I was recently talking to someone who had sadly given up yoga because he felt that the classes he had been attending had made an existing back condition worse. This particular person, who fortunately had not been attending local classes, felt that the teacher had pushed him beyond his limits, adjusting him too strongly in a relatively well known posture called ‘Down facing dog’-resulting in his lower back problems recurring with a vengeance.
Yoga is still very much a booming industry and people might think that teaching yoga is a relatively simple thing to do and involves little more than sitting around giving a few instructions for a bit of stretching with some breathing thrown in.
As Paul Fox, the Chair of BWYQ, commented recently -after the success of International Yoga Day- ‘In the UK, there are no official qualifications required to teach yoga, so anyone could technically open their living room doors and charge paying customers for a yoga class. Anyone can complete a yoga course online without any practical assessment required. When it comes to teaching vulnerable people in particular, poorly qualified teachers are putting people’s lives at risk.’
The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) is the official governing body for England, appointed by Sports England, but this title comes with no power, only recognition amongst those in the know.
Not to bore you with the detail, but just to let you know that BWY teacher training is very thorough, lasting between 3 and 4 years and is only open to people who have completed a foundation course- after practising yoga for at least 2 years. Students explore a syllabus that covers anatomy and physiology (including common medical conditions), pranayama, history and philosophy of yoga, class management and teaching practice.
To maintain their teaching status and insurance, BWY teachers also have to do recognised continuous professional development.
However the yoga teacher-training arena is growing and many course providers are jumping on the band wagon. According to Paul Fox, ‘It’s the shorter, less-vigorous, cheaper courses, which are mopping up the increasing appetite for teacher training.’
Interestingly I can only remember a couple of occasions when people who contacted me about yoga asked me for details about my training and experience and I was delighted to tell them.
So if you are considering doing yoga I suggest you find out about the teacher’s training and background-if you are not sure. Most good yoga teachers would be really happy to tell you.
After all, you are trusting them with your physical and mental health and well being and ideally want to feel better at the end of the class than at the start.