Business of Teaching – Yoga Teacher Bios

I’m reminiscing now, one late winter afternoon in my 200-hour teacher training, we sat around in a circle awaiting the handouts. The topic du jour was the Art and Business of Teaching, specifically, how to write your yoga teacher bio.

Our teachers, Theresa Elliott and Kathryn Payne, have been teaching for at least 20 years each, so they have seen their fair share of yoga teacher bios, and they handed out samples for us to read and peruse (“Names have been changed to protect the innocent” :))

“Write about who you are and what you have to offer”, was their first advice. And please, don’t go overboard with the name dropping. If you didn’t hear it the first time, go easy with the name dropping. By the way, did we mention no name dropping?

Okay, so the exact details of how it went down may be a little different, but the one thing I remember most vividly is to be careful about who you say you “studied” with.

In my current 500-hour teacher training, we are required to apprentice with a Senior teacher, and at first, I wanted to go round and round and take a sampling of all the teachers in town. My advisor Kathryn gently put me in my place, “let’s be clear on whether you want to apprentice or just to check out someone’s style of teaching”.

I have now realized the difference between “being influenced by” and “studying with” a teacher. Kathryn apprenticed with Dona Holleman for three years and practiced with her for 10 years. (Okay Kathryn, I guess you could say that you studied with Dona Holleman :)). If I just took a weekend workshop with someone once, and if they don’t even know my name or my practice, then no, I can’t really say I’ve studied with them.

Late last night, the magic that is hyperlinking on the Internets lead me to this funny and poignant post from Yoga Spy: Naming Names.

_____ began practicing yoga in 1989 while living in New York City. _____ spent several years exploring many different yoga traditions leading to years of study in the Iyengar yoga tradition with many of its master teachers such as Faiq Biria, Manuso Manus [sic], Ramanand Patel, Aadil Palkivala [sic], Joan White, Kevin Gardner [sic], Lisa Walford, Paul Cabanis, Marla Apt and Kofi Busia. _____ has also studied with renounwed [sic] teachers such as Judith Lasater, Donna Farhi, Dona Holleman and Rodney Yee. _____ was introduced to the Anusara tradition through workshops with John Friend and Viniyoga with Gary Kraftsow. In recent years _____ has been practicing Ashtanga yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, under the guidance of Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty. In the Ashtanga tradition _____ has also studied with Richard Freeman and the guru of Ashtanga, Pattabhi Jois.

Someone forgot to nudge this teacher and say, “Hey, you’re nobody without Jivamukti.”

Recognizing one’s teachers is a nice way to pay homage and to give prospective students an idea of one’s teaching methods. But it’s a slippery slope to blatant marketing and name dropping.

If I see someone list a dozen significant teachers (covering the panoply of yoga lineages), it verges on ADHD to me.

We are all influenced by numerous teachers, by reading their books, taking their workshops, and studying regularly with those in our own town. Indeed, I have taken many workshops with different teachers, some famous, but would I call them My Teachers?

P.S I would tell you who Yoga Spy is, but I’d have to kill you. (Not really :), I myself don’t know who Yoga Spy is either, but then again, I don’t even know who “I” is sometimes…). Just rest assured that the Yoga Spy blog is much recommended both in terms of content and style.

P.P.S That last bit of Engrish is intentional.