The second round of Yoga Teacher Training is happening this fall.
For the autumn, I’ve created a part-time evening and weekend program that will fit into your busy life. Here’s the deal:
You get an unlimited membership at Taiga Yoga (valid until December) to do your practice, and then three evenings per week, we meet as a group to discuss the history, philosophy and modern application of yoga. We’ll also practice teach, examine how to teach different populations and practice seva (community service) and kirtan (chanting).
Getting up and out of it. Let go of your resolution and just get started. What is your dream project? What if the only thing holding you back was laziness and fear? Describe your project in 500 words or less, send me a two-minute video about the project and be entered to win a scholarship to Yoga Teacher Training.
There’s a sequence that I teach in my power yoga classes that students laugh at. They giggle and chuckle when I demonstrate and I get the impression they are saying to themselves “I can’t do that….”
Navasana (boat pose) to Utkatasana (chair pose). Also known as up and off your butt and into action. The first step to achieving your dreams is getting up and off the couch. Boat pose to chair pose is a metaphor for getting started. Getting up and off the couch, in turn, is a metaphor for getting started on your dream project.
It’s late March. Winter officially ended on March 21. Good-intentioned New Years resolutions have fallen by the wayside and here you are, slouched on the couch. You’re certain there is something you should be doing, but unsure how to get there.
The first step is to put both feet on the floor and stand up.
The next step is to forget about your new years resolution. The premise behind new years resolutions is flawed and doesn’t offer the positive reinforcement required for fulfilling a dream. Resolutions imply that there is something wrong with you that needs to change. That’s a poor foundation for fulfilling goals.
Goals and dream projects are based on personal experience. Success is predicated on a fundamental belief that they are possible.
What is your dream project? Did you scheme it up with the belief that you have to change who you are in order to see it through? Likely not. You know it exists in the realm of possibility and you are capable of doing the work required to achieve it. So, forget your new years resolution that you’ll change something about yourself. Reframe your goals in terms of projects that exist within your ability. Rather than focusing on what you need to change about yourself, focus on what you have done thus far and why you envisioned a particular dream. The dream is an extension of something you’ve already achieved and is within your ability.
Boat pose to chair pose. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, fire up your core strength and stand up! If it doesn’t work, try it again. Then try again. Do something, right now, that contributes to your dream. What is it? Do you want to run a marathon? Put on your running shoes. Do you want to finish your Masters thesis? Edit one paragraph. Do you want to find a partner? Leave your house and interact with someone new. Do you want to start a company? Draft a business proposal. Do you want to swim across Georgia Straight? Get to the pool. Do you want to get out of debt? Make a budget. Whatever you want, the first step is to stand up and get started.
Get off your butt and step into the heat. The magic is in the hard work and if you can imagine your project, then you can do it. Stand up and get started.
Speaking in front of a group is daunting. You must compile what you know about yoga into concise phrase bytes that reflect the theme and pace of the class. You must speak clearly and skilfully about a topic that you don’t know everything about. You must gauge your student’s level of comprehension and tailor the instruction accordingly. And you must be trusted to impart some knowledge about yoga. All of this is overwhelming, especially when you are a new teacher.
Teach from your authentic voice.
Teach what you know and be honest that you don’t know everything (nobody does). You’ve attended hundreds of hours of yoga classes and the cues and ideas you’ve heard will influence your teaching voice. This is good, but remember that your own perspective and voice is good too! You offer a unique contribution to yoga. Honour this contribution by speaking honestly. Be authentic.
Your goal is to make instructions as easy as possible to follow. Consider what verb tense you are using. Are you speaking in declarative sentences “stand up and breathe in.” or are you employing gerunds “next you’ll be standing up and breathing in.” Are you speaking in your normal tone of voice or are you dragging out your vowels? “Now, slowly moooooove into chiiiiild’s pose…..” Imagine you’re having a conversation with the group, like a dinner party, and speak as you normally would. Students will appreciate your candor.
Try this: “exhale and jump back into chaturanga.” Instead of “next we’re going to be exhaling sloooowly and jumping the feet back into chaturanga.” The former phrase is a declarative sentence that clearly articulates your instruction. The latter is a narrative that describes the process. Neither is incorrect, but the first phrase uses fewer words and concisely declares your intention. Clear and concise speech will make the practice easier for students to follow.
The more clearly you speak, the more believable your teaching will be. As you learn to speak declaratively, your confidence will soar. Believe in your teaching and clearly communicate your instructions. This strategy will eliminate the feeling that you need to “perform” the yoga class.
Words have weight. Speak them wisely.
Address the class as an entity: direct conversation and instruction
There are two types of speaking you’ll do during a yoga class. You’ll speak to the group when they are looking at you, usually at the beginning and end of class. We’ll call this direct conversation. You’ll also speak to the class while they are immersed in the sequence and not looking at you. We’ll call this instruction. Both demand the same type of speaking: speak with individuals within the group. You are speaking with (not at) your students. Their reaction is part of the conversation.
When you are engaged in direct conversation, make eye contact with someone in the group and notice their reaction. Are they nodding, smiling and considering your statements? Or are they frowning, fidgeting and appear confused? Respond appropriately to those cues. Then direct your words to another person. Note the reaction and adjust your delivery accordingly. In this way, you’re using individuals to represent the group and you are able to tailor your talk to the entire group.
For example, you’re discussing karma yoga in your introduction and suggesting your students participate in some type of selfless service. Are you teaching this concept at a 90-minute Saturday morning class? Or are you teaching the concept at a 12pm weekday class where everyone is on their lunch break? It’s not that either group is more interested in the concept of karma yoga. It’s that you will amend your detailed instruction to appropriately fit your audience. The 50 minute lunchtime crew isn’t not interested in karma yoga, but they are primarily there to get a quick stretch before going back to work. The Saturday morning people have a little more time on their hands to consider the philosophical offerings of yoga. When you note reactions to your words, you’re able to tailor your instruction to the group as a whole.
When you are instructing a sequence, pay attention to how one person is responding to your verbal cues. If you have instructed warrior two and someone is in warrior one, specifically instruct that student to extend their arms into warrior two. It’s possible that other students misunderstood you as well; by directing your instruction to an individual, you are acknowledging that person as a representative of the group. By tailoring your instruction to something that is relevant to at least one person in the group, you are avoiding the trap of saying generic instruction that aren’t useful to anyone. Furthermore, you are contributing to the conversation by noticing one person’s non-verbal reaction to your instruction and adjusting accordingly.
Speak clearly, tailor your words to suit the current class and only teach what you know. By following these three instructions, you’ll be confident and honest in front of your students. This authenticity will shine through and yoga students will appreciate your knowledge. Accept your humanity and all your imperfections and your students will trust you to lead them through a yoga class.
(featured picture from the very first yoga class I ever taught. Thank you to supportive friends and family who stumbled along with me in that first practice)
Why am I teaching a yoga teacher training?
Simply – because I want to share the experience of yoga. Yoga can’t be captured in images of lithe women doing poses;
it can’t be captured in swirling platitudes set against backgrounds apropos of nothing;
Yoga can barely be described. But it can be experienced. It can be felt in a visceral way that defies description. I practiced for five years before I started teaching and then I decided to teach because I believed in the power of the practice.
And now, in my tenth year of teaching, I’ve amassed some experience and curated my personal practice into a 200-hour perspective.
Am I ready to share what I know about the practice? Yes.
Am I intimidated at the prospect of inviting students into my weird little yogic world? Yes.
Do I believe that I can make a difference by describing my version of yoga? Yes.
Truthfully, the amount of knowledge I have about yoga (or life) is laughably little. I don’t know what life feels like for anyone but myself. But I do know about the positive effect of yoga on my life.
So if I know next to nothing about yoga, what the heck are we going to talk about in teacher training?
I have a well-researched curriculum that I’m ready to share. But prior to writing the curriculum, the first step was to experience it. I’ve practiced in dozens of countries, I’ve practiced every lineage I could find, I’ve practiced through the thrill of falling in love and the subsequent crush of breakup. I’ve practiced as a teenager and as a 35-year-old.
I’ve practiced with and without anti-depressants, I’ve practiced with back pain and, most recently, I’ve practiced in the days and weeks following knee surgery.
And of course, there have been times when I didn’t practice at all. But through it all; the pain, the joy, the ecstasy and the ignorance, yoga has always saved me from suffering. And that’s why I believe in it.
Across the lineages and through the centuries, yoga is about surviving without suffering. Pain is mandatory; suffering is optional. Yoga takes you by the scruff of the neck and helps you survive maladies and disease. It forces you to look within and ask the tough questions about what you really need. Relationships, jobs, injury, medical intervention…it all comes and goes, but yoga is constant.
Yoga is the foundation for knowing yourself in spite of the tragedies and triumphs.
The point is that nothing makes the journey easy. Even with yoga, it’s still up to you to get up, get dressed and show up – to everything. But your yoga practice will ease the way. And that’s what we’ll examine. This teacher training isn’t about my practice, but it is about the practice. And it’s about what the practice means to you. There isn’t a correct way to do yoga, only that you do it.
Along the way, I’ve practiced at countless studios and with hundreds of teachers. Each teacher had an original interpretation of yoga. But all the teachers are unified in their unwavering belief in the practice. Whatever they say, wherever they were, whether I agree with their instruction or not, every single teacher presented an unshakeable opinion that the practice is worth it.
So if you believe in this elaborate practice, join me to examine your yoga and refine your ability to describe its value.
That’s what we’ll be doing in teacher training: figuring out how to articulate this exquisite practice. We’ll examine its history, lineage and philosophy and we’ll discuss descriptive techniques. You already believe in the power of the practice. Yoga teacher training will provide the tools to inspire that same belief in your future students. You know the potency of the practice. Now come and learn how to convey that power and pass it forward.
Ready to sign up for teacher training this summer?
Scholarship Application – Taiga Yoga School: Land and Heart Practice
I am pleased to award one 80% scholarship to a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training applicant. The application process has two components:
A 500 word essay
A two-minute video or slideshow
I love essays! They have a beginning, a middle and an end. They have a clear thesis statement and each section has a topic sentence. They clearly define themselves in terms of who, what, where and why.
Please write a short (less than 500 words) essay in answer to this question:
What is your dream project? Imagine that you can abandon all your responsibilities (and maybe even the life that you’re currently living) and start something new. Nothing is holding you back except your own fear. If courage is the only catalyst you need to get what you want, what would that be?
Describe your dream project in terms of:
Where? Location! Where do you need to be?
What? Resources! What do you need to get started?
Who? Contribution! Who are you helping with this project? Who do you want to benefit the most from your work?
Why? Reason! What inspired this project?
The project doesn’t have to include anything about yoga, but it can if you want it to. The intention is to start thinking creatively about your situation and how you see yourself contributing to the world around you. What does freedom and contribution mean to you?
I also love photos and videos! They illustrate the creative process. Include in this application a two-minute (or shorter) video or slideshow to illustrate the inspiration behind your project.