I had originally commented with this statement on the Facebook Ad in question, which would have been private and seen only to those who had expressed interested by clicking on it; that is to whom I was speaking to. But as I discovered a full day later, the comment was deleted and I was blocked from commenting on Soul & Yoga’s page as well as blocked by Nicole Dechow. There were no messages from her, so while I do not like assuming, her actions lean toward typical behaviour of non-addresal and cover ups. In short deception, falsities and lack of personal responsibility or care.
This is why I am sharing this in a larger forum because rather than addressing what I was bringing up, which quite well would have been a great conversation for the prospects to learn from, and display her belief in her program’s quality, any truth and integrity was buried yet again. This is the only way I can reach her and any future prospect trainees.
Shadows hide some of our darkest secrets, and often we hide in the shadows to avoid them. The only way to dispel the darkness of ignorance and deceit though, is to turn on the light and speak your heart and truth about self. I share this with great care and consideration and as one who believes fully in becoming better by embracing the whole, not just the easy, and that we have a responsibility to protect those who do not know better. It is, what any parent would do for their child, over and over again. And as a teacher, in many ways, we have many child to care for.
I aim to address an actively selling yoga teacher training that I have first hand experience with, its facilitator, and anyone who has ever considered become a yoga teacher.
May this share spark productive, progressive, and thoughtful conversation. May it bring us closer, and may we remember, we get nowhere if we demonise someone so badly that they can not grow from this. That is not our purpose here.
If commenting, please respond with as much care, if not more, than that which I have taken to write this.
This, is my testimonial and recommendation.
An Honest Review
As I sit here and work on advanced training material for yoga teachers who feel like they have not been adequately trained, it is saddening to see the advertisement for Soul & Yoga’s teacher training pop up onto my feed again, and a tad ironic. It is a gentle reminder that keeps getting louder.
I share this not only for the awareness of the prospects that have commented and expressed interest in this training, but for anyone else considering to do one themselves. I hope my awareness and experience in an ever expanding industry can add wisdom and perspective so that you can make an educated choice and avoid all too common pitfalls.
In 2016 I co-led a training in Goa with Nicole Dechow of Soul & Yoga on good faith. Having never worked formally with her before, but having a lot of trust that we were both showing up for the right reasons, we seemed to be of the same mindset and philosophy and had complimentary strengths.
Sadly, what I showed up to was far from that, and one of the most bizarre working situations I’ve ever encountered ensued. In short, I discovered that students had not been trained to, or would be in time, to a level sufficient enough to actually be worthy of a 200 hr certification, by the most basic of standards, and certainly that of Yoga Alliance to which the school is registered under and promotes. ( We in the industry all know that doesn’t stand for much, but none the less, those who do not, think its a seal of quality.)
What followed was something I have kept very private for the last two years in hopes that someone who has a growing influence in the Hamburg yoga community, would heed my strong words of advice and take responsible action, as well as the words and grievances of the trainees that year, and subsequently all the years past as I later found out. That they would in turn take the constructive feedback and disappointment as motivation to improve and grow, out of responsibility and sincerity.
As a dedicated teacher, guide, and humble servant of the path of yoga and the beautiful Science of Yoga, it genuinely broke my heart to experience someone knowingly sell, and continue to sell, something that would give trainees a false sense of adequacy with skills and knowledge. And that trainees would only find out how poorly they had been trained when they showed up to try and land a job teaching, or worse, embarrass themselves or even worse yet, hurt someone.
Because of this, I tried several times over the year that followed to communicate with Nicole and settle our own financial disagreement for non-payment, and express genuinely out of care that if not willing to improve her offering, at best, her program was a yoga immersion and that capitalising on selling it as training was reckless and irresponsible. Her response was to cut all communication with anyone who had taken or been involved in the training that year, as if nothing had occurred. Because of that, I wasn’t privy to whether or not she had taken the advice, but it is also why I stayed quiet. People deserve to have a chance to improve and grow, no one is perfect, and we can all have a rough year. And improving tends to be easier if they didn’t have scandal following them. In fact, I held off on more serious legal action in regards to payment with hopes that things could be settled quietly, fairly, and amicably, and that she would have the space to consider the feedback and regroup with care.
Two years later, it saddened me to hear that despite all of this and the outcry of the students that year, nothing has changed, and trusting, eager, and hopeful trainees continue to buy into a program with someone they like and or feel connected with; and more importantly, that they believe feels the same about them. To learn that these trainees will continue to fall short of basic requirements, skills, and knowledge of anyone claiming a 200 hour certification.
To put it in perspective, when co-leading the training with Nicole, her final examination consisted of 9 basic questions, and as a practicum, students needed only to be able to verbally teach one asana pose. That’s it to be signed off in proficiency by Soul&Yoga as a 200 hour yoga teacher.
In contrast, my standard training consists of about 120 fill in the blank questions and the ability to self creative and fully teach a 75 minute class, amongst other regularly tested skills. That year, I amended the testing to be approximately 60 questions and had students all be able to create and teach a full 60 minute class. I simply did not have enough time to teach them everything solo, but we all committed to an extreme bootcamp training to make sure we got in as much as humanly possible with the remaining time. Words can not express my pride and admiration for these women who were determined to truly learn and work hard endlessly, given the constraints. Notably, I had to grade the tests solo as Nicole was unable to help due to not knowing the answers. The test was mainly basic yoga knowledge questions that all teachers should know.
Ignorance is the veil that keeps us blind and only when faced with truth, can people see things for what they are clearly. This is the case with so many trainees not just who have gone through Soul and Yoga’s programs, but all of the half-baked programs that flood the yoga world today. It is a serious problem, and it does much damage to an already flooded market and yet it continues, unchecked.
I always felt it was my responsibility now that I knew first hand about her program, to protect the future potentials that would sign up, but at the same time, I struggled with being truthful and open, and not coming off as bashing or damaging as some people might inevitably conclude as I am newer in the community. And frankly, I also just hate drama and gossip with a passion.
But as these ads still roll by advertising for things you will not get like ‘helping you achieve your best self’, or ‘highest level of training’, I am faced with the fact that a student of mine who specifically asked me about Nicole and the training last year, slipped through the cracks and joined it because I never just told them my experience for the reasons mentioned above. I realise, I myself had done just as much harm.
I’m allowing the veil of Maya to continue by not having had taken stronger action and more of a vocal tone to curb a program that I know devalues the humble and sacred process, and it is a disservice to all that show up to become teachers. And for two years it has been eating at me.
My responsibility is now to all who have clicked on this ad in eager hopes of being a teacher and receiving all that is advertised, to tell you that no, in fact you will not get these things, not even close, but you will believe that you have until you find out differently. But that will be long past your completion and payment.
You will surely have a wonderful time with light and relaxing energy, great photos shoots, loads of pretty social media posts, and great friendships and bonds built as Nicole is talented in attracting people and making them feel good with surface interactions. In fact, I encouraged her to continue expanding on these things because the world needs feel good, and she’s good at it, but the world doesn’t need more poorly trained teachers and superficial interactions.
If you are really wanting to learn more in-depth of the gift of the Science of Yoga or even an intelligent and well structured program to arm with you the skills, knowledge, practice, and confidence to become an actual teacher, without a shadow of a doubt, please cross this training off your list and let that be known to anyone else looking for the same things. Save your time and money and start looking for someone who can genuinely provide that.
Every year students come an ask me when will I do another training, or if I’m not, is there someone who I would recommend. Every time, I tell them to really know what they want to gain from it, and if it is to teach, to know the person you are going to be learning from inside and out. Sit with them, take classes with them, see what they are about, their foundation, their practice, their integrity, their skills in actually teaching, because they will be your lineage and that is not something you just pick without care because the training is cheap, it looks fun, they have a good social media, or the timing just works and the training is quick because you just want to hurry and teach.
I am stubborn and I have pride, and I’m not someone who just blindly follows. I discern like a mofo till I know thats what I want to invest in. Two years ago while in Mumbai airport with the group I was on pilgrimage with, I saw a man in the distance that looked oddly like my first teacher who trained me, Yogacharya Lalit Kumar, but I thought that couldn’t be him. What are the odds? Its been over 6 years by then since I had last seen him in person.
And as the man walked closer it suddenly hit me, and then him, that we actually were standing face to face after all of this time. I don’t know what came over me, and even as I write this, my eyes are filled with tears and my throat thick with emotion, but right there in the middle of the crowded airport and my peers, I dropped to the floor, and touched my head to his feet and utter gratitude and love, much to his embarrassment and laughter. But it was so real, the love and appreciation, it made me cry continually in the middle of the airport being in front of him and realising how much has transpired since I first showed up in India so green and him, busting my balls, pushing me, because he saw something in me that I didn’t.
I was so filled with gratitude because in that moment, all those years and everything that happened since then flooded through me like a movie and I realised that so much of what I was able to grow into was directly because of the loving, tough, and integrity filled training that gave me. He armed me to be a teacher, and more importantly a humble and eager student. And he instilled the importance, responsibility, and humility for the Science of Yoga in me, and it forever changed the course of my life and gave me the strong foundation from where I teach and further pass that wisdom onto any student that crosses my path. I was so damn lucky that someone cared that much and that that, was my foundation.
I live by that, and I mostly likely will die by that, and if you’ve ever worked with me, taken class, traveled with, whatever, it is my centre, core and weighed responsibility to share that to the best of my abilities, and I do hope that it has come through. I hope that it has sparked your interest and touched your heart that yoga, and the science, is so much more than a bunch of poses or pretty instagram photos and quotes. That you can FEEL it is a way of being and it is a massive gift to navigate this tricky world, and that that, has inspired you to look deeper and ask more.
I hope that by sharing this, I have given you, a possible new trainee, something to think about and to weigh out when deciding how and with whom you’d like to learn how to teach from, or merely practice with. As a community I hope we discern more and weed out programs that fall short or thats main goals are financial and self-promotional gain as the sacrifice of the important stuff. Thats not saying that every training should be exactly the same, or that one way is best, but agreeing that there should be some passible moderate skills in place if you are in charge of vulnerable mind, bodies, and spirits.
I hope that we can talk about what actually makes adequate trainings and what we as a community can do to support existing teachers to either expand on their knowledge and teaching, or elevate true teachers who live the path and have much to offer, but might not have the skills or care for self promotion via social media. And I hope, through sharing this that we can start asking each other to function from a place of higher integrity, and support each other in that process as we all grower to better versions of self.
Yoga is an invaluable gift, and it has the potential for great power. And as Winston Churchill said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’
Please students, choose only those who are willing to shoulder that great responsibility with genuine love, care, and honesty.
I wish you well on our journey, and if our paths may cross, I hope that we can help each other to make it a bit brighter.