With yoga teacher training becoming so widely available, it seems like every other person you meet has finished their 200 hour certification. What’s more, you might have noticed: that accomplishment doesn’t necessarily make them an incredible teacher. In the same way, having a great cookbook doesn’t necessarily make someone a five-star chef. So how can you differentiate between someone who has completed their yoga teacher training and a true, authentic teacher? We spoke with Doron Hanoch of Doron Yoga & Zen Center to find out.
Doron has been a photographer and chef to the affluent city folk, then taught for many years before opening a retreat center on the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Starting up a center was a calling to share a deeper experience with his students. Not a class that comes and goes, but a transformative experience of a complete yoga lifestyle.
“Honestly sometimes I feel like it’s not really my choice,” Doron reflected. “Even when I was a photographer in New York city and had my own studio as an artist and a fashion photographer, there was always a calling inside to do something else. I felt like no matter what I was doing, the sense of being a teacher was always there.”
But he recognized that being in a rush to become a teacher would get him nowhere. A student of yoga, as well as Zen contemplative practices, he saw the value in sticking with his practice until the time was right to take the next step.
“I felt that one has to be really ready and ripe. Every time I was close to and had opportunities, I didn’t feel good there was always a feeling that it needs to have more practice, whether it was in the physical or the mental or any other practices. And at some point, I felt like my teachers and everything else seemed to come to fruition where I thought it’s ok, I’m ready now.”
Now that he has done his first training (as well as many more), Doron has developed a strong perspective on what makes an authentic teacher. He applies this philosophy to his own journey at his center as well as imparting it to his students as they dive into their own training. We asked him how he recognizes an authentic teacher.
“To me, it’s when I’m seeing people that walk the talk. They don’t have to be perfect, they can still get angry, they can still have issues, but they are doing their best. They are giving themselves to [teaching]… To me, it has to be somebody that chose this as a way of life. They are dedicating both practice and teaching time and never cease to continue studying, continue the practice.”
They don’t have to be perfect… but they are doing their best. An authentic teacher, whether of yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness modalities, must be fully committed to doing the work on a continuing basis. In this depth, we find the difference between someone who teaches as a side-gig or hobby and someone who is truly committed to carrying the lineage as an honorable lifestyle and dharma path.
“I find that it really makes a huge difference… people that you feel are talking from their own experience. They’re not afraid to look at the mud and say, ‘Hey, this is where my muddiness is, let’s look at this’. We will find the lotus coming out of this, but we are not going to pretend the lotus is here and all we are seeing is the reflection of the blue water, forgetting that there was mud underneath. No, I think we need to stir up the mud, to be ok and willing to look at that in order to be better students as well as teachers onwards.”
Whether you’re seeking an authentic teacher or seeking to become one, take Doron’s words to heart: a true teacher is one who does his or her work. A teacher is committed to the practice of stirring up the mud and examining her blind spots, being honest about the murky spots, and returning to inquiry again and again.
Fancy yoga pants and hundreds of hours of training are no substitute.
“As Pattabhi Joyce used to say, 99% practice, 1% theory. And I always say that the Zen tradition really, Nike is their slogan, it’s just do it. So, we do need to study, we do need to think about these things but at the end of the day if somebody doesn’t show up, both to practice and to their life, they could be doing it for 20 years and it will be same, same.”
Keep showing up on the mat, and authenticity will follow.
Doron Hanoch is a Certified 550 hour Yoga Teacher (ERYT), Director of the Doron Yoga School, and Founder and CEO of the Doron Yoga & Zen Center at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. To learn more about the center or view upcoming events, visit their retreat guru profile.