Like so many people, I’ve done a yoga teacher training and went off teaching, full of enthusiasm and always delighted when a class made a student feel good. I love seeing the smile on their face when they get out of final relaxation – how many people can claim that they made someone’s day?
But there’s a downside to it. Students come back, and regular students start trusting the teacher. They start asking very general questions:
“I have this lower back pain, what do you think it is?”
“My knee is painful, what should I do?”
“I get headaches after yoga, where do they come from?”
Yes, I can give some advice, try a few things and point in the right direction. But yoga teachers aren’t doctors, and they aren’t physiotherapists. They know a lot, but not all of their knowledge evolves around the human body and its bones and tissues. As a yoga teacher, you’re absorbing a lot of knowledge; we read the scriptures, learn about the postures, about the history of yoga, the philosophy – and yes, every training has an element of anatomy to it, and yes, yoga teachers are committed to continuous education and study.
But the truth is: A yoga teacher cannot always diagnose and heal, particularly if the student’s issues are very general. Lower back pain could have a myriad of reasons and it’s not possible to sort it out in a 5min Q&A session between two yoga classes.
I’m not sure what’s the solution. Do people get injured in class because they overly rely on yoga teachers and their knowledge, assuming they can design the “ideal” class for an ever-changing group of 30 students? Should students be more discerning – or should yoga teachers aim at adding another qualification to their portfolio?
It’s frustrating to tell people that unfortunately I cannot solve their issue in a few minutes, and possibly not at all. But it’s also dishonest to pretend that I can. In many cases, “doing the right thing” means sending them to someone who has a medical degree.
I wonder if this is a a problem of our own making. Yoga is such a competitive industry that class prices keep dropping. The only way how a yoga studio can make any money is by offering teacher trainings. In turn, more students graduate (sometimes after just two weeks of training), and more teachers mean that teacher’s pay and class prices drop even further. It also means that not all students are prepared to pay more money for a more experienced teacher.
Did we get it all wrong with yoga? Can only the few celebrities survive on teaching yoga? I’ve read somewhere that first we’ve turned yoga into a competitive fitness, and now there’s another transition happening: to the world of yoga celebrities.
So what’s going on and what should a teacher do?
Let me know what you think!