Dearest yoga students and wannabe teachers:
In case you haven’t heard, all my dreams have come true and I will be leading a foundational Yoga Teacher Training at The People’s Yoga this coming January-June! With an unbridled love and reverence for yoga, a (sometimes obnoxiously) fervent passion for education and teaching, and some really smart friends to help me out, I am SO PUMPED TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT!! Below are some questions I’ve received from students over the last few weeks, and my verbose attempt at answering them. If you have more questions, please let me know (and maybe I’ll even write another post/ answer them in a video – I hear people like videos these days)!
Your program is advertised as a 300-hr Immersion and Teacher Training… Tell me more about this structure. Why the differentiation between “immersion” and “teacher training”?
In my experience, it is useful to separate the study of a discipline (in this case, yoga) from the art of teaching (a discipline in and of itself). If we have not invested substantial time and energy in studying yoga, attempting to teach yoga will prove a great challenge. By focusing first on developing our understanding of and relationship with yoga, we will be better prepared to guide others along the path of self-study.
During the immersion (the first 200 hrs), we will dedicate the majority of our time to: the practice and study of asana; anatomy and physiology, as they relate to yoga asana and alignment; yoga philosophy and history, as they relate to our modern, personal practice. Through a combination of asana, meditation, philosophical readings, discussions, and journaling, we will work together to develop a sustainable, daily yoga practice, that is most helpful and relevant to you.
During the teaching methods segment (the last 100 hrs), we will turn our attention to the art of teaching. Yoga is a practice that is meant to be shared, and to do so requires engagement and connection. In studying the art of teaching, we will place particular emphasis on engaging a diverse body of students, appealing to multiple learning styles, and creating an inclusive learning environment. Students will have the opportunity to practice teaching, not only with their peers, but within local community organizations (their final Karma Yoga Project). Through a combination of class observations, pedagogical readings, discussions, sequencing, and practice teaching, students will develop their teaching philosophy, persona, and voice.
Aren’t most foundational YTTs only 200 hours? Can’t I just do the first 200 hours?
It’s true that most foundational trainings are 200 hours. It’s also true that some studios will hire anyone who has taken a 200-hr training (or less!). As noted above, however, the first 200 hours of this training will focus primarily on developing your personal practice, understanding of and relationship with yoga. If you are serious about teaching, I implore you: don’t stop after the first 200 hours.
That’s my short answer. Here’s my long-winded one:
There is some confusion as to what credentials a person needs in order to be hired as a yoga teacher. This confusion exists for a few reasons: 1) There is currently no broadly-accepted certification process for yoga teachers (only a “registration” process; more on that below), and 2) Different studios have different standards. Many teachers are “registered with the Yoga Alliance” and display the acronym “RYT” (Registered Yoga Teacher) on their business cards. To be an RYT, a person must have completed a training program that has been approved by the YA. While this might imply a reasonable amount of oversight, the Yoga Alliance offers its stamp of approval to virtually any program that promises to spend a designated number of hours discussing various topics. What the YA doesn’t do is require students to demonstrate their knowledge on those topics – i.e., there are no exams, no capstone projects, no demo classes or student-teaching requirements. As a former school-teacher with a masters degree in education, I hope you’ll pardon me for saying: this is ludicrous! To skip the step of assessing our students’ learning isirresponsible, especially in a field where people’s bodies (not to mention hearts, minds, and spirits!) are directly affected.
This training takes that additional step and requires its students, not simply to study certain topics for a predetermined number of hours, but to show us what they’ve learned. While we have made the conscious choice not to register this training with the Yoga Alliance, we have instead developed our own (significantly more rigorous) learning standards and assessments with the help of many well-respected educators in the Pacific Northwest and California.* Through observation and written reflections, class discussions, presentations, peer teaching and demo classes, you will be held accountable, not just for what you study, but for what you have learned.
Okay, I get it. You’re an education nerd. But what can I expect, practically, from this training?
With a combination of 2-hr early morning sessions (6am-8am, Mon-Fri), 3-hr Friday evening sessions (6pm-9pm), and 8-hr weekend sessions (9am-6pm Sat & Sun, with an hour lunch), the structure of the training allows us to explore different topics in formats befitting those topics:
Weekday morning sessions will be a forum for you to develop your personal practice and relationship with yoga. These sessions will include a combination of guided asana, seated meditation, and journaling, and will build in progressively more freedom throughout the course of the training. (In my experience, very few brains are awake enough at that hour to do a lot of heady discussion/ ingest much new information – so we shall use that time to focus on embodiment, and to create a sustainable practice!)
Friday evenings will be dedicated primarily to discussions. Some will be student-led, Socratic-style seminars relevant to that week’s philosophical readings; others will be led by one of the teachers on faculty and tackle such topics as Ethics in Modern (Western) Yoga, Yoga as Social Justice, Developing Your Teaching Voice, and Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment.
Saturdays and Sundays will be our time to dive deep into Anatomy and Physiology (with Dr. Kara Giaier), and Yoga History & Philosophy (with Meghan Maris) – and don’t worry: it won’t be eight hours of lecture! Both Kara and Meghan are highly skilled educators who recognize the importance of embodied/ kinesthetic learning as well as intellectual grappling, so you can expect a combination of lecture, discussion, and workshop-style asana practices. (And personally, I can’t wait to learn more from these amazing women!)
Gosh, all this sounds like so much fun! But… what if I’m not very good at yoga? Don’t I have to be good at yoga to teach it, or even study it in-depth??
First, a quick request that we PLEASE THROW OUT THE IDEA THAT ANYONE IS BETTER AT YOGA THAN ANYONE ELSE! There is no such thing as “good at yoga,” and there is definitely no such thing as “bad at yoga”! If you are disciplined in your practice and pursuit of yoga (asana, and beyond!), if you are curious and reflective, if you are willing to admit what you don’t know while committing to continually learn more, you will most likely make an excellent teacher. And if you’re not interested in teaching and just want to start with the first 200 hours, great! Do it!! Goodness knows the world needs more people committed to self-actualization and building peaceful community. Let us start here!!
*This is part of a broader, long-term goal to raise the national standard for yoga educators. The People’s Yoga is excited to pilot this teacher training with established learning standards and assessments!