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Why Yoga is not one size fits all

Guided cat posture

Yoga being tailored to suit the student

If you are one of our Facebook friends you may have seen recently my post about the regulation and standardization of yoga being proposed by Skills Active, and I asked you to consider signing a petition to reject this proposal.

In my post I did explain some of the reasons that I think this would be a bad idea, but promised to give you a fuller explanation in a blog, so here it is!

Let me be clear to start with, I am absolutely in favour of anything that will raise standards and improve people’s experiences of yoga, but this proposal as far as I understand it is completely missing the point.

Originally yoga was always taught teacher to student, usually 1 on 1 or in small groups. It was never written down. One of the reasons for this is that you were meant to get individualised tuition from your teacher, that best suited your needs, and I think that remains a key component of any good yoga teaching today. Whilst there will be many cross overs, we each need our yoga practice tweaking so that we get the most from it. A Mum to be will need different yoga to a triathlete, or a retired person, whose needs might be different again from someone with back problems or someone who has a stressful job, and so on. I am sure you will agree that each of those people’s needs are valid and all deserve a good yoga class, that suits them. A one size fits all lesson plan will inevitably lead to some people believing that yoga is not for them, which would be such a shame.

The crux of this matter, I believe, is how people are trained to be yoga tutors. As you know I am a senior tutor on the Dru Yoga Teacher Training Course in Leeds and I can tell you the standard is high. Anyone training with Dru (or any of the other big yoga schools that are covered under the Yoga Alliance umbrella or British Wheel of Yoga) has trained for a minimum of 200 tutor led hours, plus hours and hours of self practice that has to be logged and monitored. This is usually spread over a couple of years so that the student teachers have time to do the self practice and absorb the teachings. Here’s something you might not know – I never teach anything in classes that I have not practised myself for around 6 months, because I want to know everything that a practice will bring up, what issues, what modifications I might need to make, to ensure that I keep my students safe. Student teachers have to complete assignments, including lesson planning for different groups, and take 2 teaching assessments in which they have to demonstrate that they can include everyone in their class.

Alternatively you can attend a weekend course, be taught some yoga flows, be given a handful of lesson plans and then go off as a yoga teacher. I’m actually not complaining about this in itself, anything that gets people into yoga gets my vote and I honestly believe that we all find the teacher who can most help us, and this very physical style of yoga will undoubtedly suit many, but it does not suit everyone. The problem with these standardised lesson plans is that if your body does not conform to the standard then you will not be catered for. It is the hours of practice and training that mean all our teachers can adapt and modify to suit the people in the class. We can respond to each individual’s needs. Most weeks I change something in my lesson plan because someone tells me about an issue they’ve got going on or something they need to work with, and I can do this safely and confidently, as can all our tutors, because we have the under pinning knowledge and we have designed our own lesson plans.

This is at the very root of yoga teachings. Yoga is not one size fits all. Everything we teach at Inside Out is tailored to the people in the room, so that our students get the best care we can give.

If this post has interested you and you like your yoga to be focused on you and not on what Nike (or the like!) or Skills Active want you to practice, please do take a look at the petition below.

… and I’ll leave you with a fabulous quote from a great yoga master, the late TKV Desikachar

“It is not that the person needs to accommodate him or herself to yoga, but rather the yoga practice must be tailored to fit each person”.

Thank you for reading. Ix

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