EDMONTON – Once upon a time yoga in Edmonton was safe for almost anyone, says instructor Angie Ackerman of Breathe Yoga. Then in 2007 it became a crazy workout fad.
â€œEveryone wanted to try yoga and/or become a teacher,â€� she says. â€œA two-year training program became a four-week training program, and a handful of studios became more than 65.â€� (The standard of the Yoga Association of Alberta is still 300 hours of training the first year and apprenticing with a senior teacher the second year.)
â€œYoga has huge benefits; it really is for any body, or should be for any body,â€� especially with our aging population and concern about health, says Ackerman, a certified yogi for 17 years.
But her observations in dropping by various yoga studios and taking in various classes regularly have led her to a disturbing conclusion. Ackerman finds it â€œa struggleâ€� to find a safe class, meaning a good instructor.
Sheâ€™s met instructors who took one yoga class and loved it so much they immediately signed up for training and a month later are teaching yoga.
â€œI also have met so many people who say, â€˜I tried yoga once and I got hurtâ€™ or â€˜Iâ€™m scared because of it,â€™ or â€˜I am not that flexible.â€™ I do believe there is a yoga style and teacher for everyone; however, that has been lost since yoga became a fad and big business. It is very disheartening for someone who loves yoga.â€�
Ackerman explains she visits other studios and classes because she likes to know whatâ€™s going on in the yoga community â€” something that is part of the standards of the Yoga Association of Alberta. â€œI believe we need to practise what we preach.â€�
Over the last few years, Ackerman has been finding teachers who arenâ€™t instructing.
â€œTheyâ€™re not telling people how to come into poses, they donâ€™t ask new students if they have practised yoga before, if they have any injuries or health concerns. Often times they donâ€™t introduce themselves or even open their eyes â€¦ thatâ€™s all part of our job as a yoga instructor.â€�
When students are treated like just a body in a class there is no connection between student and teacher, Ackerman says.
â€œWith connection comes safety. You need to know who youâ€™re teaching. If somebodyâ€™s skill level isnâ€™t appropriate for the class youâ€™ve created, you have to modify that so that every person can participate in some way. It should be multi-level; it should be accessible to anybody dropping into that class.â€�
Beginners first should be taught the yoga basics: how to sit, how to stand, how to do a back-bend, a forward bend, a side bend, how to breathe.
â€œAll poses come from there; itâ€™s the entry way,â€� Ackerman says. â€œYoga is not a spectator sport. Youâ€™re not supposed to have to look at your neighbour to see whatâ€™s going on or to try to figure things out.â€�
To find a good yoga teacher, she suggests starting your research with family, friends or coworkers who do yoga and could recommend someone.
The Yoga Association of Alberta can also help you find a teacher.
Here are key things to watch for at your first class:
Does the teacher acknowledge your presence before class?