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The Ethics and Economics of Yoga Teaching

The Ethics and Economics of Yoga Teaching

‘Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhayo ‘stavanagani’ (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra II.29)

I have taught for many years now and feel fortunate to have been practising since before yoga’s huge commercial success in the UK. Now teachers consistently refer to there being too many new teachers and trainings. On reflection, I feel that anyone should be allowed to train and that the more people seeking to deepen their knowledge of yoga the better. Though I and my many friends in yoga worry that the trend is towards only wanting to learn about asana and to a perception of yoga as exercise. Instead of blaming young, interested students, it is important to look to the studios, trainers and the bodies that authenticate trainings. I feel strongly that all trainings should offer a depth of insight into all aspects of yoga: balancing anatomy with subtle anatomy, balancing the physical form and alignment of asana with the energetics of practice, introducing students to deeper understanding of pranayama practices, meditation and study of ancient texts. With students being churned out of very expensive and rushed one month teacher trainings it seems that fewer students are being introduced to comprehensive study of yoga history, philosophy or an understanding that yoga is an eight limbed practice. All trainers have a duty, surely, to share detailed information about the deep internal work involved in yoga practice, about the nirodha states of meditative practice and the richer deeper experience of sadhana.

Whilst new teachers have every hope of setting up businesses, they often struggle in a saturated market. Still, I truly believe that we shouldn’t train teachers to run excellent businesses, rather we should train authentic teachers to deepen their love and understanding of a practice that has already had a transformative experience on their lives. I truly hope that those new teachers whose hearts are in the right place are the ones getting the jobs, but I fear this is not always the case. Success in the current climate is sometimes more likely for those who are already thriving in the neo-liberal capitalist world we live in (not the domain of traditional yoga values). Business minded teachers seem to thrive in the current climate. In some cases, even older, more learned teachers are being forced out by the new wave of fashionable, entrepreneurial teachers. Sadly, with more asana focused trainings and this tendency for the successful to be the more business savvy, the spiritual dimension of the practice is less likely to be shared. As a yoga community, we need to consider what this means for the future.

Many of us have been quietly plugging away in weekly classes and workshops to convey that yoga is not just asana and share the other seven limbs of the practice with as much passion as we do the postures. We might also share from the breadth of yoga texts on tantra, yantra, bhakti yoga and so many traditions that inform our offering

About the economics (and ethics) of being a yoga teacher

The comment below is from an article by Shanna Small on this issue. To read the full article follow the link above:

You can no longer just be a great teacher. You have to be a celebrity. People are not buying into yoga, they are buying into a lifestyle brand. They are not looking for the happiness of the Sutras but the type of happiness sold in magazine ads and commercials. This creates an environment where all you need is enough knowledge on yoga to teach a decent class and you can make up the rest with popularity and marketing. Instead of a teacher focusing on living yoga, they focus on staying in the cult of celebrity.

Teachers that have a lot of knowledge, but are not cute enough or charismatic enough to be a celebrity, are lost. When these great teachers are lost, their knowledge is lost. When their knowledge is lost and we throw out texts like the Yoga Sutras because we can’t fill a room teaching it, because it makes some people uncomfortable, or because we don’t or won’t take the time to understand it, where does that leave yoga?

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