Eight things I learned from doing a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training
I took a hiatus in between jobs a few months ago to get some breathing room with two goals in mind. One was to get the Medlare up and running, and the other was to complete my 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT). The training was something I had debated for awhile, but the timing was never right. .
Since I’m human, I also had preconceived notions, which more often than not, needed correction or refinement. Over the course of three months, I learned a lot about myself, about the practice, and about how little I really do know, even now. Some of the highlights with the training led by Jason Crandell and Laura Burkhart include--
I was doing yoga wrong, like a whole lotta wrong. You know when you are a newbie in class, and you peek to see what Jenny in the front row is doing and mimic your own version? Along the way, those habits become apart of your own practice, and before you know it, Jenny has created a crew of followers whom Chaturanga Dandasana by writhing their bodies across the floor like they’re bringing back the worm. One of the most valuable and revealing aspects of YTT, was the focus on alignment, Jason’s speciality. The small adjustments and awareness to what your body parts were doing and being engaged tremendously impacted my own practice, and I believe will help maintain healthier form in the long run.
Not all trainings are equal. I admittedly didn’t do that much research into 200-hour programs, and there are a TON of them out there. I fell into this one because I was already attending Laura’s classes. I was blown away by how comprehensive the experience was. If you aren’t able to take a training with your favorite instructor or a studio whose practice you resonate with, I would highly recommend taking the time to reach out to people for their experiences about the prospective training. YTT’s are an investment in time and money, and you should feel comfortable asking all the questions from how the trainings are structured, getting to better understand the instructor’s background (i.e. who they’ve practiced with), and the expectations/results of the training. There are some studios who run trainings that only those that complete can teach there, while there are others who hire teachers based on a multitude of factors, one being who you took your trainings with.
Sequencing matters. A well thought out class is more difficult than it seems. Finding a YTT that incorporates which elements, why, and where they go into a well rounded flow practice is immensely important and not as common as you’d think. How often have you attended a class and thought to yourself, the transitions, my breath, or the timing was off? A training should contain a framework which empowers you to come up with your own sequences in a logical manner.
Attending public classes (for your own practice) is mostly ruined. It may be more difficult to get through classes you’ve unfamiliar with because you’ll be too aware and judgy of how the order and/or poses are laid out. I’m not alluding to being a pro myself nor do I skip classes, but I do admit to now needing to balance the empathy on how hard it is to teach a class with the internal judgment of thinking “wait, why are we doing this now”.
Practicing teaching is critical. This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how much of training can be spent on your own practice and pose structure without the actual integral skill of cueing students into poses. It’s one thing to tell someone to get into downward dog when they have done it before, and another to instruct someone similar to S who would blankly stare at me until I physically showed him myself. The YTT had an integral component of group teaching throughout the entire training, so you were forced to hear yourself out loud, watch as your fellow trainees empathetically tried to move along with your cues, and to understand how different it is to speak a sequence versus doing one yourself. If your training doesn’t include teaching portions, I’d encourage you to form groups with your classmates on the off time and use each other as guinea pigs.
Love thy props. I used to avoid blocks and straps at all costs. Why? There was some weird assumption I made early on in my own practice that people used props because they weren’t flexible enough to get into poses. Well, check my hubris at the mat because turns out my ignorance of what poses were trying to accomplish clouded this wonderful world of being able to open up more with blocks and to get stronger and better engagement with straps. Beyond my own practice, I gained confidence on how to use these elements when instructing others.
It’s never the same, and it’s okay. I guess I didn’t need the YTT to learn this, but it was a constant mental battle to not chastise myself because we practiced so often in a constrained period of time. It was challenging to not be frustrated or comparative with how my body performed, not only in relation to my classmates but also to the 20-year old version of myself. To some degree, as I have become more hyper aware of my own practice, I try to be kinder to the outcomes, because in the end, does it really matter if I got into crow yesterday but fell on my face tomorrow (maybe, but you know what I mean)?
It’s complicated. What exactly? Well, everything. There are competing methodologies when it comes to the alignment of poses. There are varying lineages of practice that one can follow. There is a looming conversation about where the delineation of cultural appropriation comes into play. I came into YTT under the presumption I would walk out and teach a few early morning classes a week, and now I’m not really sure I want too at all. While I feel the training expanded my knowledge of yoga beyond any expectation, I also have this sense of insecurity that there are too many things I have yet to learn before effectively being confident enough to teach. The history, the anatomy of the body, the actual interactions with students, being able to honor the traditions but incorporate modern science, seem more daunting than when I started.
I haven’t unpacked it all, but the journey throughout this training has been unlike anything else I have encountered, and as I rush to get ready for work I wistfully wish I had another long weekend ahead of me to delve deeper into this practice. As I figure out where to proceed from here, I look forward to the evolution of my own practice but also the quality time S and I will have teaching him a bit of what I’ve learned.