Yoga Teacher- A closer look at a career providing instruction in this ancient healing art.

Allied Health World has explored the history, philosophy, and discipline of yoga to help aspiring yoga teachers gain a better understanding of the nature of this amazing mind-body intervention. Through independent research and interviews with accomplished yoga teachers, some of whom own and operate their own yoga studios, Allied Health World was able to gain a unique perspective on what it takes to pursue a career as a yoga teacher:

What is the job outlook like for yoga instructors?

What is Yoga?

In the west, the vast multi-disciplinary practice of yoga has become synonymous with just one of its many facets: Physical yoga, known as Hatha yoga. Yoga actually encompasses several disciplinary paths, all of which inter-correlate and come together in a way that makes the whole apparent within each of its several parts. Jnana Yoga, the discipline of acquiring knowledge, Raja Yoga,

Consider the level of knowledge required to master the virtually limitless array of exercises within Hatha Yoga, or the meditative nature of this art. Look at the amount of work that is involved in achieving the highest states of physical ability, and the level of devotion that this requires. Here we see Jnana, Raja, Bakti, and Karma Yogas all coming together in a beautifully purposeful union to be represented in the practice of physical Hatha Yoga.

It is no coincidence that “union” and “conjunction” are included among the many meanings of the word yoga, which was originally derived from Hindu Sanskrit, but which has also been made a part of Buddhist and Jainist philosophical traditions.

Believed to have originated some 5000 years ago in the Indus Valley, and refined over these millennia by devoted practitioners, Hatha Yoga now belongs to everybody. Those interested in knowing what it takes to become a yoga teacher will be happy to learn that it is no longer a discipline reserved only for the ancient sages and yogis of India. The practice of Yoga has been brought into the mainstream and is now a foundational element of the global fitness industry. Yoga studios are a common fixture in many progressive neighborhoods; offering instructional classes to anybody interested in this proven form of exercise that seeks to perfectly unify the mind and body. Health clubs and fitness facilities of all kinds offer yoga classes, and have helped make this ancient art of physical fitness universally accessible. Yoga was one of the pivotal physical disciplines in helping Joseph Pilates, father of the Pilates method, develop his unique form of exercise, known for it’s inclusion and hybridization of ancient and contemporary schools of exercise.

Yoga is one of those beautifully timeless creations of mankind that continues to evolve along with humanity to be and as relevant now as it ever has been. What was once a discipline centered on the attainment of spiritual enlightenment and taught only by the most accomplished East Indian Asiatic yogis, is now a graceful and elegant form of exercise open to all and considered by many contemporary fitness gurus to be the most complete and effective form of preventative health maintenance in the world. Although Yoga will forever have its roots in the world’s oldest cultures, it has left its mark on the modern world and will forever be a mainstay within contemporary fitness and preventative health communities.

What are some of the physical benefits of yoga?

Yoga is known widely for its fully holistic benefits; both physiological and psychological. Through practicing yoga, the muscular, skeletal, and fascia systems of connective tissues throughout the body become stronger, more limber, and more flexible. Yoga promotes the health and proper function of the respiratory, circulatory, hormonal, nervous, metabolic and digestive systems, while increasing the efficiency of the cardiovascular system.

Yoga teachers have offered instruction to athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, as they recognize its ability to increase stamina, range of motion in the joints, aerobic capacity, while reducing reaction time. Dancers and performers of all kinds are drawn to yoga for its ability to improve, and indeed maximize, coordination, dexterity, balance, fluidity of movement, and muscle control.

What are some of the psychological benefits of practicing yoga?

The distance between physical and psychological health is shrinking as it becomes clearer how the body’s chemical endocrine systems can have a direct and quantifiable impact on a person’s disposition, mood, and general outlook. The body and mind are rarely considered as completely independent of one another. Even the most conventional of allopathic health practitioners now realize that psychological and emotional health can be improved through regular exercise and good physical health.

So imagine how yoga teachers, who have understood this connection for millennia, can work with individuals to bring these tremendous benefits to the psyche as well as the body. Not only have the practitioners of yoga been aware of how closely physical, emotional, and psychological health are interrelated, yoga teachers have actually created and refined a discipline with the deliberate intent of addressing these closely related aspects of the human condition. In this way yoga teachers have pioneered a form of psycho-physical exercise that is about achieving balance and control at every level: physical, emotional, and psychological.

The correlation between physical, emotional, and psychological health in the practice of yoga are not vague and enigmatic notions. The very practice of yoga calls upon those who practice it to quite literally exercise the mind by bringing an intense level of focused concentration to each movement, posture, and pose. These poses are called “asanas” in the parlance of yoga’s Hindu origin. When performing yoga, the consciousness is brought to bear on the body itself such that the practitioner becomes intensely aware of her or his physical self, and then by extension other aspects of the self come into focus. This allows for a unique level of concentrated and almost meditative introspection. Those who have pursued yoga teacher careers practice the art daily and often describe how the demanding mental exercise, coupled with the intensity of the physical exercise, can lead to a heightened state of awareness that remains with them throughout the day. Comparative studies and clinical trials conducted by a number of independent health research groups reveal how regimented mental exercise of this kind improves concentration, memory, and cognitive ability while at the same time reduces or eliminates anxiety, depression, and hostility in those who practice it.

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