I’m deeply committed to high quality yoga teaching. It’s been my life, my passion, and my reason for getting up in the morning for over 25yrs. But I’ve been listening to a number of yoga teachers in recent months who would love to undertake advanced teacher training, but find the barriers insurmountable.
Good yoga teachers never, ever stop learning, but high quality yoga teacher training isn’t accessible to everybody. That’s a problem for both the yoga teachers who are deprived of the opportunity for professional development and their students – everybody deserves access to a well trained yoga teacher. So why isn’t it happening? I've identified four key barriers to quality yoga teacher training:
Like all vocational education, yoga teacher training isn’t cheap. The cost of producing the curriculum, hiring quality teacher trainers, running a training venue and covering day to day expenses makes running teacher training programs an expensive business.
The problem is compounded with advanced teacher training – many people doing Level 1 training have ‘day jobs’ to cover their fees. Jobbing yoga teachers, especially those working in under-served communities, can struggle financially, making ongoing professional development difficult to afford. Yoga teacher training centres that offer scholarships or subsidised trainings for people who could not otherwise access their programs make a big difference to those teachers AND to the communities who benefit from their enhanced teaching skills.
- Physical Access
Have you noticed how many yoga studios and training venues are upstairs? Not all yoga teachers can navigate steps and narrow doorways, making many trainings inaccessible to those with a disability.
Several years ago I was at a yoga workshop with a teacher with a disability. She managed to navigate the set of steps on the way up to the training room, but was unable to access the bathrooms due to a second set of steep steps and tiny cubicle space. She had to struggle back down the front steps and use a nearby public bathroom throughout the day. While running classes in upstairs venues reduces the rent for studio owners, I’d like to encourage more teachers to consider the issue of accessibility when choosing a venue for their classes.
While it is challenging for people with a physical disability to access some training venues, other students and teachers face less immediately visible barriers. Take a look at the images used to advertise yoga trainings. These images commonly depict young, slender, bendy people with good teeth. For people who don’t match that stereotype, joining a yoga class or training can be a daunting prospect. The message that yoga is for young, usually white and able-bodied people can and does deter people.
But it’s not just the imagery that needs to change. If more yoga teacher trainings actively encouraged people of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, genders and sexual orientation to learn and share yoga, there would be more diversity in the yoga teaching community. This would mean that yoga teachers more closely reflect the communities they serve, encouraging people from all walks of life to access to these important teachings.
- Geographical Distance
Australia’s a big country. I’ve spoken to many teachers living in country Australia who are providing a vital service to their communities. When you live in a town that doesn’t have a yoga studio on every street corner like the major cities, you rely on your local teacher who offers small classes in her rumpus room or the on the back veranda. Wanderlust and the yoga-lebrities never make it to these small rural towns and teachers have to travel many hours to attend workshops and trainings, which also increases the costs. For teachers in the regions, access to online training is critical and distance learning, including Skyping into face-to-face trainings, could be an option in more trainings.
The ACCESS Yoga Project
I had a good think about what we could do at Adore Yoga to make advanced yoga teacher training do-able for people who were currently shut out of the courses they’d love to do. After talking to dozens of teachers in this situation, I developed the ACCESS Yoga project. Because not every yoga teacher can pay top dollar and walk upstairs, the ACCESS Yoga project was created to offer high quality yoga training to more people. ACCESS Yoga trainings will be:
- Discounted or by donation
- In a room that has no stairs and/or wheelchair accessible
- In a venue that has free and safe nearby parking
- A safe, supportive space for participants of all ages, sizes, abilities and genders
- Available for online study
I’m looking forward to collaborating with fellow teachers to develop the ACCESS Yoga Project into something that makes a genuine difference to yoga teachers and in communities that are crying out for diverse, passionate and highly skilled yoga teachers. I’d really value your input, too. What are the barriers that you experience as a yoga teacher? What do under-served communities need from their teachers?
Want to learn more about the ACCESS Yoga Project? Sign up to get a list of upcoming events.
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.