Wow, thank you for this! I am an "unqualified" yoga teacher, according to North American standards. I started a sangha over a year ago with the blessing of several "qualified" yoga instructors who reminded me that traditional yoga doesn't have certifications and professional affiliations, and as long as I don't claim to know more than I do, there is no problem with leading a sangha in yoga asanas. I have struggled with feeling like a fraud, and even discussed it with a swami at a conference, who assured me I am doing a good thing, but given the mainstream society views on the subject, it's a daily struggle. Watching the John Friend saga and the new trends like paddle board yoga and aerial or acro-yoga- which seem to me to be all about showing off your abs and physical prowess, dealing with yoga studio owners and teachers with serious ego and envy issues who are all about the money, leaving Elephant Journal because of my increasing sense of discomfort with the direction the posts were taking and the overall mentality there, and seeing the general state of yoga in North America from outside the bubble in the past few years, left me wondering if it was just me, maybe I’m the crazy one.
The core idea in my yoga teaching is that yoga is for everyone, which would seem to be the opposite of what your article is stating, but the crux of my teaching is that there are no headstands or pretzels in my sangha, ever, and that yoga is not just the asanas. We do gentle, beginnner to low intermediate asanas to help relax the body, and I stress over and over that my students are never to do anything that hurts. This stems from my experiences in North American yoga studios, in which I often left the room crying, or at the very least felt like crap, because of the body worship and comptetition among the 'perfect bodies' in their lululemon designer outfits, and the pain and limitations of my damaged body when trying to keep up with the class. My students who have studied elsewhere comment in amazement about the way I teach, stressing over and over again "slowly, little by little, don't force it, come out of the posture gently", giving step by step instructions on how to avoid injury, whereas their previous teachers have never mentioned anything like that. "No one ever told me not to put my foot on my knee in tree pose before!" "Wow, the posture is so different, so much easier, now that you have explained how to do it slowly and not hurt my back coming out of it."
On a student's first class with me, I always explain what yoga is, the meaning of the word in Sanskrit, and talk about the asanas being only a small part of yoga, contrary to the North American delusion about weight loss and perfect bodies and who has the cutest outfit. We practice pranayama and guided meditation with mantras in my classes. We talk about off the mat yoga, bringing the philosophy and spirituality - that is the real yoga- into our everyday lives to improve ourselves, and checking ego.
Yet with all this, I am viewed with distrust and disdain by the mainstream in North America, and gringo visitors to the country I practice and teach in shun me because of my lack of "qualifications". Thank you again for exposing the truth. Yoga IS for everyone, but it is not about exercises you practice at the gym in order to have a sexier body or a better sex life, or fitting into designer clothes. It is about changing your life, becoming conscious, making yourself a better person, being of service to the world. Yoga is a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE and it's time we take it back from the egomaniacs who have hijacked it.