Bad teachers teach bad yoga
Someone close to me suffered a serious injury after doing yoga for a few weeks. A serious neck problem. The problem is that quite a few yoga teachers today do not bother to find out the medical history of patients and tend to apply the same yoga techniques for all. They also urge and goad their students to perform better and while this works fine with healthy people, it can be disastrous for someone with a health problem. And if the student in question has a competitive nature then he might want to stretch himself further than he should and no one will stop him because no one knows what medical problem he has.
Teaching yoga is tough
What I am saying is not anything new. In fact it’s a known fact that yoga is a complex science involving meditative techniques.The teaching of yoga cannot be compared to teaching aerobic exercise. Even the damage that a bad math teacher or a poor aerobics teacher can do is less than what a bad yoga teacher can do. The latter’s faulty teaching can cause serious physical harm.
Yoga is different
While doing aerobics you are supposed to push yourself. If you do too much, you could perhaps faint from exhaustion…but as you are nearing your limit your body starts to protest. You start to pant, sweat and breathe heavily – you get the warning signs. If you continue it will be your own foolishness. If the person is a heart patient, he has already been warned by his doctor about the kind of exercise he or she can do. In fact aerobics teachers also warn heart patients…but when it comes to yoga its not just heart patients who can be at risk.
Yoga is supposed to be gentle on the body, at least that is how I see it. But the teachers may not be gentle. The worst part of it is that a student may not understand his or her limits because the teacher herself doesn’t. She may not have asked you if you have blood pressure…or menstrual problems…or back problems. Who will then judge whether you are not already stretched to the limit? Every person in the yoga class comes with a different medical history and a different body structure (in terms of flexibility) and what may be good (and easy) for one may be bad for the other.
One minute you are feeling just wonderful because your body is stretched and it tempts you to take it further…and this could result in muscle sprains or joint pains that could take weeks to heal.
I first started to learn yoga with a reputed school of yoga some ten years ago. One of the teachers was very aggressive and used to push students beyond their physical limit. I sprained a leg muscle and was limping for more than a week and had to skip class. It affected my work schedule. The head of the institute personally rang up and opologised and said it would not happen again. But I never went back to the place.
The second experience was better. A most gentle teacher…that was how it seemed to me at first. I told her that I have a tendency to feel dizzy at times, specially if I go upside down. She was most understanding and said no one would be forced…but even though she did not force me, she never once let up. She nagged me continuously about it, and tried to motivate me by showing me how well and easily the others were doing it! Worse, she was teaching breathing wrongly…but the funny thing is that I did not know that until I shifted to another yoga class in another town!
This third teacher was the best I had ever had…until I fell seriously ill with a lung infection after doing deep breathing in the highly enclosed air-conditioned atmosphere. The room was small and packed (one couldn’t stretch one’s arm without touching the next person). The teacher was good…she knew how to teach breathing and in fact we did breathing for a good part of the one hour class. It was a bit claustrophobic but I tried to bear it (no one else seemed to be affected). But while it was warm and moist outside (Mumbai weather) we did the yoga in a cold environment with the room air conditioners on full blast. A draft from one of the ceiling ac’s came right onto my face. I started to feel as if my brain was freezing! My brain, my nasal passages…my whole body seemed to be getting filled with icy cold air and a few days of this and my nose was completely blocked and I fell sick. So many people in an ill-ventilated, crowded and cold room…and all of taking deep deep breaths! Actually I do have a tendency to catch colds easier than the next person so maybe this was my fault.
I tried to find out on the internet whether it was okay to do deep breathing exercises in a very cold atmosphere specially when one came from a warm environment outside and then went out into the warm environment…but I found nothing. I am sure it isn’t the right thing to do…but I am not an expert.
Yoga has become a money-making machine
Today yoga has become very commercial. I seriously feel that some sort of qualification should be made mandatory for yoga teachers. And only chosen people be given this qualification, there should be an exam. Right now anyone can start a yoga class, and I know people who think they are yoga experts after learning for barely 6 months. If they have learnt faulty techniques – who is to check? Who is to know? How are we the students to know?
Update: Its all thanks to a fellow blogger aikaerine that I putting up this additional information about an international organisation called Yoga Alliance which has a list of certified teachers and the link for the Indian teachers is here. About seven teachers are affiliated to this organisation. One in Meleodganj HP, two in Bangalore, one in Tirupur TN, one in Mysore, one in Delhi and one in Chennai. None in Mumbai! I am not saying that this is any sort of comprehensive list or that this organisation is the only organisation that needs to be followed…by no means. What this site says about its registered teachers is this:
RYTs (the Registered Yoga Teachers) have met our minimum training standards as described in the “How To Apply” section of this website. In addition, E-RYTs (Experienced Yoga Teachers) have significant teaching experience (at least 2 years and 1,000 hours for an E-RYT 200, and at least 4 years and 2,000 hours for an E-RYT 500). E-RYTs are qualified to train teachers at the corresponding level. RYTs 500 and E-RYTs are qualified to conduct Continuing Education training.
There’s another site called ashtanga in Mysore which also certifies yoga teachers. There are the bks iyengar teachers too…and the bikram yoga certified teachers but this seems to exist only in the US.
The point is: why then are other teachers allowed to practice? That is the point. Even if these schools exist with ‘certified’ teachers (all with different criteria laid out by the different heads of the institute…apparently even the yoga could be different) there are others who are self certified…why is it not illegal for them to teach yoga? No college will hire an unqualified math teacher will they?