There Is A Difference Between Information And Insight

waiterThis seems to be a mash up two cranky posts- one about what little it takes to become a yoga teacher, and two, what it means to use what little was learned in yoga teacher training. I used to start all of my teacher trainings by saying that if you aren’t born to be a teacher I can’t make you one. I still think that is true. The ability to share what you know is not easy to cultivate. I have never been one for making plans and I happened upon a career as a yoga teacher in the most happenstance way.  And then I didn’t decide to take it seriously for quite a while.

It is easy to learn stuff. Anyone can fill their brain with loads of information but the chasm between information and insight is often vast. Depending on your profession you have studied something and learned a whole lot about a given subject. In the case of a yoga teacher, unfortunately, you don’t have to learn too much. The 200 hours that comprise a basic yoga certification is precious little by way of education, and there is no requirement for continuing Ed. Of the 200 hour requirement only 5% of that is anatomy. Which isn’t to say that all teacher trainings are bad—it is just easy, maybe too easy, to become a yoga teacher?

Way back when I waited tables on and off for about fifteen years. I made a good living as a waiter and used it as a means to an end to make artwork- the money and the hours couldn’t have been better. I lied my way onto the floor for my first shift at the Sheep head Bay Jewish Center and at the end of the night the captain asked the obvious, “You’ve never done this before have you?” I acknowledged my guilt sheepishly and he told me to come back the next day.

I turned into a good waiter–strong, fast and competent- you only had to tell me something once for me to get it right. I mostly worked in hotels and had never met anyone who took waitering seriously. I was living in Boston with other wannabe artists, all fighting vainly against the realization that being a successful artist is a long shot when I met Josef from Czechoslovakia who had gone to school for four years in order to become a waiter. Huh, what, a waiter with pride? Josef was a thing of the beauty. Knowledge and passion combined to create a tour de force in a tuxedo with very little patience for the qualities of the American workforce. He was a thing of beauty to watch and I learned so much from him. But I never grew to care about food service. It remained a job that I couldn’t wait to quit.

Enter yoga. I began teaching with little more knowledge about yoga than I knew about food service so long ago. People would look at me and ask me what to do about the nagging pain in their wrist. I would look at them like they were an alien and parrot “modify”, to anyone who asked.

Like I wrote at the beginning— anyone can learn stuff but the search to turn information into insight might remain elusive. The difference between ingesting information and repeating it or deepening it is vast and uncrossable for all but a few. I’m not saying that all yoga teachers treat their job the way I treated waitering but sometimes I wonder. There are plenty of people bringing lovely personalities to the yoga room and there is plenty to be said for that but bringing insight is the name of the game and easier said than done. I would also hazard that the general lack of rigor academically, anatomically and psychologically, does not serve the practice of yoga in America.