Have you been feeling that craving to know more about yoga? Now that you’ve experienced the multitude of amazing practices that yoga offers, do you have a real desire to understand the how’s and why’s behind them? A feeling that you need to do a little more, but not quite sure if you’re ready yet?
If so, you’re in good company. Every committed yoga practitioner through time has asked the same question. From the most revered sages to the hordes of ordinary practitioners we’ll never hear about, we all wonder when it’s time to level up in yoga. About four hundred years ago, Swami Svatmarama delved deeper in his legendary text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. His ideas about the right qualities for success in yoga are pretty firm, but they’re great guidance if you’re questioning whether the time is right to go deeper and move towards becoming a teacher.
How badly do you want to become a teacher and help other people make their lives better through yoga? Even when you feel that drive to learn, it’s important to know why. Is it for yourself? That’s a good place to start, but until your reason for teaching yoga becomes the benefit to other people, you should keep working on yourself. Are you interested in the status of being the yoga teacher? If you’ve got any understanding of real yoga practice, you’ll know that such an intention will take you in the wrong direction. Or are you simply in it for the money? You should think twice if that’s your main motivation, as despite the yoga rockstar appearances of some legends, for most of us there are many easier ways to make a living than teaching yoga. Have a good think about what your real motivations are, and if they’re pointing towards helping other people, it’s the first good sign.
Commitment To See It Through
I’m not talking about the four intensive weeks of some shorter yoga teacher training courses, or even the year-long ones (or longer). It will take you much longer than that to truly become a yoga teacher, and in truth it’s actually a lifetime’s work. So ask yourself if you’re ready to stick with it when the going gets tough, to keep studying and self-reflecting, always improving your understanding of yoga? You’ll be faced with many obstacles, from everyday life getting in your way to sickness and doubt, and the loneliness of your own personal practice. Will you keep going when the going gets tough?
Feeling Your Yoga
The book stuff and the ability to do the practices is important in yoga, but there’s so much more. Are you just going through the motions in practice, hoping for something to happen? Or do you have the embodied mindfulness where every move and breath leads you deeper into a very different kind of practice. In more than fifteen years of teacher training, we’ve found that the most important sign that someone will teach well is their ability to connect with their inner landscape during practice. Of course being able to describe that experience and direct others in a similar way is a skill in itself, and one that can be learned over time. But when your practice is more than just movements and involves a direct experiencing of inner sensations (interoception), it’s a really good sign that you’ll make a good teacher. So how does your yoga practice feel for you?
Belief In The Power Of Yoga
Do you believe in the One True Faith? Hopefully not, as the yoga F-word, faith, has really fallen out of favour in this era of fake gurus and yoga sex scandals. The Sanskrit word Shraddha, however, is not about blind faith as in following a religion. Beyond dogma, yoga’s approach is pragmatic and Shraddha is simply about teaching yoga to others based on your own direct experiences. In other words, if you’ve not found that yoga has really changed your life, you’re working on an unproven theory. And that’s a difficult sell in this era when there are so many authentic teachers out there, teaching people from a depth of experience and a genuine belief in the power of yoga. Your belief doesn’t need to be ultra-spiritual or religious, which is often just the mask of spiritual materialism. It’s a good sign if you’ve tried and tested the practices and honestly feel that yoga is a powerful agent of change in more than just a fitness sense.
A Willingness To Work On Your Unhelpful Habits
We’ve all got them—those habits that seem to come out of nowhere and drag us down. Most of them are visible in our habitual patterns of acting out, from our cravings and avoidances to the company we keep. In fact the original Sanskrit for this sign is about the ability to move away from the company of people who will lead us in the wrong direction. While that’s still appropriate, this sign also comes in the form of a broader willingness to leave behind whatever stops you moving forward. We’ve often used these people, places or habits as anchors in difficult times. But once those stormy times are over, just like a ship we need to lose the anchor and move on. This ability to work on yourself and move on is important as a teacher, as you will become a role model in your students’ eyes whether you like it or not. Are you ready to do the work that yoga demands beyond the physical postures, on your emotions and mind?
If You Don’t Make The Grade…
After all of that, here’s the most important point of all— none of these qualities have definitive pass-fail conditions that apply universally. This is not an eyesight test or a university exam. You are a unique human being, not a factory production-line plastic doll.
Speak to someone with a clearer perspective, like our teachers, and ask them what they think. We often can’t see how ready we are, especially if we have habits of routing ourselves. Yoga is never about perfection, and always about openness to change and grow. So even if you reckon that you don’t have one of these qualities, just keep practising and watch that situation change. In that way, your faith in yoga is both the agent of change and the change itself.
And of course, doing a Yoga Teacher Training course doesn’t mean that you have to teach. Many of our students on YTT courses have joined the course simply for personal development, with no intention of ever standing n front of a group and guiding them. It has to be said though, as they see their teaching skills develop and experience the real joy of having a positive effect on a class, most of those end up changing their mind.
Most of all, remember that becoming a yoga teacher is a journey, not a destination. If you’re still reading this, that’s a good sign in itself that you’re ready to evolve. Take one step forward, and see how the rest of the journey looks from there. And when you’ve decided to go all the way, all you need to do is find a good YTT program that supports and inspires you on that journey. Nut that, as they say, is a story for another day.
Words by Scott Rennie