Actually, it’s not.
And if you’re okay with that, let’s talk. If you could do without the inspirational branding of being a better you, or the aspirational promises of hard and fast transformation, then we can have a real conversation. We can look together at the process of yoga teacher training for what it is; a concentrated time of learning and engaging with yourself and with a community.
A lot of YTT marketing that I see rubs me the wrong way. It seems to promise spiritual, emotional and career transformation in a one-shot deal. And, I get why people are drawn to it. Who doesn’t want a quick fix? Who doesn’t want that promise fulfilled?
Ultimately, I think that the truth is more compelling than promises. And the truth is, yoga teacher training is challenging, and it should be! Yoga is complex. It’s scary and confusing to learn new things and express them in front of others. I have seen Imposter syndrome come up for most students, and I still experience it myself, even as a seasoned teacher. Everyone wonders, “Who am I to be a yoga teacher? What do I actually have to offer? Do I know enough?”
Whenever we’re learning a new skill we are incredibly vulnerable – and teaching yoga includes a lot of new skills (like speaking in front of other people, understanding anatomy and biomechanics, demonstrating subtle movements). We can’t protect ourselves with our expertise, because we don’t have any yet! We are kids all over again, stumbling over words in our reading or feeling confused about math problems. Yoga teacher training can be a tender, vulnerable process. But, there is so much to learn and glean from that place of trying to learn something new.
This is where the value of learning in community comes in. Everyone is in that process together. Everyone is figuring out how to understand the shifting landscape of knowledge, and how to weave that together with their personal beliefs and values. What we think we know about movement, stretching and yoga poses is changing all the time as new research emerges. Just like any body of knowledge, it isn’t static. There are contradictions and controversies about how to teach yoga, and part of the process of the teacher training program is considering a multitude of perspectives, being in lively discussions and figuring out what you think about it all.
If you’ve been around Queen Street Yoga at all, you know that we love our plant metaphors. So, here’s my plant metaphor for yoga teacher training. Yoga teacher training is like preparing the soil. If you know anything about gardens or growing things, you know that the real value is in the earth. Plants can’t grow without rich, nutrient-dense soil. Farmers and gardeners spend years cultivating the quality of their soil, and the beautiful plants and crops that grow are the result of that work.
Inspirational marketing focuses on the plant, the product, the promise of what you will become, rather than the process in getting there. But there is so much value in acknowledging and being in the murky, complex, down-in-the-dirt work of learning. Before you can grow a plant, you need to muck around in the compost and see how the worms are doing. You need to let your understanding decay and ferment. You need to turn and till the soil, give it oxygen, let it sit.
I want you to know that yoga teacher training is the beginning of something, not an end goal or product. You will leave different, but it will be on your terms. We will lay out a labyrinth of learning opportunities and you can choose where you want to take it. You can decide how far you want to go down the rabbit holes of philosophy, history, body-positivity, subtle anatomy, biomechanics, personal reflection, privilege and oppression, meditation and asana practices. And all the way through it is your yoga practice: how you relate to your body and mind. First you prepare the soil; patiently, consistently, and in community. Then you ask yourself: what do you want to grow?
Take the first step: Come and meet us at a YTT Info Session on Thursday April 25 at 7:30pm
Send your RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. When you attend the Info Session, you can attend the 6pm Basics class on that day for free. I hope to see you there.
Emma Dines is the creative director of Queen Street Yoga. She loves writing, visiting thrift stores and going for walks in the woods. She also loves cartwheeling, sewing and making her own kimchi.