Picking up on yesterday’s post and some of the comments regarding teaching yoga and its qualifications, I thought I’d speak a little more on “practice as preparation,” and whether or not having “practiced yoga” for some amount of time actually prepares a person to teach.
Yesterday, I referred to a minimum of five to seven years of dedicated daily (give or take) practice as a bar against which a person’s readiness to consider teaching might be held. Of course, as one commenter pointed out, this number can be read as arbitrary. And, it is. However, after taking a closer look, I find those pesky prime numbers to be a good enough point of reference, not for people to judge teachers, but for practitioners to investigate if they find themselves on the fast-track to teacher stardom.
Seven years “in the shit” will teach you a thing or two. Waking up early literally thousands of times, meeting some mangled version of your self born of the day and night before; gaining an increasing sensitivity to one’s own prana, heart rate, digestion, articulated range of motion, and emotional state; taking stock of how well the body cordoned off toxins throughout the night by evaluating the morning’s phlegm; visually (hopefully) assessing the quality of the first pooh of the day; directly experiencing the softening of fascia and the general lubrication of the body’s various systems and having an experience of “energy moving” because of this change in physiology…. This level of practice is no joke, and its relevance to experience will not be lost on anyone who’s participated in its, at times, annoying impositions.
And yet, will even this prepare a person for a life conveying the teachings to other people who may have never experienced the same things? Not necessarily, but, it will provide a person with an incredible reservoir of direct experience to pull from unmatched by book-learning and talk, both of which are good, if you like reading and talking about what you’ve read.
The rest of your qualifications will most likely come from a genuine sense of humility bestowed upon you by life’s cosmic jokes, heart breaks, and respected failures. It’ll take on an even more surreal quality if these “character builders” bumped up against your daily practice. Nothing says a softened heart like practicing (or not practicing) the day your best friend dies, or on the morning you realize your relationship is no longer what it used to be. This sort of merging of the social with the personal, the practice with the world, is the swill teachers swim in.
As for the act of teaching itself, I am reminded of a quote from Paulo Freire‘s lesser known tome of awesomeness, Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage, where he states,
“[T]o teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge…. [T]he person in charge of education is being formed or re-formed as he/she teaches, and the person being taught forms him/herself in this process.”
From my perspective, this “rule” would seem to apply to all student-teacher relationships whether they be based on Guru-disciple, instructor-practitioner, or skill-share models. But, holy shit, that’s a HUGE topic and better left for another post. [ed. noted]
In the meantime, consider this: No matter the training, the mornings put in, nor the encouragement of your teacher. The value of your teaching, or to use Freire’s words, your “creating of possibilities,” will be based on the ripples it creates in the immediate or the thank-God-someone-came-up-with-it “Butterfly Effected yoniverse” Ultimately, if your students are worth a damn, they’ll let you know in their enthusiasm and dedication. And, if they forget to show up, are too lazy, or just don’t give a care about what you have to impart, God will send you an email.
Or, you can just brand yourself, and wear a tighter skirt.