On Yoga Teacher Designations

Teaching surya namaskar in Healing Broken Circles’ MCI Community Center – where I hav logged countless hours teaching philosophy, various forms of yoga from ashtanga to chair, pranayama, critical thinking, sacred texts, and meditation.

Thoughts collected having just crossed the required teaching hours threshold for E-500RYT, the highest designation of teaching experience and education currently recognized for individual teachers through Yoga Alliance. While I feel that this recognition fits the sheer amount of dedicated hours of practice, personal study, formal education, and of commitment to engagement and praxis in classrooms both “out here” and “in prison”, I also wish to register some concerns about the way we currently designate levels of teaching experience in this field.


I’m also left thinking that if where I am is the pinnacle of a national/international standard for yoga instructors, the designations gauging teacher dedication are woefully inadequate. I’ve been practicing for 12 years and teaching formally for nearly 5 – various forms of yoga practice fit into my life mission, dharma, philosophy and politics, but all the same I have so much yet to learn and so many stones unturned. Of course wisdom and sustained application become institutionally undefinable eventually, but how will I be recognized for all the learning and teaching I anticipate to do in 5 or 10 more years? How must some of my teachers feel, some of whom hold the same designation as me but have been teaching and practicing and studying far longer than I have?

I appreciate the work Yoga Alliance has done, especially recently, to not only provide standards to this bursting and diverse.community of yoga teachers, but also to update and introduce more rigorous standards in response to issues in the field – including lack of experience, people claiming to be something they are not. And the many forms of corruption and abuse of power in the scene at large. Setting designations to recognize a certain standard does not to me smack of spiritual materialism and commodification, even though the general way yoga is taught does bear the mark of capitalism and the spiritual industrial complex. (This is the issue of a future post). What I love about the studio where I teach, Yoga on High in Columbus OH, is that the standards that have been set from the beginning exceed Yoga Alliance requirements. The wisdom of our owners and founders in setting a higher standard continues to bring out the best in me.

In the spirit of lifelong learning, continued wonderment and curiosity, I am setting down here some intentions for the next 5 years of teaching, a near-range curricula and point of accountability for future maturation

  • Listen more to my students, peers, teachers, signs, symbols, intuitions
  • Less rigid with my expectations – allow practices their own mutations without controlling the result. Welcome the unexpected.
  • Continue believing that enlightenment is a diaphanous phenomenon of our present world, rather than something to be attained out-there above and beyond this world
  • Teach movement more from the perspective of connective tissue and integrated systems rather than linear muscle-and-bone machinations
  • Train in person as often as reasonably possible with key teachers from diverse perspectives
  • Continue to integrate lessons from other movement systems into yoga asana tradition – qigong, ideokinesis, somatic/embodied psychology, other Western movement arts like Rolf, Feldenkrais, etc. Let asana traditions be what they are but continue to stand outside of dogma – apply healthy skepticism.
  • Teach my experience and understanding of the subtle body without rigidifying or categorizing experiences of the nonmeasurable potential of the human body
  • Stay up on current philosophy, anatomy, neurobiology, etc., and explore these topics in the classroom thematically
  • Finally engage with Kashmir Shaivism in a real way. Continue current philosophical inquiries
  • Spend more time making these practices communicable to more people. Allow myself to be outside of the established lanes for this kind of work.
  • Counter escapism. See the oneness of the ethical, the political, the theological, and the spiritual.
  • Write more shit down and share it. Be less of a perfectionist. Write a damn book or two.

2 thoughts on “On Yoga Teacher Designations

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