”
What is the fundamental aspect of teaching?
One that seems to be universal is to first build a curriculum.
Essentially create a process for growth and progress for the students.
For the most part, the yoga industry is viewed as a fitness business. Similar to a gym.
And while there is certainly a physical aspect to yoga which feels like a workout and tones your body there are so many more parts to the yoga practice.
But even when you go to the gym, especially if you’re lifting heavy weights and working with a trainer, there’s levels and a progress journal. You don’t just start lifting 200 lbs.
While I haven’t been in the industry for as long as some of my seasoned teachers, I can see it progressively getting worse since 2013.
Yoga needs a school system. Yoga has the philosophy and the knowledge behind it to be like a school system.
Maty Ezraty, one of the pioneers of modern Vinyasa yoga says,
“What we’ve got now are asana teachers who are pretending to be masters […] Essentially we need yoga schools, not corporations. That doesn’t mean we can’t do some of the stuff that is popular now but students have to understand there is more. Schools need adult-yogi supervision- someone who demands respect and who has a bigger vision of what it means to have a yoga school. [Your] students are not clients. When you are a client, you get what you want. A student needs to arrive to class ready to receive what the teacher is ready to give them, as long as the teacher has the right qualifications.” – Maty Ezraty
What can we learn from the school system?
Schools run on semesters or quarters.
And with subjects, class curriculum, and the teachers in mind.
How can we create a habit to build a practice and progress for people?
The same way other teaching systems do it. They charge by the semester or by the quarter or by credits. In exchange the students “get something out of it.”
- How to do the Asana properly
- Learn how to breathe
- How to skillfully move from pose to pose
- How to increase your mindfulness muscle
- How to take the teachings of yoga into everyday life
Not every class is going to be capable of touching on all of this which is the point of grades or levels.
My point being that we do need classes that purely stick to teaching the poses, but how can we make it clear that there’s more?
How can we make it known that you can move on to other aspects of yoga?
Well first, you can “advance” in yoga without any new poses involved.
Let’s go back to that fourth grade math class.
The teacher develops a curriculum for the fourth grade level.
They are setting the foundation for their students to succeed later on in algebra or geometry.
Some of those students will move even further down into calculus or multi-variable calculus etc.
While every fourth grader might not move onto to those classes, or college, or even get a diploma for that matter, it’s setting the foundation with the intention for success later.
The teacher doesn’t bother in teaching complicated math, because they developed the curriculum for fourth grade in mind. Leaving out fifth grade stuff, high school stuff, and college stuff.
But the student is aware that there’s more and that they will progress, in the area that makes sense for them.
Similarly, you can progress or “advance” in yoga but it could be a completely different route than the poses or than your peers.
How has yoga become a cookie-cutter practice?
The demand for Classpass-like pricing creates a habit in yoga students to simply get any class or to view every class as the same.
Without structure, or a curriculum put in place it’s very easy to get any cookie-cutter class.
While this has definitely increased the amount of people practicing yoga or dabbling in yoga, as teachers I question whether we’re getting the point across
Yoga teachers are hired based on a demo class.
Would this happen in any other teaching system? Imagine that same math teacher again, would it make sense for them to get hired based on a pseudo math class? Probably not.
They get asked proper questions on past curriculum they’ve built, experience, success, challenges.
Is there hope?
I think so! I hope so I want to say yes. There’s a lot of teachers out there trying to push the industry in the right direction. Some of my main inspirations on this are Andrea Ferretti and Jason Crandell.
Over at Beyond the Studio Yoga we are trying out best to re-shape this as well. Our sole mission at Beyond the Studio is share the depth of yoga.