I've turned up to many a yoga class frazzled, almost-too-late, having forgotten a headband or with a non-favoured yoga top and still composing emails in my head as I step into the studio. I've wondered, who are all these serene looking people who have evidently been preparing in child's pose for at least the last fifteen minutes, and who are all those other limber yogis warming up by stepping through a downward dog?
Nevermind, I'm here now and I'm looking forward to the 'good bits' of the class.
For me, it's the third chaturanga when you're warm enough to be moving smoothly through it but not so far into the class that your shoulders protest as you drop into low push-up and hold it for a looooong five counts of breath. It's hitting the second set of bakasana without toppling over and floating there for a few breaths. It's opening up into half-moon pose and holding the calm and gentle focus I need in my mind to balance there for a while. It's the grace of tree pose and the lightness of a steady shoulder-stand before we make our way into savasana. Now there's a good bit everyone can agree on!
I'm not really 'there' for some of the other poses, simply going through the back-bend motions or focussing the mind elsewhere as we sink deeper into a warrior II when the lovely teacher decides to take the opportunity to talk about hip alignment - wasting crucial counting time which means we're stuck there for what must be a million breaths.
For some poses, I actively concentrate on just getting through, just passing the time until the next relish-worthy pose.
Finally, in savasana - during which I have never, ever, emptied my mind - I reflect on the class and run through an almost automatic scan of how my chatarungas felt, if I really twisted from the rib-cage today, if I really released properly in half-pigeon and goodness, were my shoulder-blades moving in the right plane?!
And then, in those last few precious moments before we're told to come back into our bodies (because we're supposed to be meditating elsewhere) I realise that the body is grateful for the entire class and that the whole class was the 'good bit'. We don't move through a 15 minute 'favourites' pose-list and rush off into the world again for a reason. We move through a 90 minute sequence of poses because together they are what the body and mind need - and we don't even realise it.
One of my favourite teachers used to repeat that how you are on the mat is how you are in life. He'd call us out on the things we all do - in life and on the mat - grip too hard, push too strongly, refuse ourselves grace, move without ease, hold the breathe. More recently, I've come to realise that something I don't always do on the mat is remain present, in the moment, in whatever pose we happen to be doing. I do it in life as well - look forward to what the mind thinks might be the 'good bits' and spend whole weeks without having been present in a moment.
I'm going into a couple of yoga workshops this afternoon and I will try my best to remember that the whole thing is the good bit. On the mat. In life.
By Jenny Jiang
I've had many students ask me recently for advice regarding teacher training. Usually, they want to go somewhere exotic (India, Bali ....etc), something quick, easy and cheap. Most want it now. Not next year or in 5 years time. Now.
Because most of them have been practicing Yoga daily or weekly for 5 (or longer) years so they've been on that yoga journey for what seems like a lifetime! Finally, they've made the decision to change their career, to change their life. We live in a society where most things are easily and quickly accessible. So why can't a Yoga teacher training certificate be too?
I won't go into the lesson of patience. That's another blog entry.
Lucky for them .. there are HEAPS of short Yoga teacher training courses that give you the required 200 hours up your sleeve so you can register with Yoga Alliance (if the course is Yoga Alliance approved).
I won't go into whether I think 200 hours is long enough. That's yet another blog entry.
Courses range from your standard 4 week intensive 200 hour teacher training courses set amongst the rice fields of Ubud, to your 12 month part time one night per week course at your local studio (usually 500 hours). I've heard of 12 day teacher training courses at a beach resort somewhere, then you do the rest of the hours at home and submit the work before you get your certification. Then there are those few styles (very respected) where you seem to be training your entire life, you're examined each year and are still considered a 'junior'.
I'm currently in the process of writing a Yoga teacher training course. Mine won't be ready for probably another 12 months or so because it's a long process and I want to do it well. I've had the opportunity to take a look at many courses recently (market research .. as you do) and I've got to tell you ... some are awesome, some not so great. So how do you know which course is best for you (before spending $3500 which is the average price)?
Firstly, I think it's really important to focus on the class/style you connect with. Ask the teacher who was responsible for turning you into the 'yoga junkie' you are today. If that teacher instructs a certain style of yoga, for example, Anusara, then it's easy. Go to an Anusara immersion. If the instructor teaches a mixture of many approaches and styles for example, he starts the class with a power flow sequence then follows with a restorative seated practice, then it's not so easy.
If this is the case, I recommend you have a think about the kind of person you are. Are you an alignment focused person who would simply love a 90 minute class on deconstructing the triangle pose? Are you an athletic person who loves to sweat and move - the more chaturangas the better? Do you love it when your instructor tells stories about Ganesha the elephant god and the Yoga sutras? Is your favourite class of ALL TIME the one when you realised something powerful about your emotional self? Are you a mixture of a few of these? These questions will help to shape the kind of instructor you want to be.
You can narrow your list down from here. Chances are, if you love practicing a certain approach .. you'll love teaching the same way. For example, you love your instructor's classes when you jump, sweat and constantly move and you're not really into the cover/sub instructor who tells you to open your heart and let yourself cry. You may want to check out some of the Vinyasa teacher training courses on offer. Another example, you're in a state of bliss when your instructor does the chanting at the beginning and the end, you are so interested in Ganesha to the point that you bought a book about him and in the asana class you need to take your time. You may want to go for something more classical Hatha because they offer an equal balance of all disciplines in their training (including meditation, philosophy chanting etc).
I'm a big fan of word of mouth. Ask around. Ask your teachers. Ask the reception desk. Email instructors you love. Ask bloggers :)
There are so many different teacher training courses available so make sure you check out the accreditation. Is it Yoga Alliance, or Yoga Australia (or similar) approved? It's not the 'be all and end all' to be registered with one of these industry bodies but personally, as someone who hires Yoga teachers, it at least gives me some indication, if I don't know the school you've trained at, that your certification meets the industry standards. Registration will also help you get insurance and if you are lucky enough they offer short courses for Yoga teachers, they remind you when you need to update your CPR and hold regular gatherings.
Once you do your first Yoga teacher training, you'll be hooked. I've recently completed my 4th Yoga teacher training (not to mention all the short courses and workshops).
A rant to finish up. I hear of peeps deciding they want to change their career/life to be a Yoga teacher when they don't practice Yoga themselves. Someone telephoned me for advice on Yoga teacher training and she had NEVER been to a Yoga class in her life! Although it's admirable to come to the realisation that something needs to change in your life, I would recommend you put it off for a bit ... find yourself a good Yoga teacher and practice Yoga regularly for at least a few years (many would disapprove of my advice and say at least 5 years). Your decision could change after this... because it is really hard work. I think it's best to experience this discipline mentally, emotionally and physically before you can talk the talk, respect what your students are going through and fully respect the Yoga way of life.
Om Om Om, Ambika
The Yoga Social Team