by Sunee LaClaire
I found it very telling that two people in my life emailed me a link to the April 6, 2019 New York Times article by Alice Hines titled "Should Every American Citizen Be a Yoga Teacher? CorePower, the country's largest yoga studio chain, is leading the way." I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program in October 2018 at a place I have frequently referred to as a yoga factory. I went through a rainbow of emotional reactions while I was reading the article that continued to cascade long after read the last sentene. Initially this article filled me with a mix of sadness and frustration but after having some time to contemplate it further, I started to try to look at it through the lens of 'lessons to learn and opportunities to harness'.
In the opening of the article, I identified with the students who took a 200 hour training only to find that it was sometimes an insufficient preparation to start teaching yoga classes. I felt that way when my yoga teacher training intensive completed. I knew that I had a lot more work to do to feel confident as a teacher. Luckily for me, I was already working at a yoga studio so I had plenty of opportunities to create that for myself.
By the time I read the last line of Alice’s article, my reaction tumbled into thoughts about all of the information and valid points that Alice left out of the article like some missing pieces of a second hand puzzle. She had put a picture together in her article but it was an incomplete picture. She made no mention other types of yoga studio models and the struggles of small community studios. She did not write anything about how yoga has transformed so greatly in America. Alice dedicated a tiny bit of time talking about the tech entrepreneur who founded CorePower and the funding that came later but without really using any word power to explore what that really means for a business, especially when the business is yoga.
And there is absolutely no doubt that Yoga is big business in America. It is a multi billion dollar industry. In the face of all of the money that Americans are spending on yoga classes, trainings, clothing, gear, etc it is absolutely no wonder that people are going to try and game the system. What made me sad though is the complete lack of mention about how un-yogic that is. Yoga is so woefully misunderstood and reading this article made me fear for those who have either been exposed to bad actors or who have never been open to learning more about yoga because of the many misconceptions. One of those false ideas I have encountered (that quite honestly makes me laugh) is that yoga is a religion. And yet, Alice went ahead and wrote that there are readings in yoga teacher trainings that come from "religious texts". Something in me jumped when I read that as I was fairly sure that isn't actually what she meant. There is no specific mention of the particular texts in question, but in my experience, the texts she’s most likely referring to might be better categorized as ancient or spiritual without actually being religious.
This article did delve into compensation for yoga instruction being shamefully low but without any deeper connection to why that might be. I spent hours wondering about the possibility of a link between the devaluing of yoga teachers and the fact that so many of them in the U.S. are women? Or even that there is such a pervasive misconception in our culture that yoga is for women? Alice made a casual mention in the article about checking out your teacher’s butt (for a higher purpose). Let me not get started on that!!!!
Overall, I found this article rather irresponsible but upon reflection, it was really the title that did that. If I had read an article with a title that pointed to greed and false advertising in a large yoga chain, ironically I might not have been so disappointed with what I read. Instead the subtitle of the article made it sound like something people should be aspiring to but the attitudes and behaviors cataloged within are certainly not.
I had to write all of these thoughts down to get them out of my system. Purging them helped me process my sadness and disappointment. After that process, I intentionally took myself to the other side of the coin, what is there to learn from this?
Here’s what I have come up with so far. I look forward to continuing the conversation with others who choose to chime in.
Honesty - Call your trainings what they are. If you want to train teachers to teach students, it is a yoga teacher training. If what you are aiming for is a deeper understanding of personal practice, that isn’t a teacher training and should not be labeled as such. Students will be equally as interested in an intensive or advancing your practice workshop or series. Be honest about what you are selling to whom. Trying to maximize profit by making one size does not fit all offerings is not very honest.
Authenticity - Every studio has its own take on yoga that is built by human beings who have their own understandings. Be true to that and speak (display) your truth so that others can see, hear, and potentially identify with it.
Intention - Setting an intention is something you hear in most classes but it is equally important to set intentions in our business and then do our best to align ourselves with that intention by bringing it back ourselves regularly.
Community - A small studio is a very different entity than a large yoga chain and we need to honor that by celebrating the individuals who comprise it as well as the group that we form by coming together.
Positivity - Focus on the wonderful things that yoga can and does do for us!
Equality - If we encounter inequality in the yoga world, what can and should we be doing to combat it? How do we take steps to ensure that we are not furthering any negative practices even if we are currently not conscious about it?
It turns out I got a lot more out of reading this article than even I initially considered. If it was intended to make me think, it certainly achieved that goal so really, I probably owe Alice Hines some gratitude.