Yogi Assignment: Study

In Sanskrit, study is called svadyaya and includes the paradigm of spiritual self-inquiry as well as the devotional study of sacred texts. Svadyaya is a crucial part of the spiritual path because it not only denotes an in-depth study of key philosophical foundations but it implies a particular mindset in the heart of the student.

The response to my post about the journey of being a yoga teacher prompted a dialogue about true yogi study. So many people asked if I could include that text in a searchable form, so I decided to use it at this week’s Yogi Assignment. But perhaps more than anything else, so many yogis who have completed a 200 hour training realize that they don’t feel stamped as a qualified teacher at the end of the course. In many ways the completion of their first 200 hour course marks the beginning not the end of this journey.

In the Ashtanga lineage there are no approved teacher training programs and the only way to get Certified or Authorized to teach is by traveling to India and devoting yourself to the practice. I still remember when Guruji gave me the Certification to teach Ashtanga. It was one of the highest moment of my life. And yet that too was just the beginning of my journey as a teacher.

How long does it take to become a yoga teacher? Do you really think 200 or even 500 hours is enough?

To answer that question you have to ask what it truly means to be a yoga teacher. If it’s just about memorizing a sequence, it might be enough. But if it’s about studying, learning and experiencing the deepest aspects of the human spirit then it’s hardly enough. What qualifies you first and foremost to be a teacher of yoga is your devotion to the full depth of the practice. If you stop at asana only or quit before the practice has a chance to truly seep into your soul, you’ll always be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. If you worship at the temple of the body and only judge your success by how many poses you master, you’ll pass that same attitude of materialism on to your students.

Traditional yoga says that there are four key components to the spiritual path: the teacher, the student, the community and the passage of time. While you can work hard at your practice, find an awesome teacher and immerse yourself in a network of like-minded yogis, you cannot rush time. I’ve seen too many able-bodied, super talented yoga students quit their practice before the magic of the practice sunk in. That’s ok. Yoga isn’t for everyone. But for people who would consider becoming yoga teachers, there is something to understand about giving all your heart and all your soul over a sustained period of practice that simply cannot be rushed.

The average university degree has students log close to 2,000 hours in class and that’s not including homework assignments or reading. Yoga is like a university degree in the human spirit. Not only are there numerous texts to study and cherished teachers that will help guide your development, but there is both your time and presence which you must decide to give to the practice. Being a yoga teacher is a sacred responsibility. Teachers are not saints, they are first and foremost students of yoga who love the practice and give their lives to it. I teach because I burn for this practice and I hope that my enthusiasm lights the fire in your heart.

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