Teachers' Corner

Why I’m Embarrassed to Call Myself a Yoga Teacher

As the blood quickly escapes from my face and my eyes begin to glaze over in a blank stare, the words keep echoing back and forth in my head, “What do you do for a living?” I have no idea how to answer. Should I tell them about my long-standing career designing houses? No, probably not. I can’t tell this person that I’m a yoga teacher, either. I hear myself slowly sputtering out the words, “I’m trained to teach yoga, but I don’t teach. I used to design houses.” Wait! What? No, I didn’t want to say that.

You see, I’ve been traveling a lot. I left my career to become a traveling yogi, sort of. Now, I keep using the excuse that I’m not teaching yoga because it’s hard to find a place to teach when you are always somewhere new. That’s not entirely true. I’m actually embarrassed to use the words “yoga teacher” to describe myself or my profession. This is not what I signed up for.

I received what I consider to be top-notch 200-hour teacher training. I loved every second of it. Others from my training are already teaching. So why am I not teaching?

Why I'm embarrassed to call myself a yoga teacher

Something didn’t sit right with me during my training. We were told to imitate other teachers until we can innovate into our own style. This is something that is fairly normal in the yoga world. Would you send someone off to train for a month and then expect them to come back and teach kindergarten? You know: coloring, ABCs, and 123s. No, that would be ridiculous. That’s four years of education. So why is it an acceptable standard of practice for a yoga teacher to train for a month and then magically have the ability to teach people things slightly more complex than ABCs and 123s? Like anatomy and alignment, proper breathing techniques, posture modifications, transforming mindset, and moving people into relaxation…

I don’t deny that there are many fantastic teachers out there who do very well with the 200-hour training. But, it’s not enough for me. Who decided that 200 hours was sufficient training to safely and effectively lead a group of people into life changing transformations? Maybe I’m a perfectionist who isn’t comfortable with the phrase “fake it till you make it”. I believe paying clients deserve a better standard of care. I believe I deserve a better quality of education.

I am hopeful that someday I will be proud to call myself a yoga teacher. But until that day comes, I am busy with more training, more workshops and educating myself in things like psychology, stress, depression, brain function, happiness, and life itself. The goal of yoga training was never a career choice for me, it was a life choice. The path of yoga has created a spark in my life that leaves me craving more knowledge. It leaves me seeking answers to questions I never thought to ask. It has made me want to be a better person.

So don’t be offended after you have excitedly proclaimed that I can teach you and your friends yoga at your hostel and I say, “No, thank you.” Understand that just like the airplane guidelines, I must put on my own air mask before assisting others. When I have acquired enough air to breath and knowledge to share, I will be a yoga teacher.

I can’t be the only one who wants more from a yoga training? What are your thoughts? Do you share my feelings or do you think I am completely out to lunch?

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yasmin

    April 4, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Hey Jill! I can definitely relate to your feeling, having done a 200HR training I also feel like I’m just starting and a true beginner at everything in yoga :D. I have been teaching regularly, but I keep seeing the areas where I feel I need so much more training, hours and experience. It’s fun that I mostly teach beginners so there’s a little less pressure – but I still feel like they deserve “better”. I’m going to complete my 300HR training end of this year, and even then I feel like I won’t be a “full” yoga teacher, and that’s okay. It’ll be a lifelong adventure and an incredible one! I think you’re right in your decisions and I admire your courage in admitting them. What also really resonated with me was this part “The goal of yoga training was never a career choice for me, it was a life choice. The path of yoga has created a spark in my life that leaves me craving more knowledge. It leaves me seeking answers to questions I never thought to ask.”

    I too just crave knowledge and the questions just keep coming! I’m glad to have read your article, thank you so much! Much love,

    Yasmin

  2. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    April 4, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Jill, this is very eloquently written. I am not a yoga teacher, nor have I gone through any kind of training to be a yoga teacher. I sometimes think to myself that maybe one day when I’m on maternity leave or have some other extended break from work, I might take the 200-hour course, but not to be a teacher. I don’t know if I could bare that kind of responsibility. You spend a month in training and then you are let free to fly and help lead others on this fantastic journey of self worth and physical empowerment. I’d be more apt to take the training then spend time practicing with my children at home before I’d even think of setting up shop in a studio. I totally get what you’re saying. To do any kind of job with confidence, you should never just be thrown out there and told to try your best with a certificate in hand. No, someone is there with you. One thing I do love about the studio I go to for regular practice, is when they train new teachers, they do community days and let the new teachers teach together alongside more well-versed yoga teachers. They help lead classes with seasoned yoga teachers for a while to get a better feel of their own and the studio’s style. I think you’re doing something great for yourself, though! You are taking time to really learn not just so you can call yourself a teacher with confidence, but so you will better understand your own practice. I think this is extremely admirable!

  3. Amanda

    Amanda

    April 4, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I can see where you’re coming from, and I agree to a point. I am a 200-hr (plus various workshops) yoga teacher and I’ve been teaching regularly for years (minus these last couple of years living abroad). I, too, notice where I’m lacking and what I need to work on, and I have been itching for the right time for my 300 hrs (maybe this year!). But, I have never felt guilty or anything but proud and happy to be a yoga teacher, because I only teach what I know. It’s a wonderful feeling when a student makes progress, when they tell you how much they appreciate your class, when you can feel the positive energy in the studio. I have led students there, even with my 200 hrs. No teacher of any sort knows everything, but they’re out there, teaching what they know and, hopefully, admitting what they don’t. Even the students who could do wilder poses than I could still had something to learn from me; just as I as a student in class can learn from teachers who haven’t been teaching as long or who don’t resonate with me. When a student asks a question I can’t answer, I tell them that. I believe students naturally gravitate away from teachers they’ve outgrown, without any resentment or animosity…just a realization that your own questions have grown bigger than what your teacher can answer. All that said, I’m totally with you, though, in wanting more training, more answers, so I can reach more students and have more understanding for myself. I just told my aunt that I thought this might be the year for my 300 hrs, and she said, “Do you really need that? You aren’t teaching as much any more, are you?” And I realized that I wouldn’t be able to explain to her that the reason I want it is mostly for ME. 🙂 Indeed, it’s a life choice. Thanks for writing this — I have never come across an article like this before; it’s interesting to examine. 🙂

  4. Avatar

    Shannon

    April 4, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Great post, Jill! I totally get how you feel – I haven’t taken my training yet, but I definitely don’t think that at the end of it, I’ll be primed and ready to step up to the teacher plate.

    After talking to a couple of people – one of whom doesn’t plan to teach and just took the training for personal advancement – I’ve determined the only teaching I’d be comfortable with right out of the box would be pop-up classes in the park or something, where people pay what they can. Or volunteering to teach a couple (very beginner) sessions at a community centre – you know, take the pressure off.

    I hope you nail down the best way to make the most of your training!

    [By the way, as a writer (who can finally tell people I’m a writer because it’s my actual job – woot!), I have to say your writing style is fantastic. I especially love the analogy to the airplane instructions – nicely put!]

  5. Avatar

    Jonas

    April 13, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    I honestly do not believe that yoga “teachers” should be allowed to fall themselves teachers at all. An actual teacher (meaning one who teaches k-12 in the education system) has to complete around 6 YEARS of schooling to obtain the title of “a teacher”. It is a disgrace that someone who completes a 200-300 hour training would even think it would be reasonable to call themselves a teacher. Maybe a “yoga instructor” would be more appropriate.

    1. Amanda

      Amanda

      April 16, 2018 at 10:50 am

      Hey, Jonas! That’s an interesting perspective, and I do understand where you’re coming from. However, I think instructor implies, “You follow me. I’m going to do something and you need to do it, too.” Whereas if I’m teaching, I’m encouraging people to find their own way on the mat: I’m just guiding the process. I never say “yoga instructor.” I’ve been teaching for about 11 years, and my education hasn’t ended. I have certifications, but my training continues every day when I step on my mat. Also, there are many “actual” teachers in K-12 who aren’t good teachers, and probably shouldn’t be teaching at all, no matter how much schooling they’ve gone through. And it’s true of yoga teachers, too, unfortunately: some are great, some aren’t. I consider my job as a yoga teacher to be a sacred task. I don’t believe the word “teacher” only belongs in K-12….we’re all teachers in some regard, intentionally and otherwise. Thanks for sharing your perspective…I hadn’t thought about it before.

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