What is in a Certificate?

The minimum certification for a trained yoga teacher is the RYT200 Yoga Alliance Certification.  It states that the individual had completed a 200 hour course of training; an RYT – Registered Yoga Training.  There are a lot of good teachers out there with no formal or registered training.  They are good because they do the work, or they’ve been teaching far longer than a training program has been certified.

I still find myself looking at Bio’s of teachers at studios I want to visit for the highest trained individual, or the one with the most interesting training.  My training isn’t that interesting.  It is for me, but I’m not sure that translates into an interesting Bio to anyone else.  That’s a separate blog posting, “Writing my Bio”.  I haven’t written it yet.  The Bio or the post.

I have the 200 hour registered yoga teaching certificate.  I was looking into what it takes to get the next designation.  What will it take for me to be considered above this level?  What is my commitment at this point?  It’s a time commitment AND a financial committment.  Does anyone understand that these designations are running around $3,500 USD each at this time?

There seem to be two designations directly available to me as the next step to be a wise and wonderful yogi.  One is the RYT 500.  The other is the E-RYT 200.  It seems I can carry both designations if I want to.

The RYT 500 is pretty straight forward.  Its 500 hours (total) of Yoga Teacher Training.  I have 200 already, this designation only takes 300 more training hours.  I don’t know how much that will cost, but it will.  Two other requirements must be met.  I will need to complete and record one hundred hours of teaching, for one.  The other is an upgrade fee.  Not too expensive, but yep, more money.  If we can’t make money on yoga why are we promoting it?

The E-RYT 200 is the other designation.  E stands for experience.  For this designation I must complete 1,000 teaching hours.  I’ve been teaching weekly now for about six months.  But not every week as the room isn’t available for the Friday group on occasion or my private lesson gig goes on vacation.   I have not reached 100 hours yet.  For every single class, without fail, both private and group, I am learning so very much about the people I am working with.  I am learning about reactions and needs and expectations of people.  I am learning about the response of our bodies – not just mine any more.  It is such an honor and privilege to guide every one of them.  1,000 teaching hours is training that reaches above regular yogi classroom hours.  I would be proud to hold the E-RYT 200 designation.  Sure there’s an additional fee, and sure I need to be a registered teacher for 2 years.  I’m getting closer to the two year mark every day.

A thousand hours is a long time coming.  Today, as I type this, I have 38 hours on the books.  That’s it.  Six months for less than 40 hours.  A thousand hours is huge from here.  If I double my teaching hours next year I could potentially be around 220 hours for both years.  That 1,000 hours of teaching is seven to eight years away from me.  Well yeah, I will want to pick up more teaching gigs; as I get better at this.  These first hours are so unsure, or still so new and I am feeling too fresh still.

E-RYT – Experienced.  Let’s see how long this takes me.  Let’s see what I can learn along the way.

Good Teachers – For Whatever Reason

I have moved on from some really good teachers.  My first teacher was my best.  In essence I learned the yoga alphabet and how to read from her.  I was nineteen and soaking up information like a sponge.  I didn’t take the class seriously.  There were many in the class that did.  “Back in the day” it was required to have a physical education class completed in order to receive a diploma.  Yoga was my choice for physical education.  I was in San Francisco so naturally this was a legitimate choice.  I had no idea how this choice was going to follow me for life.

It was a participatory class, so I needed to be there to get my college credits.  This teacher was strict with her yogic philosophy of alignment, protect the spine, there is no yoga without pranayama, and inversions are the natural order of things.  She called this Hatha Yoga.  Of course Western Yoga has experienced a metamorphosis since then.

From this college teacher, not much older than anyone in her class, I put together a personal practice that carried me through my dating years, job changes, pregnancies, moving across the country, all those things that make up life. Until my thirties when yoga studios started popping up and television became inspired.  I did not see yoga studios in my small Wisconsin town, but along the west coast.  I would see these studios when I flew back to visit my parents.  I was envious.  The idea of a yoga studio would never fly in my little Wisconsin borough.  Not in the late 1990’s.  That’s when television put yoga back in my reach with – Inhale with Steve Ross.

My living room became my studio.  Yoga clothes began showing up in my local chain stores.  I bought yoga pants and – lo’ – a sports bra (the crowd “ooh’s” in astonishment).  At night after the kids were in bed I waited for websites to download through my dial-up internet connection so that I could drool over teaching studios that required a month-long stay to learn intense class work at hide-away enclaves before one would be allowed to teach on their own.  And these teaching enclaves costs thousands of dollars.  I ordered  a yoga mat online.  There wasn’t anything available in my town.   I was pleased with myself for actually buying a yoga mat…just for yoga.  It was all so thrilling.

In my forties there was finally a studio with a sole owner/only teacher in a town about thirty minutes away in this rural Wisconsin.  She was doing yoga three times a day with the group.  I don’t remember how much of her time she actually did the asanas with us, but I do remember feeling wonderful to have found a studio so close to home.  I only had to drive thirty minutes to get there, sometimes in the snow.  I don’t remember her name, or the studio name.  I know now that she kept me going.  I was so glad to find her.  My children were young and money was tight and time was even tighter. But I made it.  That woman kept me going.

By my mid-forties there was an annex to the local spiritual book store that allowed a woman to use this annex space for yoga.  This space was only fifteen minutes from home.  This was still not a yoga studio in my town.  But we were getting closer.  It must have been morning meetings, 9 am, so I only came once a week on my only day off during the week, Fridays.  I was the youngest one of the group.  Just five or six of us.  It didn’t matter.  We did yoga.  That woman was putting in the effort to get yoga to our small town.

I left Wisconsin in 2009.  We still did not have a yoga studio when I left.  Currently (2018) there are two – sort of.  One yoga studio with a store-front and regular classes.  One studio type thing that is using the local senior center and other various locations around town (rooftops and large parking areas) to bring in the next generation of thrill-seeker yogis.  It’s something.  And I am glad to see anything being offered.

Three years ago, maybe four, in 2013, Azer arrived as a contracted yoga teacher at my job for one year stint to teach yoga as part of Employee Health Initiative.  The reason Azer was a great teacher is because for a while, the first three months(?) we did the same postures over and over again.  The same sequence, every Tuesday and every Thursday.  After those first three months I was doing this same sequence at home.  I wondered if he really knew yoga or just those asanas.

Two things I learned: number one, familiarity puts things within reach of students.  Number two, the more familiar I am with something, the more apt I am to do it for myself and to show others.

It was Azer that inspired me to teach. If Azer can do it.  So can I.  Azer began teaching in April.  By January I had my friends over in my living room going through the exact same asanas.  They loved it.  More friends came.  Eventually we needed more room and we moved on to another house for more space.

The other wonderful thing about Azer is I watched him try some ideas with us that brought us out of our comfort zone, and I enjoyed those experiences even while I was feeling the discomfort.  Azer was always respectful but especially in his encouragement for us to try new things.  Inversions in particular.  What is outstanding here is that I hope I have brought some of Azer with me to invite my students to grow and try some things that may not be comfortable.  It seems balance poses are the out-of-comfort-zone element for my group.

I was on the hunt to find a studio to train for my certificate.  I scoured the internet and found plenty of studios to choose from.  They all cost the same, roughly about $3,000 for 200 Hour Yoga Teaching Certificate.  I found some wonderful teachers as I was searching a place to train for my certificate.

Kathleen Hunt at Yoga on Beacon kept me moving.  She wasn’t going to take my age as any excuse to not do any poses.  And I loved the challenge, because I knew the asanas.  I knew the right way to do them and she helped adjust me just right every time.  When I went looking online at her bio much later I found that she had founded a school previously.  The school was no longer available, but I realized I had stumbled onto a brilliant instructor.  Strong, stable, knowledgeable and compassionate.   Those may be my favorite words.

Heidi Krotzer at Yoga Soleil in Puyallup is one of these strong, knowlegeable and compassionate teachers as well.  I didn’t find her until I was already in training.  But now she is doing her own teacher training.  I want to re-train for another 200 hours.  Heidi will train me more completely than my original training.  It is only because Heidi is training that I want to re-train for that 200 hours.  I hadn’t considered it until I heard that Heidi is teaching.

I can only hope (and work toward) being considered strong, stable, knowledgeable and compassionate as I continue to breathe.

Am I Better for being Certified?

As a newly minted 200 hour yoga teacher certified instructor I have taken a lot of time to consider why I felt the need to go through this training.  I was guiding my friends already before I went through the certification courses.  And let’s be real, a huge reason I went through the certification training was for the certificate.  I do find myself wondering if I was a better instructor before all the high faluting yoga speak was dished out at me.  Here I am after all the courses, wondering why I would want to say Uttanasana rather than Forward Fold.  What the hell?  Yes, I know the word.  It makes me sound exclusionary.

There is a lot of uppity vocabulary in yoga.  Yoga shouldn’t be about learning a new language, and a kind of dead language at that, should it?  I understand the opinion that the words themselves are beautiful.  The words alone can take one to a sacred space.  I recognize that.  But I wonder that it takes a particular kind of class, an intense request for knowledge or an openness to be sacred during yoga to accept this new language enough the learn it.  For most, for most of the classes I have been guiding, teaching this language isn’t where my students are.  Still, I incorporate it.  And maybe my students feel more like they are doing Yoga for it (capital Y).  I incorporate this Sanskrit vocabulary because it is expected, not because it is common knowledge.  Expected, as in, that’s the way it’s always been.  I’m not sure I buy into that idea.

Before I took my training I was laughing with my friends.  We were cutting up about how our faces can scrunch up, even during mountain pose.  We were speaking to each other about how long we keep our arms up for Warrior pose.  It was an interactive class.  Now I am leading the group, and I remind my friends to smile, to relax their shoulders, and there is very little interaction until I hear someone sigh and we are done.

I am more aware, since getting my certificate, of when I am not “doing it right’.  Those first classes after training I was unable to breathe right. I was inhaling to speak and exhaling to provide example…not at all following the inhale and exhale of the asana.  I could only tell others when to inhale and when to exhale. But for myself, I wasn’t breathing with the group.  It just felt wrong.  Today I see I wasn’t wrong, I was just learning to teach.  I didn’t know that giving a class is not at all like doing my own personal practice.  Before my training, class was my personal practice with other people.

The people who came to my class before I was certified, and still do, have injuries and health issues.  Another huge reason to becoming certified was to be sure I wasn’t injuring anyone.  Nowhere in my training did we discuss arthritis, or old knee surgeries, or knees specifically even.  We did not discuss how to assist with folks that have had hip surgery.  Sciatica, ACL tears, dislocated collar bones, ankle injuries, none of these were addressed.  I did not get out of my training that side of things that I wanted to know.  These are the people that are coming to my class.  No, I am not a physical therapist.  But this is what yoga is becoming.  And it is becoming just that with the blessing of the medical industry.

Am I teaching ancient knowledge toward a sacred end, or a physical knowledge toward a healthy body only?  This was not discussed in my teacher training.  I am having to find where that line is for myself.  Both options, and I am sure there are more than just those two, are way more serious than where my mindset was prior to certification.  Life has been fun.  Yoga has been fun.  Now that I am certified can we all just get back to the fun and continue to breathe?