Yoga Teachers Helpful or Harmful

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BY MELISSA GOODMAN

We have all heard or read articles on how yoga can be dangerous. Articles that highlight the dangers of yoga often look at the style of yoga or the typical Western mindset, rushing from one thing to the next in a state of overdrive. I have been asked by several people if yoga is dangerous. My response is no, when it’s performed with awareness and a knowledgeable teacher. However, I have been in classes where I believe the teachers can create the potential for danger by guiding and cueing poses without proper knowledge.

In a profession that is not licensed a teacher can become ‘qualified’ by completing a 200 hour training program, which can be done online. When we look at other professions such as mechanics, the training involves three separate terms of schooling at 240 hours each plus an additional 6,000 workplace hours under a licensed mechanic.
So how does one learn all about the human body, the systems, the many health challenges that are ever present in our society today in as little as 200 hours, it’s impossible.

When a teacher is guiding ten students or more through a practice, they do not always see each student in every pose before moving onto the next posture.  The posture may look aesthetically pleasing but how does one know if the right muscles are engaged. Frequently there is lack of awareness from the teacher in this area and over time from repetitive incorrect movement this may lead to injury or lack of balance between the muscles.

The physical is but one aspect of yoga. When we explore the mental/emotional aspect of yoga, teachers who lack awareness or knowledge in this area can create physiological stress.

I have seen the repercussions of teachers who play therapist, leading students down the path of emotional release.  Once the student is vulnerable and ready to release, the teacher offers no further support, leaving the student to figure things out on their own. On the opposite end to this we have the teachers who point out a student in class to praise them or have the other students look at how this particular student is performing a posture. This may either put the student on a pedestal or ostracize them from the class. Leaving the other students who were not pointed out feeling like they are not good enough or it may spark their ego and they begin to push themselves harder.

Yoga is a wonderful healing technique that has countless benefits and has helped many people transform their life. I do not write this to diminish an industry I am a part of but rather to draw awareness to the lack of training, especially when dealing with many different health concerns.

With an industry that is being flooded with teachers, I encourage you to do your research the same way you would if you were visiting a mechanic to have your car serviced or repaired. Your body can be repaired but unlike a car it cannot be replaced.

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