I was bidden by the ever-watchful Roseanne at it's all yoga baby, to think about yoga teacher training standards, so I am. I had hoped her post would generate more discussion--I guess it can't all be naked yoginis--but stayed tuned for her follow-up. I'm sure it will be full of interesting things to think about.
So, My Two Cents.
What strikes me about most of the yoga teacher trainings floating around, both completely legitimate and less so, is the limited oversight. I am steeped in the culture of educating (high school) educators, right now, and much of the discussion revolves around setting standards and then making sure they are reached. How all this evaluation happens, of course, is always a source of contention, but--on the whole--teachers are expected to meet certain standards, to teach specific information, and to make sure their students are competent and capable upon graduation.
With profit-driven YTTs, I wonder how much quality teaching can be assured and produced. If the justification for running a training program is to keep a studio afloat, that seems like a rather tenuous base for instruction. That's not to say there aren't a lot of good YTTs out there, but who would know? There's no system of evaluation for these programs, no qualified review board to make sure the Yoga Alliance standards are actually met, no continuing assessment of teachers once they have graduated. Well, I should say, no generally-recognized system.
It's a bit like herding cats--many traditions have their own methods of evaluation and don't see the need for external review. Maybe that's enough for students familiar with that tradition and seeking those kinds of teachers. But for the general public, the numbers don't really mean anything because the YA-approved programs are basically self-reporting. They can say they are training capable teachers, because they've filled out the paperwork and paid their dues.
I'm not saying the Alliance standards, themselves, are lacking. Actually, I think they're quite thorough for a good, solid grounding in the basics. And once you actually start teaching, is when you really learn how to bring yoga to your students. But, how can anyone outside the yoga world understand what it means to say you have completed a teacher training? That you are "certified?"
Every once and awhile I take a look at nearby programs, thinking I ought to get some letters and numbers after my name. And every time I get discouraged by the idea of shelling out thousands of dollars for something that has very limited meaning. What's the point? Even aerobics instructors and personal trainer have standards and affiliations that require testing and re-testing, that make a lot of the YTTs look like opportunists. Enter your credit card number, here.
Organizing an oversight body would be a huge task. Some states are starting to require that training programs justify themselves. It's kind of a mess. But, leave it to the Canadians to initiate a conversation about how to start this process, instead of bickering about individuals' rights to make a buck, like we always do in the US. Maybe inspiration will come, maybe a movement is beginning. There are rumblings...
This seems to be a season of reflection and inquiry into the nature and future of yoga in North America; I hope the topic of teaching training will be an important part of the discussion.