Want to study yoga? Then read this first!

Yoga is big business and increasingly new yogis are putting their own stamp on this ancient practice – but as yoga is rising in popularity are we risking a fall in standards?IMG_3715

By Katie Brown

Scanning the crowd, there was a rainbow of brightly coloured leggings, a stunning array of intricate tattoos and even the odd lycra onesie on show. Welcome to the yoga-inspired festival – Wanderlust, where obviously drab T.shirts and dodgy leotards are a thing of the past.

It was an awesome sight as more than 2,000 Yogis all struck variations of Down Dog in a MASSIVE yoga class on iconic Bondi Beach.

The teacher (fresh from LA) stood on stage and somehow managed to seamlessly co-ordinate all these uber-cool Yogis.

Yoga is now officially cool and phenomenally popular as more and more people discover the far-reaching effects of this ancient practice and how it can help us all in our fast-paced modern world.

It was inspiring to see how far yoga has come since I took up the practice 30 years ago – and since I became a teacher in 1999.

According to an article published in the Dru Yoga newsletter, there are 36.7 million yoga practitioners in the US today – and yoga’s popularity has grown by a whopping 50 per cent in the last four years.

And that trend is reflected here in Australia, where more people practice yoga than play Aussie Rules Football!*

I’m continually pondering the rise and rise of yoga – as the Association that I trained with – the IYTA (International Yoga Teachers’ Association) prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

Generally this burgeoning and blossoming of yoga is a very positive trend, but it is important that as we move forward we retain an inherent respect for Yoga and all that it stands for.

Yoga isn’t a gimmick. It isn’t all about the physical body – it is so much more than being able to do an Iron Cross Headstand or wear the latest lycra. When you scratch beneath the surface you learn that it is so much bigger than you could ever anticipate. You could study yoga your entire life and still not fully understand the depth of the teachings and philosophy.

But that’s okay, because yoga is not about being able to recite all of Patanjali’s Sutras or squeeze yourself into a figure-hugging yoga onesie. It is about being in balance – with all the layers of your being. Being in flow with nature, the world and being the best person you possibly can be.

So that is why I was so shocked while I was helping out at the IYTA stand, and one girl told me she couldn’t be a yoga teacher, because she couldn’t hold a handstand for ten minutes.

I thought I must have misunderstood. But apparently not. She told me that a yoga school she’d contacted had dismissed her application because she couldn’t do a handstand for ten minutes.

Now I’m not sure if that was definitely what she was told, but it is what she believed to be the case. And she was genuinely upset. That is very sad and worrying, because it simply isn’t true.

If you are considering becoming a yoga teacher, please don’t worry if you struggle to touch your toes, it doesn’t matter if you are a bit shaky in balances – but it does matter if you tell people what they should or shouldn’t be.

Yoga is non-judgmental – whatever your physical ability, because the ultimate goal of yoga isn’t to have abs of steel or a perfectly toned torso. As Patanjali said: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

The meaning of yoga can be debated for many hours, but I think one of the best ways to interpret it is from a passage in the ancient text, the Bhadavad Gita: Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure none of the ancient texts or teachings state that it is about holding a handstand for a set period of time. Which is why it is so important when and if you decide to embark on a teaching course that you research it thoroughly.

There are some wonderful courses and teachers on offer, but don’t blindly accept everything every teacher says as the truth.  That’s one of the reasons why I support and promote the IYTA – it’s an amazing diploma course delivered by lecturers and yogis with years of experience and wisdom. It’s non-profit and supports all lineages of yoga which to me is the true embodiment of what yoga is truly about.

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