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A large group of yoga students doing standing poses in a hall with the teacher leading from the stage.

Beware of the preface, ‘Back when I was a girl’. Or, boy, or youngster. What is about to follow this phrase is likely to be a thinly disguised judgment about the way things are going to hell now. Life used to be simpler, the air was cleaner, and people could still afford to buy their own home.

Yet in many ways, life is better for us. I feel this is especially true in the world of yoga.

When I was starting out as a yoga teacher in Sydney, there were few studios and yoga teachers, and only one yoga association that I was aware of. That was the International Yoga Teachers Association.

I’ve just returned home from the 3-day IYTA 50th Anniversary Conference held at Sydney’s Town Hall. I was privileged to present one of the early morning yoga sessions there. As well, as a delegate, I enjoyed presentations and practices led by Donna Farhi, Simon Borg-Olivier, Sally Flynn and many more inspiring teachers.

I would say that the most powerful contribution such a conference offers is collegial relationships. My friend, Sal Flynn, described this beautiful gift in her presentation. She said that from beginning to the end of the conference, she walked around smiling. She felt filled up being in the company of kindred spirits, being in the atmosphere of kindness.

As a yoga elder, I encourage trainee teachers to become members of an association. Sometimes I meet with resistance. If you haven’t had the experience of attending a conference, along with yoga teachers from all over, it’s hard to imagine how nurturing this can be.

A yoga association offers so much more besides relationship with other teachers. Here are just some of the ways that associations like the IYTA and Yoga Australia contribute to sustaining Australian teachers:

  • Supporting and representing teachers from the various traditions and styles and bringing them together.
  • Educating and informing the general community and professional groups about yoga.
  • Providing mutual support and professional recognition of yoga. This fosters self-regulation of the profession of yoga teaching.
  • Offering professional support networks.
  • Giving access to continuing professional development.
  • Providing professional publications.
  • Offering registration for the purposes of health insurance and negotiating for competitive prices.
  • Providing referrals and public searches for teachers.
  • Assisting with the promotion of each member and yoga in general.
  • Promoting the values and benefits of yoga.
  • Supporting the profession of yoga.
  • Developing and promoting best practice for Yoga and advocating for yoga teachers.
  • Offering information and/or resources to the media, medical and health professionals, educational organisations and the general public.

I want to extend my deep appreciation to the untiring organisers and volunteers of the IYTA conference, especially outgoing President Mary-Louise Parkinson. Here’s to the newly elected President Astrid Pickup. May the IYTA thrive well into the next 50 years.