A Q&A with Astrid Pickup, the current president of the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA)
When was the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA) founded and by who?
In 1962, the Roma Blair Yoga and Health Centre was founded in Sydney, Pitt Street. Roma, later Swami Nirmalananda, had an interesting life. Roma spent time in a Japanese POW camp in Singapore for three years and later became a well-known model. After her time in the POW camp, Roma studied yoga in South Africa. In the early ‘60s, Roma began an exercise show on Channel Nine and also wrote a regular column for the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror. A gathering of senior yoga teachers in 1966 from Sydney and South Australia (comprising Roma Blair, Margrit Segesman, Bette Calman and Michael Volin) discussed the idea of forming a group to formalise yoga teaching standards. In 1967, the International Yoga Teachers Association, more commonly known as IYTA, was founded by a committee comprising Roma Blair, Patricia Cameron, Matthew O’Malveney, Sally and Gerrit Janssen and Elsa and Hans Rabold. There were many teachers who continued to help establish IYTA, but Roma Blair was always in the forefront.
What was the initial vision for IYTA and has that changed over time?
The vision for IYTA was to unify yoga teachers across national boundaries and across different lineages. The founders wanted to create standards for yoga teaching and provide a network of yoga contacts worldwide. This vision is still core to IYTA today and there are now many branches of IYTA established around the world.
What are the aims or principles of IYTA?
The IYTA aims to promote the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga for everyone, regardless of age, sex, ability or disability, ethnicity or religion.
How does the IYTA uphold high standards of professional and ethical teaching?
The association upholds the highest ethics of yoga teaching and professional conduct for its members. The IYTA is a registered yoga school with Yoga Alliance (USA) and Yoga Australia. Read our Code of Ethics that we expect all our full teaching members to be governed by.
I’m looking at yoga teacher training. What does the ITYA teacher training have to offer?
The International Diploma of Yoga Teaching course is an integration of yoga’s classical teachings based on the various yoga paths and traditions of yoga. The IYTA does not have a guru or owner. It embraces many traditions and acknowledges that “many paths lead us up the mountain”. This inclusive approach creates a solid and stable foundation for student teachers to develop their own style of expression and teaching of yoga.
Graduates of this course are respected and acknowledged as some of the best yoga teachers around the world. IYTA teachers can be relied upon to deliver a well-structured yoga class with strict adherence to safety and respect for students, whether beginners or advanced. The curriculum is based on the classical teachings of Hatha yoga. The International Yoga Teachers Association has one of the most experienced yoga faculties in the world, with 20 experienced lecturers.
What are the benefits of joining the IYTA?
- We are a registered non-profit organisation. We’re not in it for the money; nobody earns a profit from IYTA. We’re not commercial; instead we follow ethical yogic principles.
- We are one of the few truly international yoga associations supporting yoga teachers around the world. ITYA is represented in 20 countries.
- Membership benefits include generous discounts on further training, workshops, conferences, insurance, free CPD monthly video training tutorials, eNews newsletter and International Light yoga magazine and more.
- There is a pathway to continue your yoga journey or career. Choose from a selection of quality courses or workshops to gain further qualifications.
- Thousands of yoga teachers have graduated with the IYTA International Diploma of Yoga Teaching.
- We’re democratic. No one “owns” IYTA; everyone is democratically elected. We have set terms of office so that no single person controls it to ensure that we all have a say.
- We are not controlled by a guru. We respect all yoga lineages and styles and support teachers from all traditions.
- We live by, and expect members to follow, a strong code of yogic ethics.
- We exist solely to benefit you (the members).
- All are welcome to join, whether an existing teacher, student, or just interested in being a member of an ethical international yoga association.
- IYTA was one of the first registered associations established to support yoga teachers internationally. This registration happened in 1967.
What are your three top tips for improving health and wellness?
- Learn to breathe. When we understand the breath and how it affects our mental and physical states, we can improve our health. It’s amazing how many people do not know how to fully breathe.
- Move your body. Regardless of whether it’s yoga, walking or dancing, you need to keep moving your body to stay healthy. Find something that you love doing and find the joy in movement.
- Make some mental space. We live in a fast-paced, busy and noisy world. Can you find five minutes to do nothing and just be still each day? It’s amazing how even five minutes can give the mind and body a boost.
What’s next for IYTA?
IYTA is continuing to improve our delivery of quality courses for new yoga students and continuing education for existing teachers. We aim to continue to be a standout example of high-quality teachers in yoga and ethically motivated teacher training. IYTA has spent the last few years on improving their digital platforms and staying current with modern learning avenues. This is still a work in progress. IYTA also aims to be a voice for yoga teachers in years to come.
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