The Education of a Yoga Teacher
This week I am attending the national Amercan Academy of Religion (AAR) conference in Washingtion DC. I am swimming in a sea of religious studies scholars – what’s a yoga teacher like me doing in a place like this?
When I began teaching yoga immediately after completing my teacher’s training in 1990, I also began formulating many questions about what and how I was teaching that could not be answered within the yoga community. It required reading multiple translations and interpretations of sacred texts, commentaries, historical analysis and critiques – materials not usually offered in a yoga training program which focuses on the experience of the practice – usually as explained by one guru.
My decision to go back to graduate school in 2001 was partly to create the necessary time to do this work, with the support and resources available in an intellectual environment. Academic approaches to yoga can offer additional ways to better understand and teach the complex system of yoga. But even as a yoga practitioner, I wanted to know more about how others have experienced the body, the mind and spirit in their practice.
It’s these questions and this desire to know and be able to articulate what I have experienced (and therefore also know) that brings me into this larger community of religious studies scholars which includes historians, anthropologists, philosophers, feminists and authors on Indic, Buddhist and Tantric spiritual practices. Although I cannot claim to really feel like a fish who has found her “school” (or a bird who has found her “flock”!), I am swimming in a large and open ocean of knowledge with many possibilities of understanding what I practice and what I teach.