Should You Become a Yoga Teacher? 3 Key Issues to Consider

Are you considering becoming a yoga teacher? Do you look at your instructor and think what an amazing life they must lead? Has yoga changed your life and now you want to share this practice with the world?

Teaching yoga is a big commitment. Before you invest your time, money, and energy in yoga teacher training; make sure you ask yourself these 3 questions:

(Note: Watch the 7-minute video below for a more in depth discussion. I dive deeply into these 3 issues and share my own experience. OR, read my short summary in this post. :))

 

Do you like TEACHING?

Teaching yoga is an entirely different experience from practicing yoga. Just because you enjoy doing something doesn’t mean you will enjoy teaching it. Also, just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you will be good at teaching it. Not everyone has a natural talent for teaching but teaching skills can be learned and developed. Are you willing to do what it takes to become an effective teacher? Are you willing to learn how to communicate better? Will you have the patience and dedication to guide your students no matter how difficult it gets? What’s simple and self-explanatory to you may not be so for your students, especially if they’re beginners. Ask yourself if you truly want to TEACH others or if you just want to have more yoga in your life. Maybe a yoga retreat to deepen your practice is what you need, and not necessarily a yoga teacher training.

Can you get up in front of people to teach yoga?

Even if you have a sincere desire to teach, you still might have some sort of “stage fright.” I know a few people who were in yoga teacher training with me who ended up never teaching because they were deathly afraid of being in front of people and actually doing it! Ask yourself if you are willing to develop the necessary confidence and presentation skills to teach a public class. There are ways to learn this: workshops on acting/theater, presentation skills seminars, etc.  As a yoga teacher, you must also confront your anxiety about making mistakes and getting criticized. Have courage and keep practicing!

Will teaching yoga be a side gig or a full-time career?

This is a complex issue that deserves its own blog and video! In a nutshell, ask yourself: Is teaching yoga merely a hobby that you do for fun and not for money? Is teaching yoga a side job that helps supplement income you already make from a steady job? Is teaching yoga going to be your full-time profession after you transition out of your current career? Whichever one you choose, you must know that working as a yoga teacher can be financially challenging, especially in the beginning. Are you sure you are being realistic with your expectations when it comes to money? Have you dealt with any money issues you might have? Do you feel guilty about making money because you view yoga as a spiritual practice? Do you dislike the business and marketing side of yoga? You must look into your conflicting thoughts and feelings about money if you are to be happy and fulfilled as a yoga teacher. Also, burning out is a very common issue with yoga teachers. Ask yourself how much yoga you actually want in your professional life. (note: I will make separate post about this. It’s too complicated!)

These are just few of the issues you must consider before making that commitment to become a yoga teacher. Go ahead and talk to the yoga teachers you know to get a better idea of what their lives are truly like. It is a truly challenging and rewarding journey if it’s right for you. Good luck!

 

How Do I Get My Partner To Do Yoga With Me?

Note: The entire video has captions/subtitles so you can watch it without sound if you need to. It’s only 5 1/2 minutes 🙂

The question for today’s Yoga Q & A is:

“How do I get my partner/loved one/significant other to practice yoga with me?”

When you fell in love with yoga and became consistent in your practice, you probably felt so good and noticed positive changes in your life. It’s natural for us to want the people we care about to experience the same benefits we’ve received from yoga. Here, I share my thoughts on the most effective way to encourage those around us to start practicing or at least begin exploring the idea of practicing. Also, what do you do when you finally get what you want? If you’re successful in getting your loved to go to yoga class with you, I have an important tip for you! 🙂

 

Real vs Fake Yoga? How to Tell the Difference

I was talking with an acquaintance recently and she was saying that she preferred “studio yoga” over “gym yoga.” My interpretation is that she thinks the gym version is somehow inferior or it’s not the real thing. I understand where this preconceived notion comes from. Some people imagine yoga in a gym setting means an instructor barking cues at sweaty and stressed out participants. It’s not exactly the serene and graceful picture you often have of yoga.

So, what is real yoga? Is there even such a thing? Or are they all the same, wherever and however you practice it? There is always some new and emerging yoga trend: acro yoga, standup paddleboard yoga, dog yoga, and yes – beer yoga! Surely, we need to draw the line and decide that some of these so-called styles shouldn’t be attaching  the word yoga to their names, right? How can you tell which class is truly yoga and which one is just marketing hype?

I think it all boils down to the essence of yoga. Before we get into that, let’s look at two important words that will help us in our assessment – distill vs. dilute. To distill means “to extract the essential meaning or most important aspects of.” A distilled version of something is very powerful because it contains the pure essence or most important elements. Essential oils, for example, are very potent! This brings us to our next word – dilute – which means “to make (something) weaker in force, content, or value by modifying it or adding other elements to it.” For most essential oils to be usable, we often need to add other ingredients to it. The essence is still there but the potency is greatly reduced. It’s a slightly “watered down” version of the original. You might need to use more of it to get the same effect.

How does this relate to yoga? When looking at a yoga offering, we need to look beyond its outer packaging and investigate what’s inside. Is the essence of yoga present? I frequent yoga teacher online groups on Facebook and other sites. Every now and then someone will see a post about a yoga workshop and immediately condemn it as “not yoga,” without bothering to know what it really is, as if they are the arbiter of what’s real and what’s not. (Side note: In almost any gathering of yoga teachers, you will find the kindest and most compassionate souls but also the most most judgmental and yogier-than-thou individuals! Sorry, just calling it as I see it.). It’s good to be discerning about yoga but we should find out more about what we aim to critique, instead of harshly dismissing it just because it doesn’t look like what we want it to look like. I’ve seen people look their noses down on 45-minute office yoga because they don’t think it’s “authentic.” Is real yoga 2 hours long and can only be found in incense-burning studios? Is it only taught by turban-wearing teachers dressed in all white? Is it not real if there is some sort of physical fitness involved?

For me, the essence of yoga is not about the length of time you practice or the venue of the class. It’s not about viewing physical exercise as an inferior activity. It’s not about looking like a hippie or having an Indian guru. Based on my own experience, when distilled to its purest form, yoga is the practice of training and refining our attention. Yoga is about uniting body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is being fully present as much as possible. Yoga is about being compassionate to others and oneself. Yoga teaches us to honor the present moment and to be grateful for whatever it brings. I’m sure you have your own definition of what yoga means to you, based on your own practice.

When someone says to me that the power yoga offered at their gym is not “real” yoga because it’s just exercise (as if exercise is somehow a bad thing), I would ask them to try it first before they judge. What if in that power yoga class, you experience being fully present in your body? What if after yoga at the office, you gain more clarity and focus? What if after your fun acroyoga practice, you come home and treat your family better? What if all you did today was pause and take five conscious breaths, and you were able to respond to a difficult conversation with more kindness? If you know how to distill the essence of yoga, you can take that essence with you wherever you go and infuse it into whatever you’re doing. Whether it’s yoga in an ashram or in your office cubicle, you have the ability to make it an authentic experience.

What about yoga that’s been diluted, yoga that’s mixed with something else? I’ve seen yoga fused with dance, hiking, martial arts, etc. For me, as long as the essence is there, it’s still yoga. Just like with essential oils mixed with other substances, you still get the benefits when you use it. The first yoga class I ever took was at a gym. There was loud music playing outside and it was very physically challenging; but I fell in love with it because it taught me how to slow down and truly observe my breath and the sensations in my body. The class was “packaged” or “branded” as a fitness class but in it I experienced the essence of yoga. However, I do think there are yoga styles and brands out there that take it too far. They dilute or water it down so much that it becomes unrecognizable and the essence is lost.  This is where we need to exercise critical thinking and be clear on what we value about yoga. I’ve been seeing ads for beer yoga and wine yoga making the rounds on social media. My first impulse, to be honest, is to write it off as marketing gimmicks. However, I should take my own advice (haha) and try it first before judging.  (I love both yoga AND wine; but I’m not sure that’s a great combo.) I’ll let you know if I do try it. 🙂

In the end, the difference between what we label as real and fake yoga, lies not in the outer packaging but in the actual contents. Real yoga exists wherever we are able to experience its essence, no matter what external form it takes.

Do I have to be VEGETARIAN or VEGAN to practice YOGA?

Is there a proper diet for yoga students and teachers? Are yogis supposed to be vegetarians or vegans? Is it OK to consume meat and dairy products?

This is probably one of the most controversial and divisive topics in the yoga world. On one end of the spectrum, there are yoga practitioners who insist that you must be vegan if you are to call yourself a true yogi.  The other camp believes that it is not necessary to avoid animal products when you practice yoga.

In another blog post and Q & A video, I will share with you my own journey through different ways of eating. For now, I will dive into some yoga philosophy and its different interpretations when it comes to a so-called “yogic diet.” (Note: Scroll below to watch my 6-minute Q & A video on this topic.)

In yoga, there is an ethical principle called AHIMSA. It is a Sanskrit term that is often translated as non-violence or non-harming. In his book The Path of the Yoga Sutras, author and Sanskrit teacher Nicolai Bachman writes, Ahimsa, which is the first of the five yamas, is the ethical practice of nonhurtfulness toward others and ourselves. It involves abstaining from intentionally inflicting pain on or killing other creatures in thought, word, or deed…..Ahimsa also implies an attitude that strives to reduce harm.”

Vegans and vegetarians often cite ahimsa as the basis for their commitment to refrain from eating meat or using any animal-derived products. They believe that we must not kill or harm ALL creatures – both human and animal. Jivamukti Yoga, a style/brand of yoga founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon in New York, promotes veganism to its students. Teachers of this style often include discussion of the vegan lifestyle in their asana classes. Many yogis from different traditions also make changes in their diet as they deepen their practice and explore yoga philosophy. Others feel that a vegetarian or vegan diet actually supports their physical practice and optimizes its benefits.

On the other hand, other yogis do not agree that one must abstain from meat in order to practice yoga. They do not think a vegetarian/vegan diet and lifestyle is right for everyone. Some people do not thrive when they adopt this way of eating. For these yogis, insisting on a vegan diet at the expense of your own health is not ahimsa either because you are harming yourself. True, we must do our best to reduce the harm caused by our actions; but we must also nurture ourselves and do what is right for our well-being.

This is a rather complex issue because it involves the intersection of many areas – health and nutrition, yoga philosophy and ethics, environmental impact of food production, animal rights vs. personal choice and freedom, etc. What I hope to accomplish with this post is to start a conversation about yoga and diet. I have gone through many radical changes in lifestyle and way of eating. I have changed my mind about certain things, after thorough research and investigation of the different perspectives. In the next posts and videos, I will be sharing my personal journey and how I’ve arrived at my current eating plan.

What do you think, yogis? What diet do you follow? Does your yoga practice affect your lifestyle choices?

 

 

 

 

Am I too Old for Yoga?

In today’s Q and A video, we talk about age and physical limitations. Can one be too old to start a yoga practice? Is there yoga for people with physical disabilities or injuries? I share with you 3 inspiring stories:

  • Tao Porchon-Lynch – one of the oldest living yoga teachers in the world
  • Matthew Sanford  – a yoga teacher who is paralyzed from the chest down
  • Dan Nevins – a veteran who lost both his legs in Iraq

 

For more of my VLOGS and Q&A videos, visit my YouTube channel. 🙂

Why I Don’t Make YOGA FOR WEIGHT LOSS Videos: The Truth about Yoga and Weight Loss

In this vlog, I share my opinion on Yoga and Weight Loss. Can yoga help you lose weight? Does yoga make you burn fat? The answer is a bit complicated. I share with you my expert resources (check books, authors, and videos below) so you can have the information you need to make your own decisions. I talk about why I personally do not make “Yoga for Weight Loss” or “Fat Burning Yoga Workout” videos and my yoga teaching philosophy.

Expert Resources:

Dr. Mark Hyman
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ultrawellness
Book: Eat Fat Get Thin

Gary Taubes
Book: Why We Get Fat

Netflix Documentary:
Fed Up

Other Resources:
The works of Michael Pollan
The 100 Diet by Jorge Cruise