Yoga Dilemma: Pose by the Book or Go With the Flow?

The question of whether there should be standard regulations for all yoga teachers seems to get everyone—even the most peaceful yogi—into a less-than-peaceful state.


Everyone in the yoga world is buzzing about a recent New York Times article on yoga regulations. This is an interesting debate that has been going on for many years, and recently many states have been trying to crack down on yoga schools and require them to have tougher standards for instructors-in-training.

The question of whether there should be standard regulations for all yoga teachers seems to get everyone—even the most peaceful yogi—into a less-than-peaceful state. It seems that trying to find a balance between the two sides is as difficult as mastering Crow Pose. Here's a quick rundown of the debate.

Safety is of course the biggest concern. The problem with a lack of regulations—the current status quo—is that just about anyone can call herself a yoga teacher. Regulations would ensure that a teacher go through at least some sort of certification training in order to call herself a teacher. Seems easy enough, right? But many teachers who have been training and teaching for 30 years—while not officially certified—are master teachers. Should they be required to go back to school to be certified?

Yoga has been around for thousands of years, so there are countless styles and methods. That makes it difficult to determine what styles should be necessary for certification. Different types of yoga emphasize different aspects of practice, and so far the different factions have not agreed on a set of criteria.

My guess is that this debate will be going on for a long time before it gets resolved. In the meantime, heres what you can do to make sure you are practicing yoga safely and effectively.

yoga-class-instructors
Ask your teacher what type of style it is that he is teaching and if he is certified. And, more importantly, ask how long he has been teaching and how long he has been practicing.

Speak up
There is nothing better than a great adjustment from a qualified teacher, but if you arent sure of your teacher's training background—or you just dont feel comfortable—ask him to give you the directions verbally. If he's qualified, he should be able to do this. And, if you trust him, get the hands-on adjustments.

Do your homework
Don't just take your teacher's word—take some of the learning into your own hands. Borrow some yoga books from the library and research different styles and postures to find out what specifically works for your body. Learn the names of the poses too. That way you will be able to communicate better with your teacher and ultimately become your own best teacher.
Sara Ivanhoe
Last Updated: July 13, 2009

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