Dental Assistants, Hair Stylists, Yoga Teachers, and Software
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | July 2, 2021
I’m sitting in the office of my son’s dentist, in a bar-stool-height chair they have strategically placed in the corner to keep parents from helicoptering over their work. The dental assistant is navigating my son’s molars.
To fill the empty space I ask her – how long did it take you to become a dental assistant?
“I had to go to school for a year, and then I had to do 3,000 hours of internship, which is about another year and a half,” she replies.
Wow, that’s significant training. What about dental hygienists?
“Well, it’s a lot more work if you want to become a hygienist. For that, you need a minimum of 2 years training, and some people even get bachelor’s or master’s degrees, plus you have to do the hours.”
🤔 Taking care of teeth is some serious business.
Another time, sitting in a hair salon, my head sprouting aluminum foils and beginning to look like a space porcupine, I ask my English hair stylist, Gregory, the same question.
“Well, I trained in London,“ he frowns. “It’s quite different there. You don’t just go to cosmetology school; you spend many years as an apprentice.”
“Which is why you’re so good,” I interject with a grin.
His smile reflects appreciation and experienced knowing – plus a dash of disdain.
“Well, in North Carolina, you need 1500 hours of training – but most people really don’t start to learn until they get out in the salon.”
“Wait a minute,” I’m confused, “Did you say 1500 hours? That’s a year and a half of school full time.” Much more than I expected.
“Yes. Pathetic really,” his “t’s” get sharper as he quips, “Especially if you want to be any good at all.”
😮 Hair is also a serious business.
So, you need at least a year of school to be able to check someone’s teeth, a year and a half to cut their hair (but you won’t be very good), plus you need to intern or apprecentice.
All of this is making me rather embarrassed in comparison to yoga standards.
Lately, I’m seeing a lot of social media complaints about the death of teaching yoga. YouTube is killing us with free classes and studios are offering $9.99 unlimited online memberships. I can understand the concern. But maybe, rather than blaming tech, we should take a look at yoga’s professional standards?
200 hours of training is complete bollocks (I’m sure Gregory would agree).
You are not allowed to clean someone’s teeth or cut someone’s hair with 200 hours of training (at least not in North Carolina) – but somehow, the yoga industry thinks 200 hours is just fine.
Back in the late 90s, when Yoga Alliance was forming, people who wanted to teach typically spent a month studying in an ashram (which was how I did my first training in 1995).
A month of intensive study translates to about 200 hours of training – and so, a standard was born.
YA has tried to remedy this, but they consider themselves a registry, not a member organization. They exist to protect the public from poor teaching, not to serve their membership. And whenever they try to upgrade their standards they get so much pushback that they back off (this happened recently as they rolled back the requirement that you need to be an eRYT500 to lead RYT200 trainings.)
By some estimates, in the U.S., as many as 500,000 people have been trained at the 200 hour level. Some of these folks never teach yoga. Others stop studying and start teaching the minute they finish. I know people who started teacher training programs within months of finishing their 200 hour training.
Some newly trained 200 hour teachers have a lot going for them – they may be former gymnasts or dancers, some are quite charismatic.
However, charisma is no substitute for good yoga teaching – sure it helps with marketing, but, eventually, it wears thin. It can never replace excellent, seasoned, studied, experienced skills. Plus the kind of folks you really want to work with can see through all that stuff anyway.
The reality is that there are no shortcuts to good yoga teaching. It requires not only good training, but a commitment to lifelong study.
We trust our dental assistants and our hair stylists to be trained, to do a good job, so why don’t we hold yoga teachers to these standards?
The Who and the What
Other big questions around what’s happening to the yoga industry include: What are people teaching in their yoga classes and who are they teaching?
The curriculum for many yoga teacher training programs is centered around postures for fitness and geared towards teaching yoga for people who already engage in fitness activities like Pilates, Zumba, or HIIT classes. And, if all you can teach is a script that you learned in your 200 hour training, then of course a bot can replace you. Anthony Vennare, a fitness industry trend watcher, has gone so far as to argue that software is eating fitness.
Of course it will eat yoga too if all we offer are scripted fitness classes. Yoga teachers need to make themselves as unique and invaluable as hair stylists – I don’t want just anyone to do my hair – I want Gregory, because I think he’s the best.
And then there’s this: according to the CDC, only 22.9% of Americans exercise enough. And, according to a Yoga Journal/Yoga Alliance study, only 1 out of 10 people do any yoga at all.
So, most teacher training programs are teaching skills that less than 1 out of 10 people in the U.S. are interested in. And if you really drill down into that number, it’s probably more like 1 in 100 people who want fitness oriented, elite-athlete yoga postures – which means that for the fitness-oriented, elite-athlete yoga teacher, the future of the profession is certainly grim.
But more than 90% of the population could benefit from slow, mindful, personalized, safe yoga. And this is where there’s huge potential. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard yoga teachers say that when they got out into the real world, they realized they needed very different skills than what they learned in their training program.
If you are struggling to teach, I suggest that you look for students in places (both online and in person) that cater to the 90 percent of the population that aren’t interested in elite athleticism but do need ways to manage their stress, feel better in their bodies, reduce pain, and find a deeper sense of meaning and purpose – the internet can’t do all that.
These folks want yoga that meets their needs – accessible, personal, not painful or unattainable, health and wellness (rather than elite athlete) focused, time saving, affordable, etc.
If you are worried that your yoga teaching career is being killed by free digital yoga, I offer these three suggestions:
- Keep Studying
Studying and practicing yoga are how you get better at teaching yoga. Svādhyāya doesn’t just mean studying yourself, it also means studying the tradition. Keep exploring. Study related topics too, whatever you’re interested in – psychology, neuroscience, biomechanics, etc. The reality is that 200 hours is a surface scratch, yoga is a lifetime study and there are no shortcuts. My favorite marketing expert, Seth Godin, frequently says that all marketing boils down to one thing – offering the best product or service.
That being said, please know that just because there is always more to learn, insecurity and self-doubt will neither serve you nor your students. If you are a thoughtful, inquisitive, dedicated person (and I will assume that you are because you read my blog 😉), and you are not teaching anything risky, or out of reach, then you are well equipped to help many people and get paid doing it.
So many yoga teachers tell me that they feel like imposters or that they are not smart enough, or flexible enough, or seasoned enough.
Your work matters! You are offering something special, helpful, and meaningful. Your knowledge base is good and growing. Just because there is always more to learn doesn’t mean you are inadequate. Give yourself some credit. (And, BTW a sprinkle of self-doubt is so much more authentic, appealing, and appropriate than calling yourself a “master” teacher because you can nail a one-armed handstand.)
- Find Your Peeps
Every yoga teacher has something special to offer – you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to be committed to learning and confident that what helped you to transform personally can also help others. Focus on that niche and look for the people you want to work with by finding them where they hang out – in person or online.
I have trained many teachers who have become very successful in working in addiction recovery and with senior populations.
Others help people improve their posture, other specialize in back care, others help mental health professionals manage their stress, others help doctors with self-care. I could go on and on…
The point is that these teachers have found their passion and worked it. They are all thriving. They are not in danger of being gobbled up by YouTube because they have personal relationships with their students (read more about that here).
- Give it Away
I’m serious. Give your knowledge away for free – in person or online. The caveat here is to only give it away when you have a plan. All that free popular yoga on YouTube is backed up by savvy marketing. It has to be, if seva (service) sucks the life out of you, it’s not sustainable.
Remember that if you offer something for free, at the same time, offer something that folks can pay you for too – people feel good about paying for what they value. If you don’t need the money, then offer them a chance to donate to a favorite charity.
Here’s something else that’s really important to remember: everything you do in terms of your yoga business needs to connect with everything else that you do. Never take on anything that doesn’t fit in with your bigger, master plan.
The more you give away (within this carefully considered context), the more you help people get to know you, build their trust, and recognize that you are a dedicated, sincere, devoted, good-hearted person with something valuable to offer. Something that is, when it comes right down to it, even more important than what their dental assistant or hair stylist does.
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a good read
Food for thought
Awesome points. Thank you for sharing. I agree that a 200 hour program is just a start and that we all need to continue learning. I also love the focus on those who aren’t elite athletes and helping them have a better quality of life. Thats why I do yoga and I’d love to pass that on to others.
I was hiking the other day and as I grew tired and the negative inner voice started up in my head saying “you were never athletic, why do you think you can hike trails like this?” I did some soul searching and determined that I regularly challenge myself. I am going to encourage my students to do the same, both in their yoga practice and in their lives. Yoga is a tool for looking inward and the more I practice, the better I know myself. Everyone can benefit from knowing themselves more deeply.
Yes I agree Desiree – I teach yoga for the same reasons and I agree that yoga is an important tool for turning inward. Thank you for your comment.
Kristine, you are so right, in all of this. And to the inevitable response that comparing yoga teaching to dental work or hair styling is like comparing apples to oranges, or that yoga teachers just need to be compassionate or spiritual or some such, I’d say look at the training and certification and licensing requirements for workers in other “bodywork” areas, like personal training and massage therapy. Far, far, more rigorous than the paltry 200 hours, pay your membership, and you’re in. Why do yoga teachers resist? What can we do to change this? Is it a lost cause?
Thank you for this. I’ve been teaching for 20 years. I’m appalled at YA for lowering its standards. Not that they are anything other than a membership, but in order for potential yoga teachers to take your trainings, you need to be able to offer them YA credits because the YA credits give them further credibility which…it’s a vicious circle. I’m appalled at the number of BRAND NEW TEACHERS who turn around and offer a teacher training. I recently had a student go through my restorative yoga teacher training…she hadn’t practiced much RY before then. She cried at the end of the training, telling me how I’d changed her life. Three weeks later, I saw that she was offering a RY teacher training. Sigh. YOUR work is so important and so are your insights and incisive observations. Thank you for sharing so much.
@Paula, this is very interesting a disturbing too. I know that in the past yoga teachers offered training without the proper credentials or experience. I though all that changed with YACEP hours etc.
yes but there is no enforcement of standards – no auditing.
Kristine, you did it again! You truly are the person you describe here for us to strive to be. This is why people follow you, at least I know this being my reason #1. I totally agree with everything you say in this post. It is right on! Thank you for your hard work and insight that surely supports us all in our efforts to become better students and teachers.
Thank you for the research on dental assistants/hygienist and hairstylists. I, too, wish for the Yoga Alliance to require that teachers have more rigorous “apprenticeships”.
This past 15 months, Subtle Yoga and SYRS have been my mainstay through the pandemic and the shutdown. I am inspired to return to teaching with a new focus: meditation; subtle yoga with neuroscience and some “kick your asana” as well as chair yoga. It’s been an amazing journey, Kristine and all! Forever grateful🙏☮️💜
I spent three years in University doing a pharmacy degree. I then worked as a pre-registration pharmacist for one year.
I then started working as a pharmacist.
I spent the next 35 years not only learning new things but regularly revisiting and updating my previous knowledge.
But I enjoyed it and I am now enjoying my yoga teaching, again something new always coming along to investigate.
Thank you for your continued support and insight. This is right on time. I look forward to training with you again. I hope you’re well. Thanks again.
When you write I always enjoy and feel connected to what you say. I hope to meet you someday in person.
Wonderful blog! Again! I am an ERYT500 with over 2000 hours teaching and can say it has been a journey. I got my 200 in one year and then took 5+ years to earn my 500 as I continued to teach and grow. Life long learning indeed! I have not only continued to take courses from my school but I have also branched out to YogaU on line and Subtle Yoga. I can honestly say 11 years later it is only in the past 1-2 years that I feel it is all coming together and I am in a great groove. There is always something more to learn that keeps us fresh on our mats!
It certainly makes yoga as a profession look inadequate. Even 1000 hrs to be a yoga therapist is modest I feel. When I learned, I apprenticed for three years. There should be an internship or apprentice time period. This is how you really learn how to integrate and use all that knowledge. Instead of integrating their knowledge, new teachers are taught how to make it a business. Many have just started on their yoga path with their teacher training.
Modern yoga has made the science of yoga very small with this 200 hrs requirement. Yoga needs to be done for self first. It is a path of awakening but new teachers aren’t giving themselves that opportunity- they’re too busy figuring out how to give it to others rather than for themselves.
Kristine great perspective comparing to other professions. No wonder we’ve struggled to be taken seriously!
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Michelle. I agree that even 1000 hours seems insufficient and internships make sense.
I like the idea of an apprenticeship for most occupations. Many of us learn through the “doing” of whatever we are working toward. As a dental assistant, preschool teacher and yoga instructor, I absorbed more while on the job than I did while being taught the theory behind the tasks I was required to perform. I’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years but trained with my guru for approximately the same amount of time which allowed me to fully understand the process of what yoga was bringing to me. At this point I can confidently share my knowledge and experience with my people and they are receiving the benefits that yoga will provide just as I have.
Kristine, thank you for your insights and for your yoga.
Ah, I love that you can relate to my dental assistant analogy. And you are so fortunate that you were able to study with an adept.
Thank you for this post. Not sure if it is the pandemic, or something retrograde 😉 but the imposter feeling has been coming more and more – and I’ve been teaching for over 12 years! Sending out love to all teachers out there – there are students who need you!
yes it’s so true Amy – and they need you too!
Great article, I’ve been teaching yoga for 15+ years & have done well in access of 1500 hrs of training/courses & still love learning & passing my knowledge onto my students. They absolutely love it when I come to classes we some new piece of information, which we’ll often discuss, making even deeper connections with each other. I’ve been teaching slow yoga for a long time & believe that the connections I make with my students are what keeps them coming back. Thank you for validating the importance of experience & knowledge.
AMEN, Sista !!!
Yoga teacher training is lacking severely. I found when I started teaching after my 200 hour that the people that came to my classes were nothing like the athletes that frequented the place I trained! They were struggling to do things that I had been led to see as easy, and quite frankly were easy for me! At the time.
I then tried to join a 300 hour course and it was worse! I paid it off and had to quit. I injured myself trying to do the classes the way the 300 hour was teaching. :/
Now through my own journey of dealing with low back, hip and shoulder pain, I am utilizing what I have learned in the subtle yoga courses I have to heal myself and connect with the students that relate! My “slow flow” classes are almost always full.
I teach at a fitness focused yoga studio but I have set myself aside. I often use Kristine’s line of I offer the innersize! I say I’m the yin to their yang. 😀
And it’s working! On me AND on my students! <3
I am in a rural, mid-sized town in Kentucky. The yoga classes that were (pre-Covid) consistently full for me were Senior yoga, Chair yoga, Slow yoga. When I started working with this population I quickly realized my 200RYT had NOT prepared me for this population, beyond a few scripts. I used the scripts, I researched, I watched them, I listened to them. I got certified with Silver Sneakers and used their materials as well. And I s-l-o-w-e-d down. Taking cues from Restorative yoga, we spent longer times in fewer postures. This population LOVES yoga. They love the mindfulness and meditations, the introduction or reacquaintance to their bodies, the socializing it gives them in their retirement lives. Fitness yoga classes are intimidating/ dangerous for many of them. I appreciate your work, Kaoverii, it is a perfect complement for what I do with them. And a plus for building a senior yoga class: They do NOT want to do yoga online! They do not want to deal with technology, they want personal touch, and many of them require significant modifications and props, so online is really not appropriate for them. Of course they love Savasana, and I always added a shoulder press or forehead massage with a little lavender oil on my hands, which made them feel super pampered and kept them coming back. I highly encourage working with seniors if you need to build your practice. AND wish more training was offered here, as seniors do have significantly different needs and limitations than younger folks.
I lead Silver Sneakers Chair Yoga … and agree with the comments about Seniors ( I am one !!) The other day a woman told me that she was 96 years old …and that’s why she couldn’t keep up with some of the asanas ! OH MY !!!!!
I led a Yin class – subbing at a local Y …. after one of the woman said she started crying in one of the twists … we all chatted about ‘trauma’ … and the groin area …. and another woman shared a personal situation in her family …. I’ve led a Yoga of 12 Step Recovery also …with the same kind of emotional reactions ….. YOGA is such an amazing ‘tool’
yes it is Cathy – thank you for the work that you are doing!
Thank you for yet another multi layered discussion. Just yesterday I had an agency review a proposal to bring Tctsy (trauma center trauma sensitive yoga). The proposal offered a sliding scale for both 30 minute and 60 minute sessions. The agency rep chose the lowest fee for the least time (30 min) stating: who would select anything higher?
And yet zoom only access has brought teens to Tctsy classes whose geography would have been a barrier to their attending. So for me it’s a multilayered issue
My daughter went for 200. Hour certification with an American teacher in Costa Rica. The 200 hours was over about two weeks. I felt very concerned for the intensity and risk for imposter syndrome and was horrified to hear her stories of trauma imposed on her peers. People crying etc.
Thanks so much for your multi-layered thoughts Anne! The agency rep obvious does not understand the value of what you do. That needs to change. And as for the 200 hour trainings in Costa Rica, if people could think about them like vacations with a little yoga learning, it would be much better. It’s terribly unfortunate.