Yoga Musing #1: To Accredit or Not to Accredit?

It’s taken me longer than I thought to put fingers to keys following my back-to-back yoga teacher training and Thai massage courses last week. I think this has been due to a combined effect of brain-strain following tests, homework and practical assessments (with resultant flash-backs to a time when I had more brain-cells to cope with such challenges!) and the fact that the courses have provoked many musings. My thoughts have hitherto been like drifts of leaves, transiently settling, but whirling and vortexing every time I focused on them; but now they seem to have dampened down enough for me to rake them into tidy-ish piles. So here goes…

Musing 1 – To Accredit or Not To Accredit?

Well, after a brilliant week spent doing three hours of yoga a day, sampling daily the delights of the Stonemonkey Café menu and chatting with my lovely yoga-tribe, I successfully passed my teacher trainer course and have the resultant piece of paper that enables me to become a certified 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) with Yoga Alliance UK (YAUK). This in itself opens up a whole can of worms, namely accreditation, or lack of, in the yoga world. Many yoga instructors, including seasoned heavy-weights such as David Swenson, are staunchly against accreditation of yoga teachers. You can see their point – yoga stems from an ancient tradition, whereby students learnt the tools of the trade from their own teacher (or guru) in an apprenticeship model. It would typically take many years of dedicated personal practice and study under one guru before eventually being given their blessing to go out and teach others. In contrast, today it seems you can be blessed to teach after a mere 200 hours of study, potentially by someone you’ve only just met, which must be galling to those who have gone down the traditional route.

There are also concerns that it is too easy to gain certification at present, as quality controls have not been able to keep up with the super-nova explosion of yoga teaching as a potential career path over recent years. And there are even further, less concrete but no less valid, worries that terms such as ‘accreditation’ and ‘quality control’ dilute the meaning of yoga. Many of us use yoga as an antidote to the stresses of the corporate world and to attain an elevated perspective on all that crap – but now it’s knocking on the studio door.

But, on the flipside, without any kind of accreditation, surely the yoga world is left vulnerable to more serious dangers. At present, anyone can set themselves up as a yoga teacher, which is a scary thought. So national accreditation bodies such as British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) and YAUK, as well as international bodies such as Yoga Alliance, are attempting to oversee the sector (there’s another of those clinical words of officialdom: sector), with mixed results. In the UK, BWY has a reputation of being rather staid and YAUK are the new-kids-on-the-block, hoping to shake things up a bit. But the fact is, neither officially oversee the industry (oops, there’s another one) yet. I am not sure of the ins and outs of this, but I assume some kind of governmental stamp is required before you can call yourselves the official British Accreditation Body of yoga.

For my part, I have attempted to cover all bases in my usual cautious, diplomatic way (more on this in Musings 2 and 3). I spent two years as an ‘apprentice’ to my first ashtanga teacher and, since then, have undergone two further teacher training courses: one with the accreditation-phobe, David Swenson, and then the recent 200 hour course accredited with YAUK. I guess, as with anything, you just need to apply common sense and choose your training with care, making sure you avoid any cowboys who have jumped on the bandwagon for a quick buck. I also believe that, to be a good teacher, you ideally need to maintain a personal daily (or thereabouts) yoga practice through your teaching life, so that you are able to directly use your resultant knowledge and experience to share your love for the practice with others in an insightful, safe, responsible and compassionate way; so external training is definitely only a part of the equation.

Anyway, lots to think about… I don’t have the answers, mind – just lots of questions and an intrigue about the way this will go in the future. I imagine that the march of accreditation is inevitable and, if done well, will be good for the yoga world, as it is rather dodgy that any old sadistic fiend could be pulling students’ limbs about at present. Plus, I guess we have to adapt yoga to our western world to some extent, whether we like it or not. And professionalism and credibility have surely been essential qualities for anyone teaching their trade to others since the year dot, so anything to encourage this must be a good thing. We just have to ensure that corporatese doesn’t invade and cause yoga to become another casualty of top-down, stress-inducing nonsense – because, otherwise, where would we yoga-lovers go to escape it if it’s emanating from the mat itself?!

Anyway, whatever happens, I had a top week and am feeling inspired and raring to go… 🙂

PS If you have any views on this whole yoga accreditation malarkey, I’d love to hear from you.

Do you know what, I’ve already written one of my epic essays, so think I will leave Musings 2 and 3 for subsequent posts. Also, any musings regarding the Thai massage course are still in the whirling leaf stage, therefore will definitely have to wait for a future blog…

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