Sunday, December 16, 2007

As Simple as Herding Cats

I'm in the process of applying for another teaching gig at a new "wellness center" that has opened in the Stateline area. It's affiliated with Beloit Memorial Hospital and has a whole wing with doctors' offices and physical therapy, in addition to a very swank gym, pool and studios (Pilates and yoga have separate rooms). There will be some overlap from my students at the Y, but also a lot of new folks from Northern Illinois.

I've hit a snag. Because of the medical aspect, they want to make sure all the instructors are well-trained and certified. The certified part works well for the aerobics teaching and trainers, because of the rigor with which ACE, etc. keeps track of their teachers. They are having some trouble with the yoga teachers' credentials, tho--especially me.

I had a very intense training period with my teacher in DC and spent every other Saturday for a year at her house studying poses--how to teach, how to modify, how to sequence them. I also did some (not a lot) of student teaching at her studio and she observed some of my teaching. So, I think I had a good grounding (ha) in the basics and have tried to stay current with various workshops, etc. when I can get to Madison or other yoga conferences. For what it's worth, my students seem to be happy with my teaching. But none of this is work towards a specific Certification...and none of it is with Yoga Alliance members (altho I have studied with Iyengar, Kripalu, Ashtanga, etc. teachers), so I can't count towards a R.Y.T. designation. There are 5 YA-approved schools in Wisconsin and the nearest one to me is in Milwaukee (80 min. drive each way), so I can't really start over from scratch.

It's made me think about yoga teacher training in this country and how to organize (if that's possible) all the different styles and approaches so that outsiders can measure how qualified a teacher is. This is a huge debate in the yoga community--and while the Yoga Alliance has the right idea--I'm not sure it's possible to gather all of us under one governing body. And maybe we don't want one governing body, but how to assess the quality of different trainings? And is teaching yoga in a multi-purpose facility, such as a gym, less legitimate than in a studio? And consider the possibility of including yoga in a wellness plan that insurance companies would be willing to support, how would they measure its effectiveness? How about those of us who practice and teach in communities without a large yoga network?

I'm not sure how it will go with North Pointe (the aforementioned wellness center). I hope I can cobble together a resume that they approve of, but we'll see. In the mean time, what do all of you think of this subject and how have you dealt with the issue of multiple trainings/quality of trainings/lack of certification/etc? Any ideas?

How do you herd a group of cats and keep them in the corral...


Linda (Sama) said...

the day health insurance companies get involved in determining a yoga teacher's "qualifications" in order to reimburse someone, or have anything whatsoever to do with the day I stop teaching. simple as that.

Michelle said...

Brenda, that is a great question. I have be a student of a Registered Iyengar teacher, whom I thought was not that good. I have been under the study of non-registered ones who were very effective and fantastic teachers. One of my former students went on to get various types of training and I think may have strayed too much. I don't know what to say. I think that having a heart to teach and the basic knowledge (albiet ever broadening)should be enough in some cases. If students want to go further, they can then find a teacher more suited to his/her needs. I don't, however, think that each teacher should be under the same governing body. Who is to say which teachers are "acceptable" and which are not.

Kristin said...

Brenda, I am sorry to hear of your conundrum. I would certainly hope your longstanding experience outweighs pure “certification”.

Certification is certainly a touchy topic. I was at a yoga workshop where an internationally known instructor was asked what he thought about certification. He stated he didn’t believe in it on the grounds that just because you are “certified” doesn’t make you a great instructor and that there many excellent instructors who are not certified. He continued on to say its become one of those circular things: studios, fitness centers, gyms, colleges, etc. somewhere along the line decided that it would add credibility to their names if their instructors were “certified”, thus forcing many instructors to spend large amounts of money to attend a preset session to become certified if they wanted to continue to teach. It’s become a merry-go-round. You want to teach? You have to be certified. In order to become certified, you have to find someplace to teach to get the hours in to become certified.

I am a certified 200 hr RYT yoga instructor, but I’m certified in the hatha tradition. What I actually teach is the Ashtanga tradition. I not certified to teach Ashtanga? I attended a 40 hour week long teacher training intensive with David Swenson where I learned about alignment, modifications, the sequence itself and providing a safe experience. Since then I’ve gone to at least 3 Ashtanga related workshops each year to keep myself current in the practice. Ironically, I took both the RYT training and the Swenson training in the same year and the studio I teach at just sort of quietly switched their requirements for the instructors to be certified at the same time (I was in their pilot program).

I completely understand the problem with obtaining certification as well. If I really wanted to become certified in the Ashtanga tradition, I would either have to fly somewhere for a month or drive once a month to Minneapolis and the program in Minneapolis requires you to do a student teaching gig at the studio. When?! How?! I don’t live there! Am I supposed to drive down each weekend to teach?

Perhaps there should be a couple governing bodies under one umbrella - for example, if a person just wanted a generic yoga certification, they could do x y and z. But if a person wanted to specialize, then under the umbrella, they could contact say, the Iyengar Institute, or an Ashtanga institute or Bikram group or the Himalayan Institute and those bodies would have a program designed for that person to meet some pre-determined certification criteria.

And wouldn’t it be nice if some of this certification took into account prior documented experience rather than just going from the date of your initial RYT training?

I’ll stop here...

Jude said...

I'm on the cusp of starting a 200 hour YA certified training; after 3 years of pretty intensive personal practice at a studio as well as with lots of national teachers. For me, running off to Kripalu for a solid month of yoga training was not an option - a couple of the local studios spread it out, one weekend a month, over the better part of a year.

I guess I'm mixed about it. On the one hand, certification ensures a bare minimum exposure to anatomy, safety, etc. And if one is teaching in the world of corporate america (or the government), one is heading into the world of certifications, concerns with liability, etc. Personally, I just do not want to hurt anyone - I've had a few incidents myself with teachers causing harm with a tweak or an adjustment - so I am a bit cautious.

On the other hand, yeah - I've worked with some pretty incredible and talented teachers without certification - and I've worked with some pretty uninspiring teachers with certifications galore.

My teacher training is with the woman who runs my local studio, who I am really looking forward to spending time with. (I never get enough studio time with her). So it's all good. I suspect I would feel differently if I had spent years learning (not leading to certification) and then were asked to do 200 hours with someone who I was not already passionate about.

Great blog, btw - I'll keep reading!

Nadine Fawell said...

Interesting question, and I am also not sure: I was mildly involved in a teacher training program this year, and some of those people passed when I really thought they shouldn't have. SO I don't think that is necessarily the best way: I think being mentored like you were, and experience, and kindness, are better. But how do you measure those?

Happy New Year, and thank you for all the food for thought over the last one!

Melissa Garvey said...

I think that Richard Rosen falls into the category of non-certified, highly knowledgeable yoga instructors. Perhaps he would be a helpful person to speak with.

sean said...

I am a Hatha Yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. I trained in Africa with an Iyengar disciplined guru who did not subscribe to certifications of any kind. He would simply say, "You're not ready to teach," or, "You are ready to leave me and show others."

I inherited his disdain for any organization that exchanges paper credentials for a membership fee. No resume, no diploma, no certificate will ever reflect how competent you are.

yogamom said...

hmmm, I'm a new teacher (<1yr)who got a gig at a studio where I've practiced for the last four years.

I'm actively pursing Iyengar certification and told the studio owner that teaching for two years was a requirement for certification, which of course is true. I think I'm pretty fortunate, but I also sold myself by pointing out related experience and the number of hours of classes that I had under my belt - way over 1,000 class hrs at the time.

I attend quarterly teacher training workshops, quarterly workshops for my personal practice, and observe a level I class taught by a senior teacher once a week. I'll be eligible for certification at the "teacher training" level in 2009.

I agree with Jude about not wanting to hurt anyone, so I'm taking in as much as I can, while raising two teenagers, trying to maintain a 20 year marriage, and working fulltime as a medical writer.

To me teaching yoga is a privelege and I'm gonna do whatever it takes to do it justice!

Brenda, you've got some major selling points, such as this excellent blog for one . . . Get that resume together and do what it takes to get that gig!