200-hour hatha yoga instructor training courseBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

What is important to the students who come to our classes? When the public sees or hears about Yoga, a wide variety of images come to mind. Usually, Yoga teachers are considered to be mindful of their words and actions. Yet, some teachers read the headlines, which report the public’s demand for weight loss, discipline, and hard core fitness, through Yoga practice.

It seems that a few teachers have risen to the occasion with harder, hotter, and louder classes. The truth is: If a teacher wants to run aerobic fitness or martial arts classes, the classes should be labeled correctly. If we sign up for Okinawan karate, we can accept getting kicked and jumped on by our Sensei.

For a rare few teachers, the new credo seems to be: “The riskier the better.” Yoga, in all of its forms, has never been white water rafting. Many students attend classes because they have pre-existing physical or emotional injuries. They come to class because they seek the healing properties of Yoga.

What should students initially look for in a Yoga teacher, Swami, or Guru? The answer is simple, and the quality is easy to detect. The most important quality in a teacher is “compassion.” Compassion is an overlooked quality. Yet, many teachers are shining examples of compassion.

Compassionate Yoga teachers rarely manage to “grab the headlines.” A juicy story, “filled with dirt,” is more apt to make front page news. If a teacher is actively working to help the homeless, that story might not make it in the newspaper at all. Teachers who take risks with their student’s mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health, gain public awareness.

An instructor who puts his or her students in harm’s way does damage to the reputation of every past, present, and future Yoga teacher. In classes, students put their trust in their instructor. Teachers should never violate this sacred trust with abuse, ethics violations, or dogma.

Where is the compassion in dogma? In its purest form, dogma serves to divide people from each other. There are some Yogis, who feel that Yoga should not be taught to the public at all. They believe they alone see the true light and they teach “real” Yoga. Yogic knowledge should only be taught to the enlightened followers of this specific group. Everyone else does not understand the true path of the enlightened ones.

Does this sound familiar? If so, run as fast as you can from the sound of that voice. If you think about it rationally, there is no place for dogma in Yoga. Whether it is fueled by political, spiritual, or is philosophical in nature, dogma creates division and intolerance.

© Copyright 2009 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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