In yoga, there is a juxtaposition of “advanced studies” and “teacher training.” Do they necessarily go together?
On one hand, it makes sense. Those serious enough about yoga to delve deep into it are likely to become teachers. Similarly, those pursuing PhDs become professors who not only publish their own work, but also teach and mentor students.
On the other hand, I suspect that some devoted yogis enroll in teacher-training programs because there are few other outlets for advanced study. In other pursuits, such as music or dance, one can perform, create (eg, compose or choreograph) … or teach.
In yoga, the clearest way to advance is to teach. One hypothetically could advance by self-motivated study: by attending classes and especially by studying on one’s own. Yoga is, after all, based on self-study and experiential learning. But, while independent study is the crux of yoga, the guidance and critical feedback of an external structure (aka a teacher-training program) is an invaluable catalyst.
Ripeness for teacher training
After a decade of practice, I’m now training to be an Iyengar teacher. This year, something clicked and I felt “ready” to teach. As a trial run, I taught a few old friends who know me in a totally unrelated context; thanks to their positive feedback, I then offered beginner classes at my neighborhood community center and committed myself to the lengthy and thorough Iyengar training.
Back in the early 2000s, I was a keen student but, while encouraged by a teacher to do advanced studies, I felt that the expectation to teach was premature. I was still a sponge, drawing lessons inward, unready to direct them outward.
Are there advanced studies for non-teachers?
Devoted students can do serious study on their own, reading and practicing and attending workshops for advanced students. But, generally (and surprisingly), even “yoga towns” seem to offer few classes exclusively for upper-level students. Most yoga classes are geared to attract the largest-possible numbers; they typically span “all levels” or multi levels.
Visiting San Francisco last fall, I attended an Iyengar class for levels 1 to 4, and the teacher (a senior-level certified teacher) forbade me from doing full sirsasana while she taught less-experienced students a modified headstand-prep pose. Unless a teacher is adept at simultaneously managing different levels (and the good ones are maestros), the class is geared toward the middle range.
Even if there were advanced-studies programs geared for pure learning, who would enroll? Probably folks who will eventually enroll in teaching training! But it would be exorbitant to pay $3,000-plus twice, first for advanced studies and later for teacher training. Who wouldn’t opt to combine them?
Maybe this is just a moot discussion. All who complete teacher training probably mature as yogis and as people. Beyond that, it’s highly likely that those who can teach, teach, while those who cannot, do not.
Related post: “Prerequisites for teacher training”