Category Archives: RYT

Every Teacher is a Student, Every Student is a Teacher – Except When They Aren’t.

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Yeah. Not a teacher.

It happened again this morning.  I was drinking my coffee and browsing my Facebook and Twitter feeds and the news and blogs and all kinds of stuff and generally checking in with the online world and I came across someone saying that they are a “Yoga Teacher” now.

Of course they are.

A few minutes later, I was talking to a good friend of mine.  She mentioned that she had been invited to go to a yoga class in a nearby town.  When I asked if I knew the teacher, she said that nope, I didn’t and no one else did, either, because this person had had absolutely zero training.

Of course they didn’t.

I saw the newest lineup of “yoga” classes at a local gym.  I also looked at the lineup of “yoga teachers.”  Zero real yoga, zero real yoga teachers, and tons of blind yoga students being led by untrained teachers.

Of course.

Hear that? That is the sound of shoulders and knees going out, of hamstrings tearing, and of Ahimsa being ripped to shreds.

Now, look, I never once claimed that everything I write will be kind.  I also never claimed that I gave a hoot or a holler if anyone agrees with me.  What I have claimed is that I will write the truth as I see it, so put on your big girl yoga panties and get ready for a hearty slice of Satya.

Not every person claiming to be a “Yoga Teacher” is a Yoga Teacher.  I’m astounded and shocked at what people are accepting as adequate training before being allowed to teach yoga.  A weekend training does not a yoga teacher make.  A memorized DVD does not a yoga teacher make.  Not even years of practice does not a teacher make. And, if I’m going to be completely honest (why shouldn’t I?) not even all 200hr Yoga Teachers are Yoga Teachers.  I’ll wait here as you get on your soapbox and get defensive and start huffing and puffing.  Breathe, folks.  Hear me out.

Most of the gyms around here and even (mindbogglingly) a studio or two in this area require absurdly small amounts of training before “yoga teachers” are allowed to teach.  We’re talking maybe MAYBE 20 hours.  In these trainings, these students are told NOT TO TOUCH anyone.  They are told nothing about alignment, nothing about modifications, nothing about anything, really.  It’s insane.  It’s harmful.  It’s like sending your newborn to some dude in a garage for pediatric services because that dude once took a mandatory health class in Junior High School.  Know how I know this?  Because I did it.  I took that training.  I started teaching with that little amount of training and even then, even before I knew that I wanted this to be my life path, I knew it was a total joke.  Still, I taught with that small training and I nearly lost my job because I knew due to my own personal research and study that folks were busting their knees and shoulders and necks and so, in order to prevent injury, I touched them.  You BET I touched them.  I moved knees and heads and arms and feet.  I was willing to lose my job in order to keep others from losing their safety.  I regret nothing.  Clearly, I eventually left that location and into a real yoga studio and took the leap and got my 200hr certification and training.

Guess what I learned after 200 hours of training, 200 hours of teaching, over 30 books read, and more than 16 years of practice?  I learned that I barely know anything.  Far cry from those folks who have 20 or 30 hours of training, one book read, 3 dvds watched, and a spotless yoga mat and think they know it all!

Let me stop right here and say this: EVERYONE HAS TO START SOMEWHERE.  I know this.  I started there, too, remember? But it’s a starting place.  Just a starting place.  If you think you’re going to get a decent yoga teacher training studying a program that is designed to be taught in a gym, well, please stay in the gym and think really hard about what you’re doing.  You’re teaching Asana.  Asana is the smallest part of yoga.  It’s actually the least significant part of yoga.  If you want to stay with that, fine.  But don’t tell me or anyone else you’re teaching yoga because you are not. If you want to teach yoga, use that training as a springboard to get you into classes with a highly trained and certified YOGA teacher.  Be an apprentice.  Shadow.  Learn.  Take notes.  And then, for goodness sake, get some real training at a highly qualified yoga school.

Even that can be tricky, though.  What is a good school?  Folks will point to Yoga Alliance and, while it’s something, it’s not foolproof.  YA is not certification.  It’s registration.  There’s a difference.  I am certified through White Lotus Foundation, but I didn’t pay the fee to register with Yoga Alliance because it really means next to nothing.  Yes, you have to be certified by a Yoga Alliance accredited Yoga Teacher Training school, but dear lord, look at who they accredit!  They accredit folks who really really don’t have much training in areas that matter themselves, much less have any business training other people to be teachers.  Perfect example: one of my dear friends and former / sometimes current students recently completed her 200hr YTT at a yoga school that I thought would be perfect.  It’s not too far from here, I have (limited) experience with the yoga teacher trainer, I thought it would be perfect for her.  Yes, it’s true she learned more than most do about the Yamas and Niyamas and the other limbs of yoga Patanjali mentioned, she learned next to nothing at all about:

  • Modifications
  • Adjustments
  • Alignment
  • Contraindications

She kind of left wondering what the hell she spent all that time and money on.  I wondered the same thing myself.  I mean, if you aren’t taught how to modify, how to adjust, even the very basics of alignment, you haven’t been taught to teach.  My friend is a very studious person, however, and she’s taken notes on every class she has taken, has read way more than what was required of her, and knows that she still has much to learn, so her training has served her well in that it taught her that there is so much more to learn! Reminds me a bit of me (and everyone else who truly wants to learn the path of yoga), that girl.

So what do you do?  Start with Yoga Alliance.  It’s a good place to start and will at least weed out schools you really don’t even

Vitarka Mudra: the mudra of the teacher. Every teacher is a student, every student is a teacher. Sort of.

want to look at.  You ask around.  You ask for references.  You check and double check credentials.  You look at syllabi.  You research.  If you want to be a teacher, get fully trained.  Do not settle for a place that doesn’t require 200hours before unleashing you to teach.  Do not settle for a place that doesn’t teach alignment, adjustments, assists, modifications, contraindications, anatomy, history, philosophy.  Look, I know that there are some excellent teachers out there who have been teaching long before Yoga Alliance and there are loads of folks out there who are excellent teachers out there who are not accredited.  I’m not here to say that you have to have all of that to be a good teacher, but those people have been teaching AND studying forever.  They know that you don’t stop learning. They know that you have to keep learning.  And I’ll tell you this – they know that the more they know the more they have to learn. I also know that, if you ask them, they’ll tell you to get a high quality education, that there are no shortcuts, that a mat in the front of the room doesn’t make you a teacher.

They’ll also tell you that if this is what you believe in, if this is what you love, if this is the path you feel has been chosen for you, then do not let anything stand in your way.  If you feel drawn to this, as though you were born for it, follow it.  Go after it.  Do what you need to do to be the very best at it you can be.  Do not stop.  Do not give up.  Do not see obstacles.  Dive in, swim deep, and be.  They will tell you that the world needs you.  They will tell you all of these things — and I couldn’t agree with them more.

Yoga is a sacred journey.  It is a path, a lifestyle, a way of being.  It is not something you do, it is someone you are.  Don’t cheat your students or yourself out of all the incredible gifts that a thorough, consistent, dedicated, all encompassing education can bring.  Don’t be in such a rush to call yourself a yoga teacher that you forget that you must first – and always – be a yoga student and all that entails.

Love and light from your ever-opinionated, constantly learning, 200hrCYT, highly flawed, rebel yogini.

Namaste

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Interested in becoming a yoga teacher? Where you study makes all the difference.

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I’m over at Teachasana today asking the question “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (y’all know I went, but what are YOU going to do?)

Teachasana is a new website, a gathering place of sorts, for yoga teachers by yoga teachers.  Serving as a reference and a resting place for all us folks who make the yoga every day, Teachasana is a YT’s best friend.  Check it out!

#365yoga Day 90: The Wheel

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At 11:27 am CST, I locked the door to 300 Saint James Street for the last time.  I had just finished teaching my last yoga class at our temporary studio and it was a lovely class filled with committed yoga students and beautiful energy.  I got into my car and had to sit there for a little while and reflect.  

It was about 2 years ago that I decided to become a yoga teacher.  2 short years.  It’s something I always thought about, of course.  I wanted to do it for a long time, but certain things (read: feeling like I didn’t deserve to do it, wasn’t worth it, etc.) kept me from pushing through and doing it.  I’ll never forget the moments that got me to the other side of that: several yoga teachers at the gym I attended kept asking me to “finally get” my “yoga training in so” I “could sub already, dammit!”

What can I say, they were persuasive.

20 months ago, I did what I could with what I had (very tiny budget and very little time,) and took a very little basic yoga teacher training.  Within 3 days I was able to teach at my gym.  And teach I did!  It was only a few weeks later that I had my own regular class and was subbing frequently in multiple locations all over town.  My goodness, when I think back on some of those classes, well, let’s just say that most yoga students are benevolent, patient, good humored folk!  I kept teaching, though, and I kept learning and growing and asking questions.  I kept searching and trying and trusting in the process.  Yoga Sol was born and I moved my mat from the gym to a studio.

Yoga Sol lived at that studio for 14 months.  My classes grew from one student (or, at times, none) to wall to wall mats.  I met amazing people and felt amazing energy and got to witness the transformation that comes when you commit to a regular yoga practice both in my students and in myself.  I met mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, artists and actors, poets and photographers, teachers and students, and Michael Franti and his gang.

The wheel keeps on rolling down the road, for sure!

Somewhere along that road, I realized that I DO deserve to follow my bliss, I DO deserve to have a bright future, I DO deserve a real and proper training, so in October I packed up my bags and headed out west to The White Lotus Foundation.  For many of you, this might not seem like a big deal. For me and my family, however, it was revolutionary.  I left my homeschooled children and husband (who works in an industry that is fueled by college sports,) alone for 16 days during the 3 busiest weekends of the year: homecoming and games against the 2 top rivals.  Used to be that I wouldn’t even think about scheduling lunch during those weekends, much less a trip across the country!  Yoga transforms, eh?

I sent in my final paperwork for my 200RYT last Saturday.  I DID IT!

Today I locked the door at the temporary location of Yoga Sol.  I taught the last class there and I will be teaching the first class at the new location, 210 Saint James Street, which just happens to fall on my 35th birthday.  I think it’s highly significant.  I feel it’s a rebirth, of sorts.  I will be opening the studio not just as a teacher, but as the manager, working very closely with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, my mentor, friend, and Yoga Sol owner, Polly.  What started out as just the two of  us in a dance studio has now grown into the first indoor / outdoor yoga studio in Mid-MO, if not the entire state of Missouri.  We have a teaching staff of  8 other teachers on board now as well as our own classes filled with students who have followed us both through the trenches and into the light.

And the wheel is still rolling!

Yoga is very much like a wheel.  The more momentum it has, the further it goes, and will usually take you further than you could ever imagine if you just let it go.  I cannot wait to see where this leads, but I’ll tell you this – I hope I never stop the wheel from turning.  I will watch it with amazement and awe and joy because it is bound to be an awesome ride.

Deafening Silence (White Lotus part 6)

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First, let me say that the folks at White Lotus know what they are doing.  They’ve trained somewhere between 1000 and 2000 yoga teachers (Ganga didn’t give us the exact number) and they know what folks tend to go through and when.  Smart cookies, those folks.  The first week had ups and downs like you wouldn’t believe.  Some days seemed to go on forever and then there were days that vanished right after breakfast.  I told someone that 16 days was a time warp – shorter than a second, longer than a lifetime.  Ganga, Tracey, Sven, Beverly, and Beatrix managed to always give us exactly what we needed when we needed it.  That place is magic, I’m telling you.  I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised to see gnomes and wizards popping out from behind the white sage bushes along the trail ….

Moving on…

We got to White Lotus on Saturday the 16.  By Friday of the next week, we were all in some sort of transformative gelatinous state.  We were changing physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, dietarily … completely.  Completely changing, and yet still not set yet.  Like Jell-O that’s only been in the fridge for an hour, see?  We had completely checked out of real life, were wildly looking forward to our free day in Santa Barbara coming Sunday, we were tired, sore, and eager and desperate for more.  What we were not expecting Friday night was to hear that, from the moment we opened our eyes on Saturday morning until the end of lunch, we were to be silent.  Not only silent, but also NOT miming to people and trying out for America’s Top Marcel Marceau!  We were to be on an inward journey, avoiding phones and computers and communicating with anyone or anything other than nature, spirit, and ourselves.

Let me remind you, this applied to POLLY AND ME!

(I’ll wait for you to stop choking and wiping hysterical tears from your eyes.)

WE DID IT!

While everyone had their own experience, as was the point, we ALL went through something and realized a few things.  For the most part, we’ve kept our realizations to ourselves as they did seem to be profound.  Well, at least mine were profound to me.  By the time we were able to start talking again, however, we had all changed a wee bit.  The change in me is still apparent.  It’s likely you’ll hear me start a conversation or even a reply and then stop midway and say, “Never mind, I think I’ll let that thought develop a bit more.”

Again, stop choking.

You have probably heard me say in class something along the lines of, “We spend all our lives talking to others and listening to others, use your practice as a time to dive deep and listen to yourself!”  It’s so true!  It’s amazing what you can hear yourself saying when you slow down and listen.  To that end, our practice Saturday morning WAS in silence.  How do 30 people do a 2.5 hour yoga practice together in silence, you ask?  We experienced Intuitive Flow Yoga and it was INCREDIBLE!  You know when you feel a little stiffness in your shoulder and somehow know that if you move just right something will pop and the stiffness will leave?  And then you do it and it does, in fact, get better?  That is intuitive flow.  Without knowing how, you know what your body needs and you obey.  Alignment and balance play no part in intuitive flow.  You may do 15 things on the left side and only 2 on the right.  You may never get off the floor.  You may spend the entire time in Balasana or doing Chaturanga pushups.  You listen, you honor, you move, you heal, you grow, you learn.  You change.  You love.  You believe.

The lessons are all there inside of you.  You just have to hush up so you can hear yourself.

Om Shanti

Small world!! (White Lotus part 3)

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I think I said that there were 30 students in this 200RYT session at White Lotus.  We came from all over the world.  It was incredible to study and live with people we’d never otherwise meet and see how truly connected we all are.

I have to say, however, one connection blew my freaking mind.

Within minutes of arriving at White Lotus, this chick walks like she owns the joint.  There was this energy about her that made you stop what you were doing and say, “Now, wait just a damn minute, what exactly is going on here?”  Powerful, beautiful, commanding, I’m saying.  Of course, this instantly drew Polly and me to her.

Turns out, she currently lives in Los Angeles, but grew up in St. Louis and went to MU AND spent nearly every weekend at the establishment my husband has managed for years.  He was managing it, in fact, during the time she was in school and hanging out there.

WHAT?!?!?!

The three of us became very close.  And it broke our hearts to leave each other.

I love you, Kristen.  You’re my favorite tv star. 😉

 

We are Stardust (White Lotus part 2)

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I don’t even know how to start.  I’ve been thinking about it and have realized that trying to explain and express my time at White Lotus Foundation is sort of like trying to describe the color blue to someone who has been blind from birth: You might get close, but nothing seems to do it justice.  You cannot describe it completely to someone unless they have experienced it themselves and, even then, there aren’t words, just energy.

OH MY MAUDE, THE ENERGY!

First things first: We DID grow to love the walk.  Ganga and Sven were right – I even miss it.  Just a few of the things we saw every day on our journey up and down the mountain…

 

There were other incredible things to see while at The Lotus, too…

 

 

I have over 400 pictures.  They still aren’t enough.  I’ll be posting a few here and there in the following days as I continue to write about this amazing, life changing, inspiring experience.

I love The Lotus.  I love you all.

Namaste

Om Shanti

Food, rain, yoga, friends, cabins, and life at The Lotus (day 2)

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It’s 1:33 in the afternoon CA time and I’m sitting in the big room of the main building by a lovely fire burning in a massive fireplace.  We just finished our 3rd meal after a morning full of dialogue, note taking, and a crazy intense wonderful 2 hour music-less practice.  Okay, that’s not exactly right – there was music for our 10 minute Savasana.  We sweat and stretched and chanted and learned and loved and the sound of Ujjayi breath filled every square inch of the mirrorless practice room.  BLISS.

Polly and I are not staying in a yurt as we previously thought we would.  We are instead staying in a private 2 person cabin on the edge of the canyon.  It is a CRAZY long walk up a CRAZY steep hill and, admittedly, we’ve been complaining about it.  It’s cold and it’s raining here and it makes for a really long hike.  Ganga, however, changed our minds with a few words this morning about how walking is our yoga.  The hike is part of it.  Kind of feels like a blessing now.  Okay, not really, but I assume it will soon.

The people here are amazing.  There are 30 of us students from all over the world.  We have new friends from Sweden, Switzerland, China, Holland, Canada, and all over the US.  Everyone is lovely… and loved.

14 more days to go.