By Daniel Ritz
As practicing any one of the many varieties of yoga now available in South Orange County becomes an easily accessible option for physical, mental and spiritual wellness, both first-time and experienced yogis alike are faced with the choice of how to safely and effectively choose from a rapidly growing sea of new yoga instructors, and identify a teacher that is right for their desired experience.
The 2016 “Yoga in America” study, conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, revealed the number of yoga practitioners in the United States increased to more than 36 million in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012. Thirty-four percent of Americans say they are at least somewhat likely to practice yoga in the next 12 months, or more than 80 million Americans, an ironic fact considering that 74 percent of American practitioners have been practicing for less than five years.
That same study revealed that for every teacher, there were two people in teacher training. Many yoga studios have opened yoga training courses, most South Orange County studios often charging more than $2,500 for base-level certification.
“Just like there are a lot of yoga teachers, we see many real estate agents because there is a lower cost of entry for those professions,” said Brette Popper, founder of YogaCity NYC. “And we often think of real estate agents as sleazy.”
“Every studio is struggling,” said Kristen Dollard, brand director at Yoga Journal, who explained that Yoga Journal tries to meet clients where they’re at. “We’re all wondering how we can make a profit. I think the fact that so many people are doing yoga, every organization has to become a startup, whether you’re a festival or a retailer.”
To make money, many yoga studios have turned into teacher training “certificate printing mills,” said Popper. Thousands of graduates are able to recite scripts and routines instead of providing insightful instruction. Unlike physical therapy or engineering, which require years of schooling, being a yoga teacher may in some cases be as easy as turning on an iPad.
Finding the correct (and most qualified) yoga teacher means avoiding a potentially painful injury, wasting money on programming not suited for their desires and encouraging a long-term relationship with their practice. According to information from Yoga Alliance, Mind Body Green and the New York Times, here are a few considerations when selecting a yoga instructor.
- What was the first impression?“In all yoga traditions, there is the idea of a guru,” Popper said. “The point of that relationship is that two spirits see each other. Your teacher really needs to recognize you.” If there are doubts about a teacher right away upon meeting them, those instincts should be trusted.
- Do they teach what the yogi wants to learn?If the teacher isn’t including elements the yogi is looking for in a class or instructor, he or she isn’t the right instructor. A best friend may be the best person in the world, but if they teach a vigorous hot yoga class and the yogi is interested in a relaxing restorative class, they may not be the right instructor. If philosophy and chanting in Sanskrit is important to the yogi but the instructor incorporates a 60-minute asana class (or posture-oriented yoga) only, it might be best to consider finding someone else to study with.
- Is the yoga teacher approachable?It’s important to find a teacher who is approachable and easy to talk to about questions. A teacher who shows up early to class, takes the time to greet his or her students and stays a few minutes after class shows that he or she cares about the students and is available to help.
- What does the teacher’s yoga education consist of?Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher where they studied and with whom. Find out what kind of training he or she went through and if they continue to study with their own teachers. Yoga is a continuous practice; because of that, it is important that the teacher continues to study and learn while their students learn from them.
- Is the teacher recognized by Yoga Alliance?If studying with a Registered Yoga Teacher is an important quality to have in a yoga instructor in the student’s eyes, visit the Yoga Alliance Directory at yogaalliance.org/directory to see if they are listed. If not, students can ask if their instructor studied at the Registered Yoga School or if it was a personal choice not to register.
With scientific data like that of Harvard University Medical School showing the positive physical impacts of yoga to compliment the spiritual or metaphysical components of health, due diligence is in order when beginning, or expanding yoga practice, and finding the right teacher.
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