Why have we moved away from apprenticeship? As far as I understand, most traditional healing techniques were mastered through apprentice-style learning. Service based trades of any kind were learned this way. If you wanted to become a healer, you dedicated your life to that path. What does that mean? I've met shamans who said they studied with their teacher for 10 years before becoming qualified to offer shamanic healing independently. But today, we see online trainings that last anywhere from a few hours to one year. It's the same with yoga teacher trainings. Stuffing thousands of years of ancient wisdom into three weeks and calling it day. Are we really qualified as experts in a modality after having studied it for only 200 hours?
There is a lot that apprenticeship offers. First, you work with your teacher to experience the modality. Then you learn the basics. Then you learn theory and application. Then you practice under the supervision of a more experienced practitioner. This step is really important, I think, because this is when you get the best feedback. Your teacher may observe things that you're not even perceiving for one reason or another, and informed with a lifetime of their own experience, they can give you feedback and guide you in mastering the craft.
As a student, I really miss building relationships with my teachers, receiving their affirmations and support, and the feeling of confidence I get when my teacher tells me, "you're ready."
I genuinely love learning! I was always the student in class asking in-depth questions that went far beyond the content of the instruction. I wanted to know how this new knowledge applied to every scenario I could think of. Getting into the function of any given practice has always delivered a much deeper understanding of the basics and why we practice. Without ongoing access to my teachers, my questions often go unanswered until I find myself in a new situation and figure it out through trial and error. That's not to say there isn't value in our intuition and our own internal compass guiding us to the "right" way to do things. But figuring it out on your own can be a lonely path to walk and can at times leave us with more doubt than confidence.
So many of the teaching formats that are available and accessible today barely scratch the surface of the nectar of the student-teacher relationship. How many students do your teachers have? I see so many yoga schools that offer more than ten trainings per year with twenty students in each training. How could one teacher keep track of, let alone build a nourishing relationship with all of them?
Even many of my own teachers are so busy spreading their message, they don't have time to stay in touch. It sucks. And it motivates me to bring the change I want to see to the yoga community.
At Paramatma Yoga, we only offer two trainings per year with anywhere from eight to fifteen students per training. I want to be there for my students beyond our 200 hours together. I make myself available to answer their questions, to hold space for their vulnerability, and offer advice based on my experience. I want our students to feel supported and seen even after the training is over. With us, you don't disappear into the alumni abyss, you become a valued member of our heart and healing centered community.
About the Author
Nancy Cooke, E-RYT, Trauma Informed Yoga Therapist, Usui Reiki Master, Munay-ki Stewardess, Fire Priestess, and the director of our 200-hour teacher training, brings a decade of experience in yoga for mental/emotional well-being to our yoga & complementary healing students.