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How to spot a fake yoga guru: My personal journey

Two years ago I suffered a traumatic bout with sciatica which has left me with lingering nerve damage to my right leg. The muscle appears to be intact. I can walk, wiggle my toes, and stand.

However, feeling remains numb on the top and the bottom of the right foot, which causes me subconsciously to favor the left foot. I find myself standing unevenly and correcting myself throughout the day.

Why bother? Because standing to one side constantly will misalign the spine, causing chronic back pain, yuk! Another lasting issue is lower back pain, although that has incrementally lessened throughout the years.

A doctor recommended I strengthen my “core” muscles by practicing yoga.

I took my first class in my little neighborhood of Pine Mountain Club and quickly learned a bad yoga teacher can be a dangerous thing.

Beware of teachers who are basically “performing” in front of the class and not making corrections, explanations or modifications. A well trained teacher will be able show a student both the easier version of the pose and the more advanced.

An untrained teacher at best will not help the students, at worst poor teaching can cause serious injuries. I moved on from the silly teacher in Pine Mountain Club to a very well trained teacher in Frazier Park. Misty was a graduate of Yogaworks, teacher training.

Yogaworks is a franchise studio found not just in the United States, but all over the world. The complete logo is “Yogaworks for every body.” I like that sentiment.

It reflected in their teaching style, which is to produce teachers who can modify poses up or down to accommodate virtually any injury, age or body type.

It’s fun to go in a yoga studio and see all sorts of people in lieu of wan, vegan, looking skinny chicks. Yoga is fun for kids, good for older people and therapeutic for people like me, with injuries.

More and more men are showing up at yoga studios – to work on their back injuries, and staying for the excellent workout.

Four months into doing yoga with my teacher and she suggested I take teacher training myself. I considered myself a novice. She explained to me that a vast knowledge of yoga is not necessary for teacher training.

An interest and basic good health are more important. Contrary to popular belief, yoga teacher certification is not about doing harder more advanced poses.

Teacher training is about learning how to teach! In order to teach one learns the philosophy of yoga, the basics of the most basic poses, and how to dissect the more advanced poses into simpler parts. Meditation practice and anatomy are part of the training.

Having ethics is part of the course. So, if you meet an unethical yoga teacher, feel free to report said person to the yoga alliance, they will thank you for it!

After ascertaining I knew enough about yoga to enter a teacher training, I started looking around at studios. The price for the 200 hour course varies considerably.

Consider that the cost for a yoga class itself varies from $7 an hour, if you buy a series on up to $22 for an hour and fifteen minutes if you are paying as a “drop in.” Using an estimate of $10 per hour, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to find a two thousand dollar teacher training.

And the studio called “Yoga Yoga” in Newhall California, offered me just that. It’s a nice small studio with a cozy atmosphere. I liked them well enough.

I tested them out by attending a couple weekend workshops in meditation. I later learned the workshops I took were part of their teacher training course and that many of my classmates that day were in the middle of their training.

I have nothing but good to report on Nissim Malul, the visiting teacher. He taught us at least four methods of meditation, took plenty of time for questions, and explained his craft thoroughly. He provided both active and passive meditation methods.

I also looked into the teacher training at the Yogaworks studio in Valencia, California. Yogaworks charges for $3,250 as the early bird price for 200 hour teacher training.

You may think this represents a cost of $16.25 per hour, but it’s not. Yogaworks offers UNLIMITED yoga classes for any student signed up in their teacher training, so actually the price per hour is as cheap as you want to make it.

If you take a mere four extra classes a week during your six month training you have essentially bought yourself a series of nine dollar classes.

Any person considering teaching really ought to have established a personal practice, an hour a day of yoga would represent seven classes a week, which would make the per hour cost even less.

I wish all studios offered unlimited classes during teacher training because it would encourage students to try everything.

One can get to know a variety of styles and personalities by studying under every teacher in a studio instead of sticking to the favorite, based on budgeting.

It also helps to spread out the practice. Many teacher trainings meet only on weekends as a favor to the working student, but weekend warrior training is harder on the body than doing a little bit each day.

The extra bonus to taking teach training with a franchise studio rather than a single location studio is that Yogaworks offers the unlimited yoga at any of their studios located anywhere in the world.

So in the LA area for example, you can pop into the Orange county studio if you happen to be there, and take as a many classes as you want.

Yoga is often touted as a thousands of years old practice. That is not exactly true. The roots of yoga are ancient, the kind you get at a gym is more likely a modern blend.

Yoga came to America in the beginning of the 1900’s and was conformed for the West. If you are Christian and afraid someone at a yoga studio is going to convert you to Hinduism, don’t worry, it won’t happen. The exercise offered at a studio or a gym is physical exercise only.

You would have to visit an ashram to get the whole philosophy.

Annmarie Everette

Annmarie Everette has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 20 years. She discovered her passion for helping others find peace and stillness in their lives while she was raising her three kids. Annmarie now lives in Los Angeles, CA, and spends her days teaching meditation and yoga to people from all walks of life. When she's not spreading the love of mindfulness, you can find her skiing down a mountain with reckless abandon.

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