Intensive Yoga Teacher Training – RYT Lynn Somerstein, an Integral Yoga teacher in New York, went to teacher training to deepen her own practice and increase her yoga knowledge before speaking at an international conference. She continues to learn even though she’s been practicing since 1968.
“The more I teach the more I learn, and the deeper I feel drawn into yoga,” Somerstein said. “I teach psychoanalytic theory too, so I know how much teaching enhances my own understanding.”
Don’t Step Over the Line Into the “Yoga Police”
ERYT Suzie Celentano is a master trainer for YogaFit, which focuses heavily on safety and alignment in its yoga teacher training, sometimes modifying poses slightly from the traditional forms. Still, she doesn’t want that focus to take over class.
“We are not the yoga police,” she said. “Sure, like the police we are there to ensure safety, and we are there to lead the group heaven forbid something goes wrong. But as long as safe standards are being met, we are there to have some fun.”
Embrace Your Students and Their Abilities
Madison, Wis., instructor Debra Lafler reminds new instructors that the class members are the primary focus during class.
“Teaching yoga is different than being taught or doing yoga yourself,” she said. “When you teach, you are teaching for your students, not yourself.”
That might mean not going as deep into a pose as you can in a class full of beginners, or doing poses that might not be your favorites because your students want or need them.
Above all, Celentano says, instructors should feel love for all their students. She admits that describing it that way sounds corny, but it is critical to a good experience for students.
“If I am empathetic to a person’s capabilities, goals, and/or challenges, then I can offer a perspective that is needed in the moment,” Celentano said.
Explore Different Styles
Celentano suggests potential teachers explore the different styles of yoga. While she teaches Vinyasa, or flow yoga, there are many other traditions within hatha yoga, including Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar and Kundalini. An Iyengar class, with its focus on holding poses for long periods of time and using props to refine alignment, is much different from Celentano’s classes that flow from one pose into another on a single breath.
“You would not expect a photographer to try to become a painter,” she said. “Yoga has many different aspects and it’s important that you find a home that is yours that sings in your heart.”
Don’t Lose Sight of the Yoga Teacher Training
The yoga teacher agrees that continuing their own practice, separate from the classes they teach, is important.
Somerstein only teaches once or twice a week, which she said keeps her from becoming stale. As with all Integral Yoga Institute teachers, she volunteers her time.
Celentano compares maintaining personal practice and balance with her teaching to airplane safety instructions to adjust your air mask first before helping others.
“We are givers, and that is great, but if we don’t take care of ourselves and continue to grow, then we have less to offer to ourselves or anyone else,” she said. “This is not selfishness; this is nourishment.”
Wanna-be Yoga Teacher’s Guide to Teaching
It’s a long journey from being one student in a class to standing in front, leading the session. But with advice from experienced instructors, it’s achievable for those who want to pursue the path of teaching.
Decide To Teach
Many yoga instructors describe their decision to teach as less a decision and more a revelation. New York teacher Cheryl Geosits had worked her way up to practicing five days a week, and found many benefits from yoga, both physically and mentally. Then she realized her office was about to close and she would be out of a job.
“I looked at my life and said one door is closing, but which one is opening?” she said. “I originally wanted to go to medical school. I started to realize that I wanted to give to others the same joy and peace that I found with yoga.”
Whether the opportunity presents itself or you step forward and ask, deciding to teach is the first, critical step.
Pick a Yoga School
If you practice at a studio that you enjoy and that offers a yoga teacher training program, this might be an easy choice. For the rest of us, there are lots of considerations:
How much time can you devote?
Can you travel?
Is the school registered with Yoga Alliance?
What style is most authentic for you?
How much money can you spend?
When you answer all these questions, you’re ready to enroll in a program.
Set Aside Time
Yoga teacher training is intense or rather it is intensive yoga teacher training, whether you pick a series of weekends or an intensive month-long program. Add in family, work and life and the demands on your time can mount quickly.
When RYT Lynn Somerstein went to her month-long Integral Yoga Teacher training, she worked at her regular job as well.
“I continued my therapy practice at night during the training, which was very tough and probably a stupid idea, but I needed to work,” she said.
Not everyone will choose that route. Geosits, who is pursuing her RYT program through YogaFit, picked the school specifically because she was looking for something that wouldn’t conflict with a work schedule because she also was job-hunting.
“Also, I felt that although I would be totally emerged in yoga on a daily basis, all day long, I would not have the time to reflect on what I had learned,” she said.
The route you choose will depend on many factors.
Just completing the teacher-training program isn’t always enough to be ready to teach. Often, you will need to practice, either by team-teaching with an experienced instructor or by volunteering your time with community groups that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to yoga. This time allows you to refine what you learned in training and make it your own, as well as become comfortable with the demands of teaching.
“It’s easy being on the other side as the student. But when you have eyes looking at you for guidance, it can be intimidating,” said Richmond, VA yoga instructor Adrianne Morris.
Volunteer to Substitute
Once you complete your training, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically start teaching classes every week. In some cases, an instructor is asked by a gym or studio to complete training because the facility needs instructors. If you are in that position, you’re lucky. Otherwise, you might need to start on the substitute list for established teachers. If the instructor can’t make it to class, they can call you to cover for her. Over time, the facility might give you a regular class slot.
Teach Your First Class
Finally, after your long journey through training and apprenticing to gain the necessary experience, you’ll walk into the studio ready to teach the first class that’s assigned just for you. That’s when the journey to improve as an instructor and give students the best experience possible truly begins.
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