This post is inspired by Bindy's latest post. In a recent class, a student came up to her and asked, "Do you think your yoga knowledge is terminal?"
To which Bindy answered, "NO. I’m learning something new every single day. every single practice. just because I don’t attend classes anymore does not mean I am not still learning."
I think most of us will agree with Bindy's answer. To me, the practice of yoga is the practice of being in this world in a self-realized way. The world is changing all the time. So are our minds, bodies and emotions. This being so, there is always something to learn, something to discover, both on and off the mat.
But what would prompt this student to ask such a question? Is there something that might be giving him or her the impression that yoga knowledge is supposed to be terminal? If so, what might this be?
Here's a seemingly unrelated incident that might shed some light on these questions. A couple of years ago, I was standing in line in a grocery store somewhere. While waiting for my turn to check out my groceries, I randomly picked up a fitness magazine from the magazine shelves. I can't recall which magazine it was now (it might have been Men's Health, Fitness Today, or any one of those generic fitness magazines out there). As I was flipping randomly through the pages of this randomly-picked magazine, an article caught my eye. The article was a brief rundown of the different kinds of yoga classes out there, with a brief synopsis/description of what each style of yoga is like. Nothing out of the ordinary, I remember thinking to myself: Given the profusion of yoga classes everywhere in recent years, it is totally unsurprising that there would be a similar profusion of such well-intentioned guides to yoga classes and styles for the totally uninitiated (and presumably, bewildered) beginning yoga student.
But then something else caught my eye. Towards the end of the article, there was a short paragraph on certification which advises the reader (in so many words) that there is a national organization called the Yoga Alliance which certifies and guarantees the quality of yoga instruction, and that the reader would be well-advised to ask to see the Yoga Alliance certification of any person who claims to be a yoga teacher, lest the reader be led astray by charlatans who pretend to the exalted offices of such an exalted profession.
Well, I am such a charlatan. I have never completed an official Yoga Alliance sanctioned teacher training: The reasons for this are many and varied, and will take up another post by itself. Despite my charlatanhood (or maybe precisely because I am such an effective charlatan), I have actually succeeded in getting myself employed as a yoga teacher at several studios over the last few years (in order to protect the identity and reputation of these wonderful establishments, I shall not name them, but if you know me personally, you will probably know which studios these are). Of course, I can list all the teachers I have studied with over the years, but that doesn't count for anything if you don't have that piece of paper saying that you have 200, 500 or however many hundred hours that are needed, does it? Uh oh, am I starting to sound like some disgruntled old person bitter with the ways of the world? Well, then, let me correct this impression: I have nothing against Yoga Alliance or whatever organization that is out there trying to certify and ensure a certain quality of yoga teaching. I'm sure these organizations have wonderful intentions. In fact, at least a few teachers whom I greatly respect either teach such teacher training programs, or are graduates of some such program.
But here's where I need to stop digressing so much (bad habit!), and come back to what I was trying to say at the beginning of this post. Here's my concern: Could it be that having Yoga Alliance around, and encouraging both students and teachers to look upon its certifications as a hallmark of quality teaching, is actually fostering the perception of yoga knowledge as something that is terminal? After all, if the popular perception in the greater fitness community is that somebody who is Yoga Alliance certified is a "good yoga teacher" or an "expert in yoga", just as somebody who has a PhD or some kind of terminal degree in some field is generally considered (rightly or wrongly) to be an expert or authority in that field and (perhaps even more dubiously) a good teacher of that field, can we blame people for having the perception that yoga knowledge is terminal? Can we rightly lament the fact that so many people who are new to yoga see being certified by Yoga Alliance (again, I stress that I have nothing against Yoga Alliance) as a (rubber?) stamp of "yoga expert" or "yoga authority" status?
Just thinking aloud here. I am only a purveyor of very-non-expert opinions. But if you have any opinions, thoughts or comments (or whatever), I would love to hear from you.