In this BLOG:
My thoughts on the now, not so recent, NY Times article on YOGA
An article on Teacher Training and Mentorship – please pass this writing along if you feel so inclined!
Here’s BALANCE tide up at the dock in Beaufort, NC to get her water tanks filled. It doesn’t look it, but its actually blowing 25 – 30 mph hour when I took this picture this morning and was 26 degrees.
We’re in Beaufort, NC until tomorrow. Pronounced Bo Fort. I finally have it right I think……..
While out getting groceries, water and a few other necessities, we found a couple of great little local spots:
The Coastal Community Market on Broad St. – a great little grocery for local and organic foods – http://www.coastalcommunitymarket.com
Also, picked up a great spice blend from Elmo at Martha’s Spices and Gifts – a B and B at 305 Turner St. Look up Elmo’s Fire Spices on line. He’s got a few great cook books, too!
IN RESPONSE TO THE RECENT NY TIMES ARTICLE ON YOGA
I need to point out just a few things that the recent New York Times magazine article on Yoga made me think of……..
The example in the article of the college student doing one particular pose for hours a day and then injuring himself………first of all, that’s extreme, and second of all, if I were to go out on the driving range for hours a day, after enough time, I’d hurt myself, too. Would that be golf’s fault? No, that would be me not using good judgement, over doing it and not listening to my body.
One point that the article doesn’t really touch on, is the fact that many yoga teachers aren’t qualified enough to be teaching yoga poses/asanas. Its not the fact that the pose is inheriently harmful, but the fact that the teacher may not know enough to be able to help the student in to an anotomically sound position. No, yoga is not just physical, for sure, but if a teacher is teaching yoga asana, they hopefully have sound training in knowing the physical body. In my experience from talking to teachers and yoga studios, most teacher training programs are lacking on the anatomy and physiology portions of their training. Without this knowledge base, many yoga teachers don’t even see an injury waiting to happen if its right there in front of them.
The yoga industry in the US has boomed and I feel the student/teacher relationship has been lost. Too often I hear of a newer teacher having taken teacher training from someone that they had barely studied with prior. And too often I hear of newer teachers NEVER having assisted or had anyone to mentor them. Its in the mentorship process, and the long lasting student/teacher relationship that we as teachers learn the most. Without these hours of studying with who we consider to be “our teacher”, many newer teachers miss out on gaining the skills needed to be able to “read” bodies, know how to teach and modify poses or learn what is appropriate for who in each class. This isn’t to say that with enough teacher training, nobody would get hurt doing yoga. But it is to say thay that there are more teachers out there now with less training than they should have to start teaching.
I feel like a lot of the criticism lately on the yoga industry could be helped by teacher trainings either being longer, or the mentorship program after a trianing be a must. New teachers need more training and practice “on the field” and in the classroom.
HOW we practice yoga is largely to blame as to why we get injured doing yoga. Often times, not always, we practice past our comfort zone and keep practicing once we experience pain or discomfort. This is our ego at work. An ego that we might not even be aware of yet unless we’ve learned more about yoga or psychology. If a student pushes themselves past a safe position in a pose, and the teacher is not teaching to push hard, who or what is to blame for someone injuring themselves?
I wrote this article a year ago after being frustrated by seeing so many one week teacher trainings, month long teacher training intensives, and similar “fast track” yoga training programs. It touches on these topics that I write about above. Please feel free to tell me what you think or pass on this blog to anyone you who you think might find it interesting. Thanks!
Mentorship – Old school is New Again. Life After your Teacher Training
The importance of mentorship as a yoga student and yoga teacher is invaluable. With so many yoga teacher training and students taking teacher training to “deepen their practice”, are we losing the important relationship between student and teacher?
I had been practing for a few years when I began asking for advice on taking a teacher training. I already had been practicing with the person that I wanted to take my teacher training with, and the person whom I considered to be my teacher.
The best advice I received regarding teacher training was, “practice six days a week for a year with your teacher and then see if you want to teach”. I did just that. I practiced nearly every day for a year. After that year I had much more respect for yoga and had developed the discipline for a daily practice. After that year I knew I wanted to take a yoga teacher training and I wasn’t entering in to it lightly or on a whim. After that year I also had deepend the important teacher/student relationship with my teacher, which is a different commitment and experience than simply taking class from whomover fit in my schedule.
Yoga students who want to “deepen their practice” need to focus on that, not on gaining a certificate “just in case” they want to teach. I’ve often heard students entering a teacher training stress that they DON’T want to teach, but if they’re going to invest the money on a training they might as well get their certificate in case they change their mind. I certainly understand this logic, although I have to ask, what happened to learning more for the sake of learning more and not for some end result or certificate? Since there are so many teacher trainings, and regulations that stress a certain number of hours completed, its made us as yoga students and yoga teachers more goal oriented instead of process oriented. Since many students start out wanting to “deepen their practice” and end up graduating with a certificate to teach, there are many, many more certified yoga teachers out there – many of whom have no desire to teach or the cultivated commitment or knowledge to teach.
The most important part of my teacher training was assisting my teacher post training. That is where my education for how to teach began. My first yoga teacher training was in 2001. I had been practicing with Max Strom for over a year consistently and had to be accepted in to his training. This initial six week training was a bit of a blur – like many trainings are! After those six weeks I began assisting Max two days a week for two years. In order to assist I was required to practice with him three days a week. This agreement between us built commitment, loyalty and discipline. Instead of learning a little from many teachers I learned a lot from him. In those two years and beyond is where I learned to teach – the initial training was the door opening – my post experience was where I actually learned about teaching.
Often I am asked, “What teacher training should I take?” I’m surprised by this question since I came from a dance and yoga background of having one or two teachers for a long period of time. Take teacher training with a teacher you resonate with, a teacher you respect and someone you would like to mentor under. The student/teacher relationship is a long-term commitment. I’m surprised when more experienced students practice with whomever fits into their schedule and don’t have a teacher or two that they’re comfortable with. If you haven’t found that teacher keep searching and then study with them six days a week for a year. If you do decide that a teacher training is right for you, take the training with a teacher you feel close to and someone who’s teaching is honest and genuine. Take your teacher training with someone who is committed to teaching and mentoring, not simply committed to giving a class and delivering the material.
As part of our growth, yoga teachers need to make time and space to mentor newer teachers. The practice of teaching is great. I’ve described it like this, “Yoga helps us to willingly open our hearts. Teaching pulls our heart open and keeps it exposed”. After teaching for a good amount of time, the practice of teaching others is a whole new learning experience. Through teaching others to teach we’re faced to examine our own teaching and live’s more clearly and honestly. Are we practicing what we preach and are we practicing what we’re teaching others to preach? In addition, as we teach others about teaching we have to examine “why” we teach and “why” we teach a certain way. Its one thing to perform our actions, speak our words and teach how we were taught to teach. It’s a whole new world when we start teaching WHY we say things a certain way, why or how we touch or don’t touch a student, and why we are teaching this practice. Teaching others to teach makes us teachers much more clear about our every action and our intentions. In this process of becoming a “teacher trainer” not only are we committing to teaching the material but are also committing to continuing the on-going relationship with these newer teachers as they apply all that they have just learned. We need to ask ourselves, as teachers, are we committed to the mentorship process after teacher training? As newer teachers, are you committed to your continued education after teacher training?
The entire evolution of the practice, teaching the practice and teaching how to teach the practice is a great one. If you’re considering a teacher training, practice six days a week for one year and then decide. If you haven’t found that teacher or place that you resonate with the most, keep searching. They’re out there and who that teacher is will continue to change over the years. If you want to deepen your practice and learn more, do just that. Set the idea of a teacher training and certificate aside and indulge in being a student. And, if you do decide to take a teacher training, take one with someone who you consider to be your teacher – in the highest respect of the word. Talk with your teacher or school about continued education after teacher training and make sure there is a way for you to continue to grow in your “life after teacher training.” Keep in mind that a yoga teaching certificate is just the beginning – its in the mentoring, practice and teaching after teacher training where our heart is pulled open and stays exposed.