Yogis in the Dark

One of my favourite teachers, Diane Bruni, recently posted an article titled “Tolerating Uncertainty — The Next Medical Revolution?” from the New England Journal of Medicine. At it’s core, it encourages the medical community to find a competence within the “grey-scale space” of uncertainty. It acknowledges the stress and escalating costs of demanding clear-cut knowledge where iterative learning is required first. It suggests that, when helping people, the helper needs to develop a capacity to be vulnerable, to not know all the answers, and still hold a safe space for patients.

There’s an interesting parallel to all spaces that encourage and support health, including yoga. Medical and fitness narratives have influenced yoga’s way of understanding itself, especially in cultures where yoga has become almost exclusively a physical practice focused on the body, health, healing, and fitness. Yoga teachers have become unlicensed points of reference for people to understand “what’s happening” with their bodies, from injuries to stress to how bodies “should” and “shouldn’t” move.

Shining the Light on Yoga

I believe this is a necessary step in yoga’s evolution, having teachers who want to learn more about the details and breakdown of bodies in motion. Teachers of modern physical yoga need a solid understanding of the human form, and to move beyond calcified reverence for Original Teachers whose teachings were based in mystic, intuitive, regimented, unquestioned and often poorly-informed perspectives. That doesn’t mean there isn’t valuable insight in these historical teachings, but they fail us often in our modern physical yoga practices. Good teachers are acknowledging this and extending their learning beyond Iyengar, the Primary Series for All, or the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. We’re reading up on anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics. We’re getting interested in the science as well as the art and joy of yoga.

Standing in the Grey Gap of Uncertainty

The challenge I see now, especially as a yoga teacher trainer, is that yogis and yoga teachers are seeking – and trusting – this knowledge haphazardly. For many, this is part of the delight of the yoga journey: the personal exploration, the insight, and the freedom to discover organically. In one’s personal practice, this can be a sacred, healing, and pleasurable process. As teachers, what I often see is a disconnect between process and delivery. Teachers randomly explore an article here, a video there, a workshop or two, and then present their learning as evidence-based advice to their students. How many times have you been in a yoga class where the teacher offers an instruction or information as fact: “You should” or “It’s wrong to” or “Actually …”

I’ve done it. God, I’ve done this a LOT. It was kind of a first stage of translating my learning into my teaching. I was so excited to share new information that was changing my own practice that I didn’t recognize how often I was talking about ‘some stuff I read / tried’ as though it were time-tested, evidence-based truth. I’ve been unlearning that habit, and getting curious about how to “teach” yoga without it.

How do we share the new knowledge we’re acquiring? How do we teach others without misrepresenting our expertise (or lack thereof)?

As rebel yoga scholar and think-geek Matthew Remski has pointed out, there is no defined scope of practice in yoga. There is no panel or board, no peer reviews, no central knowledge base, no objective perspective to create a check-and-balance to our exploration with yoga. When it comes to the joy of expanding creativity, personal learning, or just enjoying stretching in a yoga class, no worries! But increasingly, people are coming to yoga on the recommendation of their doctor, and are getting medical-sounding advice from teachers that hasn’t been vetted in any reliable way (and if you think the Yoga Alliance does this, THINK AGAIN). In other words, there are no clear boundaries or guidelines on how to share knowledge. Because we don’t clearly define what we know/believe and don’t know/believe, and what we do and don’t do as yoga teachers, we’re always in the “grey-scale space”.

So what’s a yoga teacher to do? What happens when teaching the same postures gets old, when people have new questions, when the practice you love seems to be outgrowing you, when the pains emerging from dedication to a practice begin to overgrow the original passion for it? Remski said something in an article in Yoga International recently; I think we can safely extend its application here:

I think you broaden your definition of yoga. Language is like movement. It opens pathways, but soon it loses its shine: It becomes rote, liturgical, staged, performative. The greatest poetry in the world ends up getting rattled off by bored priests paid to be bureaucrats instead of artists. Repetitive movement is the same: What begins as joy becomes bound into ritual and then boiled down into social control. You get a lot of bloody feet in pointe shoes, and busted shoulders from endless sun salutes. All because people think the form is more important than your life.

I think we break free of rote repetition, including the desire to repeat our own new learning to reinforce our own expertise. I think we stop trying to enforce anything. I think we go (back) to uncertainty. We get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” We get better at asking questions instead of firing off ill- or uninformed opinions as answers. We stop trying to pretend to be the kind of professional we’re not. If medical doctors with all of their training need to exercise this new muscle, how much more so do we as yoga teachers?

More Questions than Answers, Please

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson in Waterloo Kitchener Toronto

The moment we free ourselves to say, “I don’t know” we release ourselves from requirements that are beyond our skill set. We can re-frame what we learn as story, rather than fact: We can, as Remski suggests, change our language. We “broaden our definition of yoga” TOGETHER, through exploration and curiosity.

We can replace truthiness and anxiety about having to have answers with sharing information about our own learning journey: “I’ve become curious about this latest research which says …”

We can soften our hard-line perspectives by realizing that experience is not the same as objective fact: “I can’t say what this will be for you. When I went through it, here’s what I found …” or “I have no proof of what god is. Here’s what I believe …”

We can place our learning in context: “It used to be that yoga teachers would say, ‘Soften your glutes’. We’re not sure where that cue came from but we all taught it. Well, now we’re learning from other movement practices that this isn’t a great cue.”

We can embrace the vulnerability of uncertainty: “I didn’t know this until recently, and it’s been a really helpful change in my own practice. Let’s try this new approach and see if it feels better in your body.”

We can re-discover the freedom of questions and suggestions instead of having to be right: “What movements create your pain?” “I’m not a medical professional so I’d defer to what they tell you, but I can suggest trying this: Take Pigeon Pose and deep lunging out of your practice for a few weeks and see if your pain goes away.” “What do YOU think god is?”

The Next Generation of Uncertain, Confident Teachers

When I train yoga teachers, I don’t teach what postures to do; instead, we explore WHAT POSTURES DO. It’s often frustrating for these eager learners at first because they feel like they’ve paid me to give them answers. But I’m not a Buzzfeed teacher, with a refreshed page of the Top 22 Ways to Teach Yoga Better Than Anyone. I’m a guide. I don’t tell them where to go; we walk and I help them avoid pitfalls or cliffs, or getting hopelessly lost while they explore. We review what yoga has been – the postures, the Sutras, the history of teachers and students. We pare their practices down to the bare minimum and I bring in experts like back biomechanics professor Dr. Stuart McGill to give information in their areas of expertise, so they have new and old tools for (re)building their *personal* practices.

And we get really good at asking better questions: Why are you taking this shape? What’s the purpose of this pose? Can you change this posture in these ways and still get what you wanted from it? What does it mean to “be more free” and how can you find more freedom in each asana? How do you actually balance strength and ease? How do you empower people to move themselves? What does it mean to “open” your hips, and do you actually want to do that?

And there’s a delightful paradox in the outcome: Teachers emerge from this training full of both questions and  CONFIDENCE. They’re relaxed. They enjoy their practices. There’s no pressure to know it all, to measure up to some external standard of How Yoga Is Done and Taught. They’ve developed a comfort in the grey area of not knowing – where they explore, change direction, learn, stay curious, and create safe spaces for others to do the same.

I hope this is the future of yoga.

Want to know more about Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training? GO HERE.

Exploring New Passions and Paths: Siobhan B

Yoga is amazing to me because it gives people the opportunity to listen to both the body and heart.

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training scholarships help winners on their journey to becoming yoga teachers. This year two bright lights will be $500 closer to their big dream! Meet one of our 2017 scholarship winners, Siobhan B:

Siobhan B

I am overjoyed that I won the Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training scholarship!

About 4 years ago, after I lost someone close to me, I decided that deepening my yoga practice and taking this yoga teacher training course was important for my own self-growth. As a student and mom to a little person, it took 4 years to finally decide that I needed to just make this time for me (take a plunge!), and following my instinct led me to Asia and Pranalife Yoga

The student-mom life often means some pretty creative budget juggling, so this opportunity truly allows me to follow a personal dream I’ve had for years. I could not be more excited or grateful.


We’re SO pumped to have you be part of the 2017 Pranalife YTT, Siobhan, and look forward to being an integral part of your yoga journey. Congrats!!

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training: Live it, give it.

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson go here


Our scholarships are closed for the 2017 year. Sign up for our email and be the first to hear when they open again in 2018:

Yoga Thoughts, Classes, and Teacher Training news, in your inbox: get it!


Changing Paths, Changing Lives: Caroline Dutka

I want to work towards a new personal goal of becoming a yoga teacher, so that I can help other people in the same way that my yoga teachers have helped me.

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training scholarships help winners on their journey to becoming yoga teachers. This year two bright lights will be $500 closer to their big dream! Meet one of our 2017 scholarship winners, Caroline Dutka:

Caroline Dutka

I am incredibly thrilled to be completing my yoga teacher training with Pranalife in 2017.

Last year, after much self-reflection and learning to be honest with myself about what I want out of life, I decided to quit a career path that I had been working towards for many years — that of being a professor. It was a challenging year for me, both personally and professionally. Often, the only thing that would brighten my day during this difficult time was yoga.

After just a few months of practicing yoga, I started to fantasize about becoming a yoga teacher.  “How wonderful that would be,” I thought. But also, “How impossible that would be for me to attain.”

Slowly, I started to take steps towards clearing the grey out of my life. Embraced by the love of my family, I eventually felt confident enough to explore new career paths that made me feel enriched, even happy.

I began working at Nutrition for Learning — a local non-profit that funds student nutrition programs (snack programs, breakfast clubs) in Waterloo Region; ensuring that no student goes to school hungry. I also started volunteering with the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre and the SHORE Centre (formerly Planned Parenthood K-W), which is a wonderful organization that provides free, non-judgmental information, counselling, and educational services on the subject of sexual health and family planning. I know first-hand how yoga can be a powerful stress reliever and I can only imagine how stressed individuals must be as refugees and as newcomers to Canada, or if they are facing the challenges of pregnancy or termination. As a yoga teacher, I clearly see how yoga could be a core part of how I can help.

I know that Pranalife will help me gain the skills that will make me an excellent teacher. A scholarship for my Pranalife YTT would mean so much to me, as it would allow me to make my first $500 investment towards one day — hopefully in the not so distant future! — opening my own studio that also acts as a safe space and community hub.

We’re SO pumped to have you be part of the 2017 Pranalife YTT, Caroline, and look forward to being an integral part of your yoga journey. Congrats!!

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training: Live it, give it.

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson go here


Our scholarships are closed for the 2017 year. Sign up for our email and be the first to hear when they open again in 2018:

Yoga Thoughts, Classes, and Teacher Training news, in your inbox: get it!


or, the ongoing debacle of what the Yoga Alliance ISN’T

Sitting in my inbox this morning was this article from DoYouYoga (DYY) on what to look for in a yoga teacher training. The author seems to have a very sweet and inspiring story. The topic is on point, as a lot of people are looking for yoga teacher training and DYY offers resources for it. Smart biz move. So – great, right?

Except the article did something that drives me (and a lot of other teachers and trainers) crazy: It conflated the marketing site Yoga Alliance with the status valid regulatory and credentialing body in our industry.

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body in yoga. Let me be clear –

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

One more time: The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

It does not set the standards for yoga teacher training in yoga, though it suggests its own guidelines. It does not guarantee compliance to its suggested guidelines (which it confusingly still wants to call “standards”). YOU could literally hand them a few hundred dollars and a made-up list of things you allegedly teach, and they’ll send you back their seal. And no one would ever call to be sure you’re doing what you said you were doing. Because, altogether now:

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

That’s it. Hear it from the former Yoga Alliance CEO himself HERE.

What *is* the Yoga Alliance, then?

Folks, let’s set the record straight (again, and again): The Yoga Alliance (YA) is an American membership-based marketing business. People pay money every year to advertise themselves and their trainings through the YA website. Teacher trainings use the YA site to raise their own profile. Hell, I’ve been Yoga Alliance certified for the past few years in part because it *seemed* as though it was *finally* starting to respond to the yoga community’s demand that it be of some use, and I wanted to support that. To no real avail, I might add. I was ready in the wings to “register” my training … but YA has yet to give me a good reason to do so. Now I basically have my teaching/training hours tracked there (one of the few values I’ve gotten from YA) and am waiting for my last membership cycle to expire.

Don’t get me wrong: I completely support what the Yoga Alliance stands for – and by that I mean what people want the YA to do (which is not what it does). I would love for yoga to be regulated such that trainings had to be certified according to standardized, confirmed requirements in areas of competency in at least anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics and basic clinical ethics. I would love for there to be a governing body to create and uphold a clear scope of practice for the physical practice of yoga, strong definitions of what we do – and what we don’t do – as yoga instructors with people’s bodies.

I would also love there to also be a union-esque governance in the industry that protects yoga teachers with standards that allowed yoga studios to build business models around enforced expectations for labour costs, rather than take poor risks and bank on paying their teachers shit in order to make up the difference (#notallstudios).

And I can appreciate that all of this is contentious and complicated, and met with stress in the yoga community. It’s a big, hairy issue that deserves more time to talk about than I’ve given here.

But let’s pare back down to yoga teacher trainings and how the Yoga Alliance does NOT set credentialing standards for them.

None of this kind of regulation and credentialing is what the Yoga Alliance actually does.

What does being Yoga Alliance Registered mean, then?

That’s a great question. Essentially, if a training is registered with the Yoga Alliance, it means it’s promised to the Yoga Alliance that its training complies with their very general suggestions for how the hours of its yoga teacher training are spent. So, for example, in a 200-hour training, a registered teacher training has told YA that they’ll spend 25 of those hours as such:

Teaching Methodology: 25 Hours

Topics in this category could include, but are not limited to:

  • Communication skills such as group dynamics, time management, and the establishment of priorities and boundaries
  • How to address the specific needs of individuals and special populations, to the degree possible in a group setting
  • Principles of demonstration, observation, assisting and correcting
  • Teaching styles
  • Qualities of a teacher
  • The student learning process
  • Business aspects of teaching yoga* (including marketing and legal)

[and I would like to draw very special attention to this ridiculous “special requirement”:

*Special Requirement: A maximum of five hours related to the business aspects of teaching yoga may be counted towards the Yoga Alliance Contact Hours requirements for this category.

Good luck surviving in the world of yoga teaching with a MAXIMUM of FIVE HOURS spent talking about the business aspects of teaching yoga. If the training you’re considering is really abiding by these guidelines, that’s all you’re getting.]

This is taken directly from the Yoga Alliance website. It isn’t a summary of the guidelines, by the way; these ARE the guidelines for this 25-hour section of a registered 200-hour YTT. That’s it. And that YA registered school simply wrote back to YA and said, “Yup, ok, we’ll do that” to THIS list (see all of the guidelines here), sent in their fee, and got a little sticker that says “Registered Yoga School RYS-200 Yoga Alliance”.

So, to summarize …

Please, do NOT waste your YTT-search time looking for this little symbol:

Yoga Alliance Registered School 200 hours

It means that the school you’re looking at is probably doing its best to gather credibility in a professional space that struggles to clarify what that credibility might be. It might indicate a studio or teacher who’s just as confused as a lot of other people about what YA does and doesn’t do. It may indicate a good training with excellent internal standards – and it may not. It certainly won’t guarantee that those standards are being met in any way.

Because … let’s say it together again (and again):

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

If you want to, go to the Yoga Alliance for what it does do: Get your face/school some visibility through their website. Get a few discounts on yoga clothes or insurance. Sign up for some of their webinars or peruse through their teaching resource videos. There’s some cool stuff in there.

But don’t look to the Yoga Alliance for credentials. That’s not what it does.


J Brown, as usual, has some fascinating things to say on this subject, should you wish to explore it further:

The incendiary initial rant: Yoga Alliance Approved My Ass – J Brown

The follow-up, when we all felt like Giving Yoga Alliance a Chance – J Brown

And the wonderfully straight-forward summary of why that follow-up hasn’t worked: What Now Yoga Alliance? – J Brown


For the record, Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training is an ESDC Certified Institution in Canada, meaning it’s federally recognized by our government as a professionalizing institution with standards that can be checked by a governing body. It’s not a perfect solution, but we’ve made sure we’re at least an actual school and that we provide actual skills in the profession in which you’re signing up to be trained, as defined by federal standards. It also means we can issue T2202A tuition tax receipts for our training – yay for a real benefit!

It’s one of the ways we’ve grown accustomed to interacting, particularly in online spaces: A casual conversation or a post about some interesting tidbit degrades (rather quickly) into aggressive accusations, misunderstandings, agitation, personal attacks, and a generally shitty feeling about the whole encounter. After a decade of social media staining every facet of our (modernized and technologically privileged) lives, we’ve likely all gotten sucked into the mire at some point. Some suffer it more, and more intensely than others – and the overall effect is that we’re left feeling less safe, less happy, less respected … we’re left with a lot LESS.

There aren’t good signs that this situation is improving anytime soon. Political poles repel people into their corners, gender/race/economic/social/religious topics are like dry grass just *waiting* for the hot fire of one incendiary comment to be made or misunderstood. Hell, even in the yoga “community” space, allegedly full of free and loving folk, there are oft-devolving threads dripping with a vitriol that seems downright unnecessary. We’re really not good at being gentle with each other.

It all makes me feel sad … and old. I find myself responding with sentences that start with, “In my day …” Which of course isn’t true. Bullying is actually the oldest human profession, shrouded in some vacuous subconscious mess of craving for parental approval/discipline, a drastically misguided striving for alleged “alpha” status, or perhaps just the basic primal urge to distance ourselves from the weak in the pack by acting like aggressors to signal relative strength. Or none of that, who the fuck knows. What’s clear is that humans have an embarrassingly short fuse when it comes to anger, insecurity, and aggression.

So what’s a yogi to do?

Well, I have no real idea. I haven’t found anyone who does. There are likely better ways of being a good person, but is there an actual “yogic protocol” for how to handle all of this suffering? NOPE. There’s so little consensus on what yoga even is, never mind how to subscribe to it as a system by which to live, I say good luck to anyone who tries to do so in any formal way.

So … what’s a yogi to do?

Here’s what I think (since this is my space to share my thoughts; you’re free to have your own thoughts that you can express in your own space, of course): Anything can be used as a tool to support our greater intention(s). Whether or not what I’m doing is considered (by whom?) to be the “right” (by what standards?) “yogic” approach (what’s that?), is it actually helping me be the person I want to be in the world? I’m tired of trying to do battle in the world of titles and constructed categories intended to calcify organic adaptation. As well, people have used the titles of “yoga” and “yogic” to hurt as well as help, so there’s no magic in the water, y’all. In that vein, I think “what’s a yogi to do?” is the wrong question. Here’s a better one:

What do YOU/I WANT to do?

Behind this question is, I think, an even more piercing and insightful one, from the world’s Jann-Arden-of-life-guides, Danielle LaPorte: How do you/I want to FEEL?

Roll with me for a bit here. I recently became unintentionally embroiled in one of these innocuous-turned-unnecessarily-aggressive online comment thread blatherings. You know the ones: It starts with a posting about some thing, then is followed by people spouting opinions, unearthing a feast of conflict, and then promptly devouring it with fierce rigour. I got caught in the gravity of the comment event horizon and was half a dozen retorts in before I pulled myself back from the adrenaline rush and race for the last word. Two egos duking it out, looking for that conciliatory moment that never NEVER comes, punching the commentary shit out of each other until indeterminate defeat declares the winner to be … exactly no one.

I don’t know what that guy was feeling, but I know I had to consciously detach. I was hurt because the attack was (seemingly purposely?) done in a public thread meant to shame me in front of my peers and elevate (?) this person to a status of “greater know-it-all”. I was confused because the accusations seemed unfounded. I was angry. I wanted vengeance. I wanted to put this guy in his place. I wanted …

WHAT THE ACTUAL F. How did I go from being someone who adores being professionally passionate about freedom from suffering to some yogi Gollum in under a dozen back-and-forths here? My sense of calm and balance was shot, my energy was zapped, and I was feeling deflated. I was failing at being who I wanted to be. Big time.

I went to bed. And I woke up with a jolt at 3:30am. My mind was still chewing that bone, adrenaline still leaking into my body. I felt agitated. I felt like I’d missed an opportunity to be gentle, and had been self-protective instead.

So, I got up and had a glass of water, did a few stretches, and settled back into bed with a different approach: metta.

I laid in bed and sent this dude good vibes. And I felt better.

Who do you/I want to BE?

I don’t know if I’m being a good or bad “yogi”. I don’t even know anymore if I’m allowed to be a yogi, based on everything from where I was (and wasn’t) born, whether my position on forward folding in the mornings (I don’t do it, I don’t teach it) makes me worthy of basic respect from other yogis, right through to my stance (or lack thereof) on Hindu nationalism. I do, however, know what I wanted to do, feel, and be in this situation. Rather than angry, vicious, and vindictive, I wanted to be strong, gentle, and compassionate. I wanted to stop myself from feeling violence towards someone I didn’t know who seemed to mean me harm for no good reason. I wanted to stop feeling unsafe, at the mercy of his actions in an online space where I spend time. I wanted to be the change I was seeking from that encounter.

I set aside as secondary the semantics about labeling, definitions, ownership of titles, critiques, and abstract positions. I just repositioned myself as a person who could be gentle with another person.

What did I lose? Well, the anxiety, tension, and maybe that argument in his eyes. Who gives a righteous F.

What did I gain? Honestly, what I wanted to gain was my own sense of happiness and connection again. It’s tough to be gentle these days. It’s tough to generate a sense of optimism. It’s tough to stay centred amidst the storms of criticism and biting sarcasm, actual horrifying violence and aggression. But that’s who I want to be: gentle, optimistic, and unshakeable. This may be a strange statement from a person who calls herself a yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer, but I don’t care that much about the title of “yogi”. I see yoga as another (rather excellent) set of tools to support our intentions. It’s my intention to be strong, free, gentle, bold, useful, successful … which all really boils down to how I want to FEEL. Every situation can be a tool to feel more free, or to fuel our suffering. I’m not really trying to be a “good yogi”; I’m doing my best to feel more free, to make gentler choices.

Set yourself 10 minutes to be undisturbed. Be comfortable. Turn your attention to your breath without needing to change it in any way; simply watch it flow in and out of you.

Imagine you are sitting across from yourself. Take a moment to look into your own eyes. When you’re ready, say to yourself:

May you be at ease in the world.

May you feel safe and strong.

May you forgive, and be forgiven.

May you love, and be loved.

Rest in that moment. In a few breaths, imagine now that someone you love deeply has sat down across from you, where you yourself just sat. Gaze into her/his eyes and make a connection. When you’re ready, say to this person:

May you be at ease in the world.

May you feel safe and strong.

May you forgive, and be forgiven.

May you love, and be loved.

Enjoy the feeling. In a few breaths more, imagine that someone who casually crosses your path (a teacher, a barista, the cashier at your local grocery) has sat down across from you. Make eye contact and settle into that space. When you’re ready, say to this person:

May you be at ease in the world.

May you feel safe and strong.

May you forgive, and be forgiven.

May you love, and be loved.

Allow the image of that person to leave, and take a few breaths to feel centred again. Now, bring to mind someone who is difficult to love. You don’t have to go for the jugular here; just someone with whom you struggle. Feel as though that person has taken a seat across from you. Look them in the eye. Allow feelings to come and go while you stay rooted in the movement of your breath and the safety of your own space. When you’re ready, say to this person:

May you be at ease in the world.

May you feel safe and strong.

May you forgive, and be forgiven.

May you love, and be loved.

Sit with the thoughts and feelings that come and go for as long as you need. Then, let that person go and return to the movement of your breath. Feel yourself safe, and perhaps repeat the metta practice for yourself again.

Gently inhale, exhale.

Metta meditation with Pranalife Yoga May you be at ease in the world/ may you feel safe and strong; may you forgive and be forgiven; may you love and be loved.

I took a spontaneous trip to Antigua, Guatemala last week and it was this kind of beautiful:

It started with a cool opportunity: My former biz coach Rebecca Tracey and I were chatting when she mentioned that she and a few other women entrepreneurs were getting a villa in Antigua and there was room for one more and did I want to go. Hells yes I want to go. So, I chatted with my partner about the idea (who was, of course, pumped for me to have a cool adventure), got my classes covered, found a cheap flight, packed two bags and then re-packed down to one reasonably-sized bag, and off I went.

It was a working vacation for everyone, spent in cafes with Guatemalan dark roast, brainstorming with smart women making their dream life a real thing, eating the BEST guacamole, and wrapping in the evenings with wine and “la bomba” – the super-hot hot tub in our courtyard – listening to the volcano rumble and swapping our Rogue One personal stories. Lots of laughs and learning and new friendships forged.

There was one key thing I observed during this trip:

The main difference between people who are living their dream and people who aren’t is what each wakes up expecting. Every morning, we all got up and expected that we’d create the life we’d imagined for ourselves, and that it would work. And we did, and it did. That doesn’t mean we weren’t working through challenges, but we were also working to get where we wanted to be.

In yoga we call this kind of practice “vinyasa krama”: Not simply moving, but taking certain steps in a certain way, towards a certain goal. Moving with intention.

Over the years I’ve learned to trust that kind of intention-driven movement. It’s what’s made my life as kickass as it is. It takes vision, trust in one’s self, and the simple (not always easy) commitment to keep moving in the right direction. It works better if it’s responsive rather than rigid: I haven’t always known what my next move would be, and the flow of life is rarely linear, so I’ve learned to stay focused on where I want to end up and to just keep lining up my toes with the end goal.

“To climb a mountain (or a volcano if you’re in Guatemala), aim your feet in it’s direction, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until you arrive.”

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Advanced Instructor Asia Nelson, workshop Diane Bruni Kitchener | Waterloo | Toronto

This past weekend was the (G)rad Party for the 2016 Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) crew and it was a night – a year, really – of celebration and gratitude for the experience of a lifetime. Every year, this training produces great yoga teachers and changes people’s lives, and it’s inspiring as F for me to watch people show up at different stages to seize the opportunities this course creates.

This accomplishment requires the same kind of focus that was evident with my Antigua crew: people committing to the lives they want to create, and then actually creating it.

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training generates success because we do two key things:

  • We study the best skills to succeed as yoga teachers. It’s a good gig; this course makes people great at it.
  • We create a safe space and constant opportunities for people to make the changes they want in their lives.

My approach with this training is rooted in yoga’s philosophy of “Namaste”. Namaste is how you say “hello” or “goodbye” in India, but its origins come from a belief that we are all free, strong, capable beings at our core. When we greet someone with “namaste” we’re saying, “My strong, free self sees your strong, free self.” In this training, I see people as already free, strong, and capable, and my job is to greet them with a space and opportunities to practice living as such.

In other words, I wake up each day expecting that the people in my training will succeed at creating what they’re envisioning, and then we get on doing it. In the process, we develop what BKS Iyengar called a “deep-seated trust in oneself.” That, to me, is true yoga.

About Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training

If you’ve been wanting to explore this kind of growth and change, check out Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).

Lots of people take this training for personal interest. Come to strengthen your yoga practice and study the art of living with more freedom. Give yourself a new way to approach your life.



“I will never forget YTT. It has contributed to massive changes in my life.
You bridged this gap between my regular life to something beyond that.”

~ Kimmi Luu, Pranalife YTT 2010

“Is this real life?! Biggest thank you to Asia … you have pushed me to break free of countless boundaries.
Thank you for being a bad ass yogi.”

~ Sarah Kraatz, Pranalife YTT 2015

“More and more every day I am grateful for the amazing teacher training you provided me.
Completely changed the way I view so much in my life.”

~ Aaron Friesen, Pranalife YTT 2013


This post is about Advanced Yoga Teacher Training, and how Pranalife Yoga ADVANCED Training is different.

I’m gonna get truthful on your ass right now: Being a career yoga instructor can be hard.

When yogis make the leap from finding peace and joy in yoga classes to becoming yoga teachers, it’s an exciting time of growth, change, and learning. Then, when they’re full of Sanskrit and handstands and ready to turn the yoga they love into a career, they dive in with hearts open … and often wind up feeling lost or overwhelmed. It happens to the best of us. Stumbling out of the gate is a part of launching just about any career, really. But it’s a remarkably common experience in our industry to take the leap – and instead of flying, end up flailing.

There are a few reasons for the flailing. Some people may love yoga but not enjoy teaching it (or they didn’t know the truth about being a yoga instructor). That’s fair, and they can go back to being a student with a deeply expanded relationship with yoga. Some people don’t like the idea of “commercializing” yoga (trading money for yoga experiences like classes, workshops, and trainings). That’s also fair, and an unsustainable business model. In that case, to regain happiness they’ll need to teach yoga as a hobby/passion/dharma, not a career. But a lot of times, people just don’t get the knowledge and support they need to be successful in this industry.

Standard 200hr-ish yoga teacher trainings don’t teach you how to launch anything beyond a basic yoga career. And some trainings barely do that. In fact, that oft-misleading advertising site Yoga Alliance (YA) suggests that basic yoga trainings spend “(a) maximum of five hours related to the business aspects of teaching yoga.” That right there is one of many reasons Pranalife Yoga doesn’t bother with YA membership. We assume that you’re getting certified so you can teach yoga; if not, then you’re probably taking training for your own interest so we’re not worried about you – keep on keepin’ on, yogi ;). If you want to teach yoga, thought, then you’ve got to teach yoga … to people … and if you’re not independently wealthy, you’ll probably need to make a few bucks doing so. And if you want to do this as your main gig, you’re gonna need a lot more than five hours of learning about the biz of yoga.

When you make the shift from yoga student to certified/career yoga teacher, you go from 100% of your time spent learning, loving, and maybe even living yoga to up to 80% of your time building “the business aspects of teaching yoga”.  It seems imperative that more than 2.5% of your training be focused on such a major component of your teaching career success.

Now, if you’ve taken Pranalife Yoga BASIC Teacher Training, you’re already ahead of the game. In far more than five hours, you get insider advice from years of experience, you build a solid Yoga Portfolio, and you’re connected with business professionals to support your career success. If you’re happy to teach weekly classes, you’re set to succeed. You’re welcome. 😉

So why take advanced training? The most common reason is, ostensibly, to gather more knowledge. Generally, advanced yoga trainings expand on what’s taught in basic training (or what wasn’t) with more detail and insight. This can be an awesome continuing education. From years of being in the yoga community, I’ve also seen teachers take advanced YTT because they don’t feel confident about their current training, and/or they want more out of their careers than they’re getting.

If you’re teaching weekly yoga classes, your basic training got started and most advanced trainings will give you more material to keep those classes interesting over time.

If you want to do something other than teach weekly classes, or do something totally different with your yoga career, you’re going to need advanced training built specifically to help you succeed.

Teaching weekly yoga classes is awesome. I’ve been doing it for over a decade and I still love it. But there were LOTS of things I wanted to do with the freedom, time, and creative potential of this career, things that really turned it into a long-term, booming career I LOVE. There are SO many creative, bold, interesting, kickass ways you can grow your yoga career. But the truth is, there aren’t a lot of great resources to help you succeed at doing something outside weekly classes or studio ownership.

And that’s why Pranalife Yoga ADVANCED training exists: Because I saw yoga teachers long to create the life they want for themselves, but struggle to make it a reality. I have the experience and I LOVE working on these kinds of projects, so why not work with yogis to help them successfully build their own creative careers?

I didn’t want to put together another box to jam everyone into, though. Each person has a unique vision of what “success” looks like, and I wanted to support making *that* reality. So I designed an advanced training that wasn’t like anything else I’ve seen.

And now it’s available to you:

If you have the passion and hustle to build the life YOU want, and you want to build it with the best support available, then you’ve just hit the jackpot:

Pranalife Yoga’s ADVANCED training gives you the support to do EXACTLY what YOU want to do with your yoga career.

Think of this training as a Yoga Teacher Accelerator Centre: You have the freedom to design YOUR unique career goals. Then, you work towards them with smart strategies and professional support from people who are there to help you succeed.

Because your goals are unique, so is the design of your advanced training. If hitting your goals will take 50 hours, then that’s all you pay for. If you need 300 hours, then that’s exactly what you get. It’s not about an abstract requirement for completion – it’s about YOUR GOALS AND YOUR LIFE.

  • If you’ve got basic training but are feeling stalled out, anxious, and/or uninspired in your current career path,
  • If you want to do something bigger, bolder, or maybe more creative than you’re doing now,
  • If you’re doing it, but don’t want to do it alone,
  • If you know where you want to go, but just aren’t sure how to get there,

Then our ADVANCED training is your next step. Get your ass into this training and start moving in the right direction. BONUS: You don’t even have to get out of your PJs to apply:

Apply for Pranalife Yoga Advanced Certification


So what is the life you’ve imagined? Is being a yoga instructor a good fit for you? That depends on your answer to this one question:

What do you value? …

[Post summary: What’s to love/know about being a yoga instructor; a snapshot of the life of an instructor; how you can make money & how much money yoga instructors make; designing the yoga instructor lifestyle]

Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson

As a full-time yoga instructor for over a decade now, I can tell you my experience: I love my independence. I love to travel. I love constantly learning. I love being able to design and steer my career, the creativity of being an entrepreneur, having two-hour long lunches with friends almost anytime I like, constantly getting to build new courses, classes, workshops and whatever other creative venture I dream up. I love being a part of a community of teachers who want to be better people, and help others do the same. I love that what I do involves laughter, growth, fitness, stress-relief, and making people healthier and freer.

I couldn’t really care less about having a huge house or $800 shoes (though I have been known to indulge in the occasional killer coat). The Joneses’ Chasers and I don’t have much to talk about at any bizarre cocktail party where we might find ourselves thrown together. I haven’t invested in a lot of the things that tend to require a steep financial commitment and long-term consistency (marriages + mortgages + kids + brick-and-mortal businesses + etc.) so I’m able to stay light and mobile, prepare for the rough times and enjoy the good times as they come.

I also have a high tolerance for taking on the risks of running my own business: not having a paycheque show up every two weeks or a Project Manager to set out what I’m working on now and next. I don’t crave or need a regular routine (though I can design my life to have that if I wanted it) and I work well without a boss to make sure I’m on track (when I need an ass-kicking, I hire it or create something that forces me to deliver). I also have a partner who supports and enjoys the benefits of my choices without needing anything different from me.

What about you?

My description of my life might delight or deter you, and that’s based on what you value. Mine is also only one example of how you can design your lifestyle as a yoga instructor. Whatever your goals, you’ve got to get clear on what you value before choosing this – or any – career because it’s going to be how you spend a lot of your time and make your money. Better to go into it with eyes wide open. So let’s get real.

As a Certified Yoga Instructor, you’ll be paid in three ways:

  1. In money. Presuming that you follow a more traditional career initially, expect within your first few years to make about $25-60/class x however many classes you teach, and assume you’l take 2-6 weeks off/year (most yogis do). So,
  • If you teach 8 classes/week at $25/class, you’ll make ~ $10,000/year (and work ~ 10-15 hours/week).
  • If you teach 12 classes/week at $60/class, you’ll make ~ $34,500/year (and work ~ 15-25 hours/week).
  • If you add corporate/private clients at $80-$160/class, you’ll make ~ $50,000/year (and work ~ 25-35 hours/week)

It’s not exactly you rolling up to the curb in your new Ferrari but it ain’t too shabby, and in terms of money earned per time unit ($/hr), you can do pretty well. This also doesn’t take into account what you can make through myriad means like selling products, being an expert in fitness sectors, or creating courses/workshops/retreats/events. If you approach this career as a full-time gig, you can break into six figures. It’s not common, but it’s certainly doable if you’ve got the gusto and discipline.

  1. In time. Here’s where this career can really pay off. Time is a non-renewable resource. Being a yoga teacher gives you the ability to control so much more of how you spend the hours of your days. Even if you’re teaching 12 classes a week, you’re likely working less than 30 hours/week total between marketing, admin, prepping, teaching, biz growth and client management. It’s fairly easy to integrate teaching yoga with other part-time work, take time off when you need/want it, and enjoy a leisurely weekly schedule that affords you more hours to spend doing things you enjoy with people you love.
  2. In experiences. Getting to enjoy your time and money the way you want is the difference between imagining the life you want and actually living it. As a Yoga Instructor, you may not be making the six figures of Bay Street (though you could), but you also won’t be working their hours or harbouring their stress. YOU determine where you work, and with whom. In my decade+ of teaching, I’ve rarely worked with people I didn’t enjoy knowing and when I did, I fired them or left to teach elsewhere. I’m in a small market and I’ve thrived; you can, too. Imagine being able to spend your time with people who inspire you, value you, and give you opportunities to share your gifts. You’ll also have a flexible schedule to write that book, take that trip, hang out with your kids, or hell, just get couch-shaped and watch a boatload of Netflix if you like. It’s up to you – and that’s the point.


Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training with Asia Nelson

Me in Ronda, Spain when I moved there in 2008 for the winter.


Being a Yoga Instructor is a lifestyle choice that offers you simplicity, time and freedom. If you like the idea of having a lot of flexibility and the ability to control your work schedule, to hustle and chill when you want/need it, to travel/study/get the time you want with people you love, and to turn yoga surfing retreats into your new “conventions”, then you’re gonna love this gig.

You’re also gonna need to be self-driven, be able to handle the ups and downs of solo-/entrepreneurship, and know how to get what you want. With Pranalife Yoga, you have a support structure built in and our community of graduated, certified teachers is second to none; still, that push to get’r done has got to come from you. If the mantra, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” resonates with you, you’re very likely exactly where you should be right now. Keep reading.

With Pranalife Yoga training in particular, you’re able to design your lifestyle to include creativity, evolution, and independence. You can change what you teach without having to change your entire career.

Now that you’ve got an idea what being a Yoga Instructor looks like, you can decide whether it’s for you (because not everyone wants this kind of life – seems whack, I know, but it’s true). Whether it’s a part-time supplement or a full-time passion fulfillment, Pranalife Yoga will help you turn your vision into reality.

Ready to apply

Every once in a while I still get this question, so I figured I’ll answer it here for those who are still confused about the Yoga Alliance:


The Yoga Alliance (YA) is an American membership-based advertising site, not an official regulating body in yoga. Yogis can submit their hours to the YA, and training schools can “register” their courses with YA – which means filling out a form on the YA web page with information on one’s teaching experience or training course details, and then paying YA a yearly fee (from $100-$900) to have that info made public on the YA site – but the YA isn’t in any way a legal governing force. It’s “guidelines” for trainings are not enforced, which means you could submit a 500 hr YTT course + your fee, and you’d be approved without any confirmation that you’re actually teaching what you say you are, as long as you *say* you’re teaching according to their guidelines (and as long as you pay your fee, of course).


So why pay the YA? Schools and teachers pay for a membership that gives them access to discounts on (primarily American-based) products and services, a library of YA resources, and allows them to advertise themselves and/or their courses on the YA site with the suggestion from the YA that it may offer some sort of visibility to you and/or your training program.


Historically, when yoga was new to North America, burgeoning teachers and teacher trainers wanted agreed-upon standards for what could be considered legitimate teaching credentials. The Yoga Alliance was borne of that pursuit, but has since redirected its energies to membership perks for yearly fees. As of 2016, yoga is still an unregulated market and has no agreed-upon standards for yoga teaching or training. In the absence of another form of credibility, sometimes you’ll see bodies fall back on the YA’s suggested guidelines to seem legit.


Having been teaching since 2003, I came from that history. I initially registered with the Alliance as an E-RYT 200 teacher. I’ve yet to get a paying client through their site. Each year membership seems less valuable to me, and I’ll likely drop it after this year’s runs out. Their discounts only occasionally apply to Canadians, their resources are decent but it’s reasonably easy to access similar-quality information from workshops, conferences, or teachers’ online resources directly. Most of the teachers and training studios who’ve got an established reputation are following the same path of going Yoga Alliance-fee free.


The confusion about the Yoga Alliance being a “certifying body” is a relic misunderstanding from the days when it was difficult to impossible to get yoga training that carried actual credentials, or to get proper credentials for you own YTT.
Those days are gone.


Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training is HRSDC certified, which means it’s a registered post-secondary educational institute in Canada. It’s recognized federally, is held to educational standards, and you’ll get a T2202A tuition tax receipt from us for your courses. In other words, not a membership: legit credentials.


With legitimate educational credentials available now, you don’t need to fall back on YA for anything anymore, as it’s mostly ignored in the professional yoga community at this point.


Hope that clears things up.