In most of the conversations we’ve had with teachers about forming a DC Yoga Co-op, the concept of quality has been an over-riding concern. In my conversation with a highly regarded Ashtanga teacher in the city, we discussed the proliferation of Yoga Teacher Training programs in the area and his concern that people are teaching without being rooted in a relationship with a senior teacher who is a guide and a mentor. In the Ashtanga tradition, this is the only way to become a teacher — to invest time and energy in a long-term, one-on-one relationship with a teacher in a classroom, assisting and learning at the same time. Regardless of style of practice, the teachers I most respect are life-long learners, and are careful about their place in the inheritance of this practice, bringing a special quality to their classes and workshops that I seek. But as I wrote about in Islands in the Sun there are so many of us who are working hard just to make a living without a larger community from which to draw wisdom and strength.
The proliferation of teacher training programs in the region has produced a baby-boom of sorts in the number of yoga teachers. This baby boom is impacting the quality of the practice for students and teachers alike. Yoga teachers have become a commodity in certain places — switched out for someone who will pack a class with students. A friend of mine recently lost a position in a gym where he had consistently taught yoga for 10 years. The reason given? He wasn’t attracting enough students to his class. No worries for the gym — there were plenty of teachers waiting in line for the slot and who were equally as disposable. The gym obviously wasn’t concerned about the students who had been with this teacher or for the passion he brought to his teaching from his continuing education and his lineage. This commodification creates a feedback loop that leads to homogeneity, not exactly anti-quality, but it sure isn’t the highest quality. If this class is growing because the teacher teaches this style, or can demonstrate peak poses effortlessly, or looks a certain way, or plays a particular kind of music, then we want to hire more teachers just like her. Who loses out, besides teachers who don’t conform to this box? Students who also don’t conform to this box.
Diversity is quality. This is one reason I want my yoga peeps to be from as many different traditions, backgrounds, cultures and perspectives as possible. All of us need these connections to become better teachers, better citizens, better people and to ultimately get to the heart of our yoga practice, to understand our true selves.
Here are just a few ideas for how a co-operative of teachers and practitioners could help the region keep a focus on quality teaching. We could…
- dedicate ourselves to educating each other– a “farm to table” concept in continuing education where senior teachers in the region are recognized for their expertise and their learning.
- create a safe community where new teachers come for guidance, senior teachers turn for information and practitioners seek for unique opportunities to deepen their practice.
- educate the public about the breadth and depth of the practice of yoga in the region be it style of asana practice…where to find a meditation group…a primer on bhakti yoga…so much more about the glorious differences between and among us… information they can use to make appropriate choices about the practice that speaks to their unique needs for health and well being.
We need people with a passion to build a diverse community that will positively impact the quality of the practice for teachers and students in the DC region. Join us — drop me a line and let me know you are interested and I’ll send you an invitation to the meeting on Sunday, January 21 from 1:30 – 4:30 pm.