BY GOWRISHANKAR HOSAKERE
One of the first things I asked myself when I started Samyama Academy of Yoga was, “What is it that I want to teach?” and “How much fees should I charge the students?” I wanted to find my expression in a wide variety of meanings, as yoga the age-old and oft-misrepresented science is taught in various schools today.
First Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)
My first reference was from the school where I received my teacher training certification. I did my 200-hour YTT at Rishikesh and had researched several schools before joining the YTT program in Dayananda Ashram on the banks of the Ganges. I felt two things; the fee was high and the certification was liberal. It was clear that there was a demand from foreigners who wanted to learn yoga and get a certificate. I noticed that schools that offer TT programs, list their programs & schedule, call for enrollments, offer early-bird discounts, and also charged a fair bit for certification. I also noticed that schools offered differential fees for Indian and foreign students. Foreign students paid much more than their India counterparts.
The KPJAYI experience
Later, I went to study at KPJAYI. I noticed that KPJAYI does not comply with the norm of the ‘time-bound certification process’. As the flag bearer institute of the Ashtanga Yoga lineage in India, the TT was clearly separate and not part of the standard teaching. A student needs to dedicate to the practice first and demonstrate resolve and perseverance before approaching a certification. At some point in the students’ practice, years after starting, the teacher would deem that the student was ready to teach. While I am not aware of the fee process for certification at KPJAYI, I felt this provided me with some of the answers I was looking for. I had always felt it was not appropriate to give out certificates to students who couldn’t do even basic asanas well. The fact that KPJAYI had a working model for this was a big learning for me.
Learning to Meditate
During my next study break, I decided to focus on meditation. I had started to meditate in 2006 and have been a regular meditator since. The personally challenging year 2011-12, was spent in meditation. I booked myself for Vipassana Meditation (as taught by S.N.Goenka), as being in silence for 11 days felt like the right thing to do. Also, I have always been drawn to Buddha’s teachings. What followed was life-changing. The method of teaching and the importance of practice was enlightening. Vipassana is taught without discrimination on nationality/religion/gender. To receive a certification, and to become a Vipassana teacher is a deeply involved process, requiring several years of dedicated practice. Vipassana works on a ‘pay it forward’ philosophy. Students can pay any amount they feel they want to, to help the teaching continue to students that follow.
Incorporating the lessons
My journey in my own school followed the outline above. I started my school by charging similarly to what schools in Rishikesh would charge for certification programs. I charged differently for Indians and foreigners. I was not at peace with this decision. Yet, I pursued, in the solace that I was doing what was already accepted to several people. When I came back from studies at KPJAYI, I stopped offering teacher training, which completely dried up my revenues. However, I still charged more for foreigners than Indians. I was not sure if I wanted to change that, though it bothered me. I wasn’t ready to do what I felt was right. When I returned from Vipassana, everything changed. I felt more strength and peace and wanted to do only those things that gave me peace of mind at large. I felt it was wrong to charge differently for foreigners and Indians. In fact, several foreigners travel long distances and spend quite a bit of money just on just travel and accommodation.
The downside of a fair decision
Of course, the downside of merit-oriented certification is that as a teacher you cannot guarantee to certify anyone until you have spent several months observing their practice. Students do feel that they do not want to spend time in a place that does not guarantee certification. The downside of charging non-discriminatory fees for foreign students is that foreigners can tend to view the teaching as not-up to the mark, as they live in societies where they interact in predominantly commercial frameworks of demand-supply pricing and profiteering. I have had several foreigners ask me why I would charge so less, given that other schools charge much more. I have not been able to answer that question satisfactorily.
Teaching the timeless wisdom
Personally, I feel the whole teaching of yoga and meditation is to deepen the individual’s desire to turn inward. Given its nature, the teaching of yoga and meditation should be non-discriminatory and be very demanding on a students’ commitment to study. The teaching starts with the body but is really about the mind, the ego, and the wisdom required to go beyond leading life simply based on existing engrams. The whole message of the teaching of spirituality is “Attha hi atthano natho” – that “you are your own master”. Irrespective of the times, the teaching is timeless. The introduction of commercial flavours (offers of guaranteed time bound results and discounts) devalues the timelessness of the teachings and wavers the focus of the teacher and the students.
Gowrisha is a yoga teacher and IT professional whose passion is to spread yoga as a lifestyle practice to as many people as he can. He has studied under Shri Sharath Jois at KPJAYI and attended several meditation and yoga programs. He runs a traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Mysore class and led class along with meditation classes at his school, Samyama Academy of Yoga in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. He shares his views on his website. Connect with him via Facebook and Quora