Want to become a certified yoga professional?

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Given yoga’s increasing popularity, many people want to take it up as their career. But where should one study? What type of course should one opt for? The Peeper Times speaks to Dr Ishwar V. Basavaraddi, Director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, to obtain answers to several such questions. 

You have been a teacher of yoga for nearly 28 years. What do you think has changed over time with respect to yoga?

Earlier, yoga was very classical, traditional. When we were students, yoga not only meant performing difficult asanas like shirshasana, sarvangasana, chakrasana, mayurasana but also building a healthy body and a good behaviour. At that time, if a student spoke a lie, he was not considered a student of yoga. Yoga involved very strict discipline. When I completed my yoga studies, my teacher told me, “From a student, you are now becoming a teacher of yoga. People will not only see your performance but also what you do, how you talk and behave.” These words remain in my mind. For us, yoga is not just a demonstration or a fitness programme, it is our personality. That was my time, very strict.

But now, during the last few years, a dramatic change has come. It has become a fitness programme – from class it has become a mass programme. The credit for this should go to baba Ramdev and several other masters who have popularised yoga by choosing the very appropriate yoga practices which they are teaching in their own way. For example, kapalbhati is a kriya but it has been popularised as a pranayama. The technique though remains the same. Like this, several changes have been made by the gurus. The gurus have followed some principle, and they are good for health.

For any successful yoga professional, the basic requirement is that he should practice yoga regularly; he should experience its importance and benefits. This is important because yoga professionals are not just transferring the knowledge, they are transforming lives

Over time, yoga has gained popularity for being effective against stress; essential for good lifestyle. We are now talking about yoga’s effectiveness against NCD, hypertension and diabetes. This is a transition. People practice yoga for healthcare and fitness, beauty. Various dimensions of yoga are taking place. It has now become a billion dollar industry in every country – US, India, China, Japan, etc. But at our time (when I took to this profession), we never took a single rupee for teaching. Our classes were free. After the completion of course, we would take whatever our students offered. Till today, I am not taking a single rupee for teaching yoga. I get salary for my job. But I personally never charge fee for teaching it. Our teachers used to tell us to teach yoga first; and take whatever the student is paying you willingly, according to their capacity – and that too, because one needs money for survival. And survival meant healthy, comfortable and honourable living, not luxurious life. I want to live a comfortable life not luxurious as the latter leads to sorrow, pain, diseases etc. – disorders start coming in when you live a luxurious life.

What are the essential requirements for pursuing a career in yoga?

One should have zeal to practice, to keep fit and healthy; and to develop good personality – physically, mentally, intellectually and emotionally.

When you practice yoga regularly, you start growing. You don’t understand it, you don’t even know it but you are growing. If you want to understand how yoga has helped you, stop practicing yoga for 2-3 months and you will realise the difference. You will start missing a healthy body, a good sleep or the wonderful silence. Yoga is more like our parents, when they are with us, we never realise their importance. But when they are no longer with us, we start missing them. Good things are always like that – when we have them, we never understand their importance. This is the life’s principle; and it applies to yoga as well.

Given the fact that there are too many yoga institutes mushrooming in the country, where should a student study in order to pursue yoga as a career? 

You should learn it at a place where there is a guru-shishya tradition; where guru can take personal care of you; and where there is a healthy relationship between a student and his teacher – that’s the right atmosphere for yoga.

Universities mean formal education. They are academic institutes and have a syllabus to follow. But institutes like Iyengar Yoga Center, Art of Living etc. do not focus on academics; they go by guru-shishya tradition. The advantage of joining a place where we follow ancient Indian practice of guru-shishya is that guru teaches you as per your capability, he will go on increasing the intensity of practice only when you are capable/qualify for that level. In formal institutes, teacher has to complete his syllabus so he will teach even if you are not qualified for that stage.

You should learn yoga at a place where there is a guru-shishya tradition; where guru can take personal care of you; and where there is a healthy relationship between a student and his teacher – that’s the right atmosphere for yoga

There seems to be a trend where students prefer 1-year diploma courses to 3-year programme – one reason attributed to it is that long-term courses are more theoretical? Do you agree?

There is more demand for short term courses. That’s because long-term courses demand dedication. It means you are serious about taking yoga as a profession. Long-term courses are more like Indian marriages, you are committed to it. However, in India, parents want their children to take up white-collar jobs – doctors, engineers, etc. Parents think that yoga trainer’s job involves working in gyms, fitness centers etc.

But we see this trend changing. Although the number is still small, but it is significantly a big number for us. Also, every year thousands of people are coming to India to take up yoga as a profession – that’s more than enough for us.

What are the job prospects?

My sincere advice is that you should first practice yoga. You will be benefitted personally.

This may sound philosophical but it is a fact – for any successful yoga professional, the basic requirement is that he should practice yoga regularly; he should experience its importance and benefits. This is important because yoga professionals are not just transferring the knowledge, they are transforming lives. If I don’t change my life, if I don’t have a passion for yoga, don’t understand its beauty, how can I transform other’s life? Yoga is an experience. You can’t teach it like physics or any other subject. It has to be experienced. Once it becomes an integral part of your life without which you can’t survive, then you will realise that there are plenty of job opportunities for you. From a teacher at school or college to working independently – till last date, you will be a teacher of yoga, its brand ambassador. I myself am very proud to say I am a teacher of yoga – I am a student first, and then a teacher of yoga.

At present, there are plenty of job opportunities in schools. Universities are also starting yoga departments/centers where they need asst professor, associate professor, professor, yoga instructors. Then there are several leading yoga institutes like that of baba ramdev, iyengar yoga, or art of living, etc. – they all are starting various yoga centers. They need a large number of competent, quality yoga teachers. Depending on your qualifications, there are plenty of opportunities, both in India and abroad.

If you wish to teach yoga outside India, you should have a good physique and communication skill besides having sound scientific knowledge. If you have these qualities, then you will never sit idle. Salary can be anything from USD 25,000 to 5 lakh.

Do we need special qualifications to practice abroad?

Abroad, they need talent. They don’t see your certification. They need your skill. The reason for that may be because yoga has not been regulated. However, nowadays, some people are asking for it.

What about the voluntary certification scheme that the government has introduced? Can you tell us about that?

Several institutes are conducting courses in yoga ranging from 10 days to 10 years. If you go to Iyengar yoga centers, they will not certify you till you complete 10 years of training. But some institutes will give you certificate in 10 days. This is the state of affairs in the country. In order to streamline it, government is trying to put some minimum criteria, that is, we have categorised yoga professionals under different heads like yoga instructor, yoga therapist, yoga professionals, lecturers, acharya, etc. A person needs to posses minimum knowledge and skill in order to qualify under a particular head.

There are plenty of job opportunities in schools. Universities are also starting yoga departments/centers where they need people. Then there are several leading yoga institutes like that of baba ramdev, iyengar yoga, or art of living, etc. – they all are starting various yoga centers

Suppose a person has completed 10-20 days of yoga programme and he starts teaching yoga. The question that arises is – does that certificate qualify him to teach?  Nowadays, everybody has started teaching. That’s why we would like to streamline it. I wouldn’t say regulation but self-regulation. Also, getting certification has an advantage. Whenever government needs the services of yoga teachers, whether in India or abroad, they will contact these certified teachers. This is the idea.

What if a student who has cleared class 12 takes a 1 month or 3 month course from a reputed institute? What’s his future after that?

If you want to become a teacher, you have to do at least 1 year regular course involving rigorous training for 8-9 hours/day 6 days/week. I don’t recommend anything less than nine months regular course; it doesn’t make you a good teacher.

What are the areas where you think needs improvement?

There is a need for improvement in the curriculum, teaching methods, practicals and the evaluation standards. There are a number of reasons why I feel we need improvement.

First, at present, we see many institutes having non-yoga person heading the yoga department – it is normal to see people specialising in subjects like sanskrit or biology or philosophy heading the yoga department. That’s because they have no yoga teacher. Since these people don’t know much about yoga, they don’t have the full view of the department.

Second, one year diploma courses are very popular everywhere. Most of the people who enroll for these courses are non-serious students. That is, they opt for it either because they couldn’t get admission anywhere else or they needed a time pass. Many female students quit the course in the middle because of marriage. These people are not committed to yoga. For me, there is no other option but yoga. Practice yoga, teach yoga – earn my bread and butter through it. If this is how you feel about yoga, then you are committed towards it, then there is a competition. We need to search for really good students and teachers who are devoted towards it. We hardly get such students.

Third, we have to understand that evolution is a continuous process; we need to change with times.

That’s why, I say, we need improvement in teaching, evaluation, placements, selection – in all these departments so as to bring quality and standardisation in yoga. We have to keep in mind that unlike other subjects, yoga cannot be researched in laboratories, it can only be self-experienced. That’s why entire curriculum is ongoing process.

YOU MAY LIKE TO READ:

1. ​10 Common myths about Yoga
2. ​Now, daily sessions of yoga in CBSE schools

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