Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Clearing Confusion about Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapist.

Hello Dear Yogi's, As yoga explodes in the West and around the globe the confusion grows. One administrator at Yoga Alliance once told me "It's the Wild West of Yoga these days!". That it is.

As with anything, especially in the West, if it becomes popular then it will become capitalized on for people to make money. Money is not evil but often brings out the worst in us. Even ethical people have a hard time keeping up and being competitive when they have made yoga their living.

Yoga is vast and varies greatly from lineage to lineage. The National Institute on Health now recognizes yoga as a healing modality. So how does one determine what type of yoga to take or who to see?  Is a hot vinyasa yoga class as healing as a private yoga therapy session with a certified yoga therapist? It depends on who you are and what you need.

Here I will try to clear up a bit about the difference in a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist.

In the U.S. yoga is not regulated. In some states yoga schools are regulated but yoga teachers are not. That means anyone can teach yoga, with or without training. Most reputable providers now recognize at minimum a 200 hour Registration with Yoga Alliance as the minimum to teach yoga. This means the teacher has had a basic teacher training with two hundred hours of training. A 500 hour registration means the teacher has had 500 total hours of training. A certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) has at minimum one thousand hours of training.
A yoga teacher can provide yoga that is therapeutic in nature. Many styles and types of yoga can be therapeutic as they can be mentally, physically and emotionally balancing. A yoga teacher can provide private yoga classes and small group yoga that has a goal of providing a better quality of life for the student.

Then what is a Yoga Therapist?

Some two hundred and three hundred (three hundred was once called five hundred because you add the hours together) schools are training people and saying they will be yoga therapist but they are not accredited with the International Association of Yoga Therapist or IAYT so they cannot apply for the C-IAYT credential.  There is a big difference in being a member school and an accredited school. Accreditation means the school went through a rigorous process to achieve accreditation and was approved by IAYT. A member school simply pays a fee to be affiliated with IAYT.

However, teachers who graduate from those 200 or 300 hour schools may have training with a yoga therapy emphasis. I myself have a 500 hour program that is holistic in nature and teaches yoga teachers to work one on one and with individuals and in small groups in way that promotes safety and health and overall quality of life. I train many medical professionals to utilize yoga in their practice from doctors, social workers, psychologist, nurses, occupational therapist and more. I do train people to assess, work and provide private individualized instruction to address the needs of the client.  However, Yoga Alliance will not allow me or anyone else to call a 300/500 hour program a Yoga Therapy school under YA accreditation. There is a lot of confusion on this because a 500 hour program just a few years ago was the highest credential in our field (though there were some programs out there offering yoga therapy until a few years ago there was no accreditation program).
IAYT is the credentialing source for Yoga Therapy Schools that want to offer an accredited program as a yoga therapist, this requires a total of 1000 hours of training, with at least 800 hours in the field of yoga therapy.

So what to do and how to know what credentials you need if you are wanting to provide yoga therapy and what if you want to be the recipient of yoga therapy?

If you are a yoga teacher and you want to work with people in a way that provides overall health and quality of life lets talk about how to do that ethically. Get training in the area you want to work. Lets say you want to work one one with students and keep them safe providing physical and mental balance. Then I would recommend saying something like "Jane Doe: 200 hour teacher providing classes and individual yoga sessions in the are of Trauma Informed Yoga" , assuming you had training in that area, or you might say "I work one on one with individuals to improve the quality of their life using yoga as a therapeutic modality".
How would that differ in what a Certified Yoga Therapist might say? "Courtney Butler: Certified Yoga Therapist working one on one with students offering yoga therapy." I could go on to say what specific areas I work with or put a link to my bio which gives my overall training and credentials.

Simply put as a yoga teacher or therapist only advertise what you are capable of and what you have been trained to do. Always be honest and ethical with a clear intent.

If you are a student wanting yoga therapy then you need to determine your needs. If you have run of the mill stress, anxiety and need to get in better shape but you are not limited by what you can do then you would be fine to find a "well trained" yoga teacher to take classes in a group or one on one. You should ask questions to find out their experience and what the class will look like. Let's say you are suffering from depression and want counseling but also would like someone to incorporate yoga. Many social workers are now being trained to incorporate yoga into their counseling practices.

If you are a person who has illness and has been limited by your doctor on what you can and cannot do then I would suggest you see a C-IAYT or someone with a medical background specific to your needs and yoga training. The International Association of Yoga Therapist has strict guidelines for what C-IAYT's must know and how much experience they have to have. For instance I was grandfathered in but had to provide at minimum ten years of documented experience in my field working one on one. I had to provide documentation of my training in the field of yoga therapy (I had over the 1000 hours) as well and had to be a registered yoga teacher (actively working) for over ten years (for me it was seventeen). Each grandfathered in teacher (only before summer of 2018, this is no longer available) had to prove competency. From this point out each C-IAYT needs to take an additional 800 hours of training on top of a 200 hour RYT to become a Certified Yoga Therapist with an accredited school.

As the field of yoga therapy grows IAYT leads the way in providing the highest standards. It is very likely in the near future yoga therapy will be much like chiropractic care and acupuncture and you will see yoga therapy offices that accept insurance. Those yoga therapist will likely be regulated in the future and will all hold a C-IAYT credential.

In closing, a yoga teacher with proper training can offer a class or a private session to help with many of life's challenges. If you have any type of disease, illness, bone weakness, neurological issues and your doctor or medical provide has recommended you try yoga therapy it would be good to look into someone who either has specific training in yoga and a related medical background or holds the C-IAYT credential. For instance I often train social workers, these folks are more than capable of helping using yoga and meditation techniques to deal with depression and anxiety. I am often sent clients though psychiatrist or neurologist with neurological issues they have not been able to resolve, I work daily with diabetics, cardiovascular patients, and those with cancer. If I am not available to work one on one with someone I will often find a qualified yoga teacher with a complimentary background or specialized training to help them or recommend another yoga therapist.

At the end of the day the responsibility lies on the student or client to do their research and homework and find the person they feel comfortable working with. 

Courtney Butler Robinson
Stress Managment Specialist with the Dr. Dean Ornish Reversal Program
RYS 200, RYS 300/500
Author of "The Mud & The Lotus: A Guide and Workbook for Students of Yoga"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dealing with lack of support, distractions in the classroom and encouraging diversity.

So I put out on the Internet to yoga teachers, students and yoga business folks to please share with me your biggest struggle and frustrations as well as what motivates you. A dear teacher friend sent me her answers. 
What was frustrating and a bit of a struggle came in two areas.

1. Feeling frustrated when people treat your work like a hobby or a luxury. 

As yoga teachers we know that most of us have gone to school for quite some time, worked and studied really hard to get to where we are and when we get out of school it's just the beginning. Then we have to figure out how to get students to our classes. Some people have had to make the choice to live a simpler life and give up some of life's extravagances in order to teach. We often run to and from job to job just to have enough clients. We sometimes open up our homes and invite people in to give back what has helped us. It is only natural that it would hurt when people make comments that it must be nice to "be able to just teach yoga". Ugh.. 

What I have found is that there will always be those who are either ignorant to what it takes to be good at our craft or maybe they are jealous or sometimes just down right nasty. Most of the time what I have found is it's best to try not to engage, it never is worth it anyway. I have found these things help. 

1. Rather than try to defend, be yourself, do your thing, and when you are with people who don't understand you try to talk about something else. I know this can sometimes be people we are close to and they ask about your life and you don't want to go there. It's also hard when you want people to be supportive and they think you are wasting time or money. Just keep doing you and try to not go down that road. We have to make ourselves happy and not live for other people. 

2. Find people you support you. Talk to other yoga students, teachers, and friends who get you. It's important to have this support so you don't feel alone. When you feel alone or lonely or wonder if you are wasting your time (been there) call your supporters. 

2. Struggles with people who disrupt class. 
Set the tone before class by getting the room the way you want it. Do you want a quieter style class, have soft music, low lights (maybe twinkle lights) and a calming atmosphere and speak in a quite calm voice. If you want a more upbeat class, have the lights at a comfortable level for the practice, or low is fine, however your beats per minute on the music or your play list  may need to be a bit more upbeat. If you want a calm class but the ability to feel like a person can ask questions then give permission language before and after class. Such as "If you have a question please raise your hand or simply ask me to come over".

1. Hand out a sheet with "What to expect or yoga etiquette to new students". They would appreciate it and it will save you some headaches, cover distractions like when it's okay to talk, coming in late, leaving early, body odor, phones etc.. A little planning saves a lot of headaches. 

2. One of my teachers always says "relax your lips" to those that feel they need to be chatty during class while others are trying to focus. This one always works. 

3. When nothing works have a gentle talk with the person and explain your issues as kindly as possible. Sometime they will understand and other times they won't and they won't come back but that may be best. 

3. Motivated to get a diverse group of people or a certain population to class. 
This teacher I was referring to was motivated because she reached out to size 14 and over women to get them to yoga. I need to ask her how she did that, so "L' if you are reading this please give me that info. I
f you want to attract a certain group of people here is what I suggest.

1. In your marketing material reflect pictures of the type of people you want to attract. If you want to reach out to curvy full figured women then put pictures of those type of women in class. 

2. If you want to offer classes that are not intimidating to beginners post pictures of all shapes and sizes doing common postures that are easily accessible to a wide group of people. 

3. People need to see people that look like them to some degree. If you are African American and you want to reach that population put pictures of yourself on the material and or other people of color doing yoga. Also find those populations and start offering those classes in places you will be able to easily reach those populations. 

Thank you "L" for your comments. I so appreciate them!

Love and Light,

Friday, February 2, 2018

Research to help yoga students, teachers, business owners.

Hi friends. I'm doing some research and would appreciate your help. Yoga students, yoga business owners, teachers, school owners, studio owners, would you please share with me by emailing me at cdb120@gmail.com. Please let me know if you don't want me to share your name.
I'll answer those questions in my blog/vlog and get back to you. Thank you so much!

Please answer these questions: 
What is your biggest frustration? 

What is your biggest struggle?
What is your motivation for practicing, teaching, owning a business etc...?

Thank you all!
Courtney Butler Robinson

Certified Solution Focused Coach

Stress Management Specialist