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As part of Denver Yoga Underground’s yoga teacher training, students are required to attend five classes outside of the formal program.  They then submit a written reflection on their experience.  Here is an example of the process, this student learned to become a better yoga teacher through observation.

In total, I attended three Vinyasa yoga classes, one Iyengar yoga class and a Hot Power Yoga class. Overall, I learned that a clear theme for a class is essential as is the teacher’s use of language.

For the purposes of this exercise, I took a wide range of classes including a “goat yoga” class. The goats freely interacted with students during the class. The teacher renamed poses like downward goat instead of downward dog, which complemented the theme. The pace of the class was slower to allow time for a goat to crawl onto or off of a person. The class was silly and fun however I would not go there to learn about the deeper meaning of yoga.  It felt more like a visit to the county fair with some “yoga poses” mixed in. It was more amusing than enlightening.

It felt more like a visit to the county fair
with some “yoga poses” mixed in.

The goat class had a clear intent, to generate a novel experience.  Other classes presented an odd mixture of unrelated intentions. I most appreciated classes that stayed within the parameters of their stated theme.  The Iyengar yoga class I attended had a clearly defined theme. This was the first time I participated in a class deconstructed a single pose with such detail. As a prospective yoga teacher, I was reminded of the many ways people can hone in on their craft.

The theme of a class, and the quality of instruction can either make one feel grounded or disoriented.  Yoga is a potent medicine. I can even create a new destiny.   Most of the time the result is positive however if the medicine is used in the wrong way, it can make someone anxious or imbalanced.

Yoga is a potent medicine.

Through this exercise, I learned the importance of language as a yoga teacher, how to pace a class, and why it is essential to have a clear theme. Overall, I learned to be a better yoga teacher through observation.

Many people anticipate yoga teacher training for years before they commit to a program. Understandable, It is a big moment in their life. As a result, I suggest a thorough exploration of possible schools and options.  One powerful way to get to know a program is to attend regular classes and consider online yoga teacher training reviews.

Most people will spend time on the school’s website and or attend a few of their regular classes. More than likely, the class instructor of that class attended that studio’s training.  If so, approach them and ask them how it went.  It is likely they will speak well of their experience and you might be surprised by their answer. More seasoned teachers will have studied elsewhere and have a broader understanding of your options. (Here is a list of people who taught DYU’s instructors)

In our digital age, another obvious method to evaluate a program is to turn to online reviews.  This will be the most convenient way to conduct your research, though it does come with limitations.  

I suggest you take online yoga teacher training reviews cun grano saliz

I suggest you take online yoga teacher training reviews cun grano saliz (with a few grains of salt). Sometimes people use the internet as a sounding board to vent anger on others rather than self-reflect on their own shortcomings. It is much easier to blame and criticize others than to cultivate insight, compassion & tolerance.

(As a side note, my own yoga practice led me to speak well of others, rather than disparagingly. It is a dedicated practice and I still have much to learn.)

Negative rants are probably less of an issue in yoga circles but something to be mindful of just the same.  For whatever it may be worth, you can read our particular Google reviews here and testimonials here. Personally I think they are a fair representation of what I aspire towards. And the number of them, over 35, will help you identify particular trends and patterns.

Another thing to consider, online reviews only represent individuals who have an affinity for writing online reviews. For every person who makes the effort to review a yoga teacher training, there are many, many who don’t, for whatever reason.  Maybe they are more introverted?  Maybe they are content with their own experience and feel less inclined to broadcast it? Or maybe they’d rather keep their ego in check rather than complain to the world.

In summary, online yoga teacher training reviews will tell you what to expect in the most general terms from a specific set of people. In my next post, I will discuss how to get a more direct insider view of any yoga teacher training.

As part of our YTT, students conduct a yoga teacher training exercise to enhance their skills outside of the classroom.  Here is a sample of one students experience.

As a first step, I set my intention for the assignment. This did not come easy, I have a history with wanting to control outcomes. However, I am can draw on my yoga experience and adjust to get the job done regardless of old anxieties. 

The I set the following intentions: provide a safe comfortable place for students to have a wholistic yoga experience, the students students leave class rejuvenated and to inspire student to continue their yoga practice. And to deal more effectively with their own life challenges.

As I assumed the role of yoga teacher, I contended with my own insecurities around control and a lack of trust in other humans. I doubted if they would even show up and I procrastinated doing the assignment for at least 10 days, until I realized that all teacher probably started with some doubt and reservation. 

Once I was able to overcome this low point, I found the yoga teacher training exercise to be a fun and rewarding experience. In particular, I appreciated the chance to work with novice yogis. I remember my initial teachers and it felt good to be able to support others people who just started the journey.  This exercise revealed that I do have love in my heart and desire to grow as a teacher, despite my initial doubt.

 

How to design a yoga teacher training? A program might have great content but if it is not assembled in an integrated way, you may be in for a rough ride. The design of a programs could be the difference between feeling lost and finding your life’s path.

 It is important that you can assimilate the content you study.  

It takes years of experience to work out the kinks in any training; to integrate theory, practice and pedagogy into a smooth and continuous flow.  Every hour of training is a precious opportunity. You do not want to waste time backtracking or feeling adrift. Imagine a book in which the chapters are in no particular order. Huh?

Imagine a book in which the chapters were in no particular order.

Some programs take the McDonald’s approach and offer many, many homogenized yoga teacher training sessions a year.  It’s a business.  On the upside, the program will be predictable.  They may even have a nice brochure.  On the downside, the presenters may be hemmed in by too many rules and you lose out on the magic of yoga.   It may still be a good experience but not live up to its full potential.

Yoga Training Design

A cohesive and integrated training has three components:

 

  1. The actual content of the training.  Most interviewing students zoom in on this part.  It’s important and there is more you should know.
  2. The quality of the teacher’s knowledge and their ability to present effectively.
  3. The overall architecture of the program (how individual topics fit into the whole).

Denver Yoga Underground takes all of these components into consideration to deliver a cohesive and integrated training.  The architecture supports the students to gradually assimilate the content, and the teachers deliver the content to the student. This combination supports the student’s growth and are essential parts of how to design a yoga teacher training.

 

Over the years, hundreds of students participated in my yoga teacher training. All of them were joined by a common love of yoga and a desire to deepen their yoga practice or teach. The latter can be more daunting. How to be a good yoga teacher.

Be A Dedicated Student

Yoga teacher walks in the classroom

We believe that effective teaching is rooted in being a dedicated student.  Teaching then becomes an organic extension of your committed practice.

To say it another way: if you aren’t a dedicated student you have no chance of becoming a teacher with depth. Your personal practice is the foundation for the house of your teaching.

Of course this same line of thought also pertains to your personal relationship with yoga.  If you practice on a daily basis your mind and body will seamlessly adapt to a more complete version of yourself.  It will happen naturally.

Regularity is the key. Practicing a little each day, or on a regularly scheduled occasion is more effective than “stop and go.” Consistent practice builds momentum over time and eventually takes on a life of its own.

I suggest that students build a dedicated practice and find delight in it also.

Developing a personal yoga practice is a little bit like growing a tree, at first you have to be very diligent to make sure it gets enough water, nutrients and sunlight.  You may also have to put some kind of barrier around it to prevent it from getting stepped on or eaten by insects. Eventually the tree comes into its own, is able to fend for itself, provides shade, fruit and intrinsic beauty.

Being a dedicated yoga student entails both regular practice and natural curiosity.  As you learn and apply new methods and self reflect on their effect, you discover how to shape your experience of life towards one of less fear and towards more joy.

Create a Strong, Deep, Personal Practice.

Dedication is an attitude. Your personal practice is the laboratory in which to apply the attitude. Personal practice will reveal how to be a good yoga teacher.  Like any craft, the more time you spend with it the further you progress.  If you want to master the violin, you need to practice.  If you want to get better at painting, then practice. The same applies to yoga. The only way to receive the benefit is by regular practice.  In order for the practices to work you have to do them.

women in a yoga training do a twisting postureWhat is the content of a yoga teacher training. This is a foundational question for any training.  It is right up there with what style of yoga do you teach.  I suggest you approach this question with some idea of what you are looking for in a program.  

Are you only interested in the asana?  Classic theory?  Do you want to know the Sanskrit names for the poses? Are you looking for a more contemporary or contemplative approach?

Spend some time with this question and be as specific as possible.  Some programs might say they cover meditation but what does that really look like?  How long do you meditate and for how often? 

If you don’t know what you want out of a program you might end up with ‘buyer’s remorse’. It’s a big investment, have a clear idea of what you want out of the experience before going in.

Have a clear idea of what you want out of the experience before going in.

Denver Yoga Underground is more holistic than most, we focus on yoga as an entire system.  This includes: asana, pranayama, meditation, traditional theory, diet, and lifestyle.  Every aspect of your life will be touched by a dedicated and integrated practice.

We present many yoga practices and principles and you are also a big part of the curriculum. At its core, yoga is a process of self experimentation and self discovery. The content of a yoga teacher training will profoundly shape your ability to see yourself.

There are many approaches to meditation. Finding the optimal technique is a bit like searching for a treasure in a darkened room.  The treasure holds the promise of greater inner-freedom however, and you’ll sift through less idyllic objects as you blindly sweep the floor with outstretched hands.

Fortunately, your search for the best meditation method can be distilled down to one of three primary categories. These categories range from the most passive to the most elaborate:

  1. Mindfulness.  In simple terms, mindfulness is the act of being fully present to whatever task, experience, or thought you happen to be having. This is one of the most recognized techniques because of its obvious universal application and ‘non-metaphysical’ demure.
  1. Self Reflection. Other techniques ask you to focus on a particular construct such as the fabled utterance “Aham-Brahmasmi” or “I am divinity itself.”  While the mantra itself possesses some potency, the real power of this method comes from the necessary self-reflection and the conviction that life is composed of more than ego-perspective.
  1. Kriya.  Kriya means a ‘method’ or ‘procedure’.  These procedures systematically blend various forms of imagery, colors, sounds, and associations to curate a particularly energetic and psychological reality in the practitioner.

    Unlike the universal approach of mindfulness, kriyas invoke a specific experience to suit the exact needs of the aspirant based on their current life circumstances and how they wish to evolve.  These practices, derived from tantra, are much more dynamic.

    These practices, derived from tantra, are much more dynamic.


    One may presume that kriyas entail an element of “imagination” or “pretending” to tap into an alternate reality.  The more that I’ve studied and practiced yoga, the more I’ve come to see and appreciate it’s metaphysical perspective.

    The Universe has more dimensions than length, height, and width and the vast, vast, vast majority of it exists outside of the limited field of our senses. We only see .03 percent of that available light spectrum that emanates from the sun, as an example.  I’ve come to recognize kriya as a porthole into a pre-existing plane of existence, outside of conditioned existence.

Meditation to Increase Shakti is a simple example of this kind of kriya. It also is the consummate practice for our May Meditation Series. Shakti means power or force, she is the inherent and presiding force of manifestation itself.  Without Shakti, there would be no life.

Kriya then is the systematic method by which one can enter into the awareness of this presiding force. It invokes the living presence and power of Shakti and most sublime attributes.  With continued practice, the meditator gradually assumes these qualities.  

Different forms of meditation will breed and awaken a different visceral reality.

Just as every seed contains a unique kind of plant in it – be it an oak tree or a rose bush – different forms of meditation will breed and awaken a different visceral reality inside of you.  Despite their aura of universal spirituality, different meditations will awaken a unique attribute of your soul and psyche.

When choosing an optimal meditation method, the most important thing is to get started.  Reflect on which of these three is most appeals, seek guidance, and most importantly just get started. Any of these approaches will help you to see yourself more clearly and help you discern its unique value and attributes.

STUDENT TEACHING

As part of the Denver Yoga Underground’s program, trainees practice student teaching outside of the classroom and in the community.  Here is one notable example of how an entry level teacher navigated their first attempt at student teaching. As a prospective teacher, this article will teach you what it’s like to get stated teaching.

Q. What was your general impression of teaching yoga?  Highs and lows?

A. My overall impression of student teaching felt pretty good.  I’m starting to get more comfortable with “putting myself out there”.  I also received some good feedback from my student teaching partner Meghan. She said I conveyed a lot of confidence and a welcoming atmosphere.

Cueing poses still feel awkward, especially with people who are new.  I know what I want in my brain however it’s that does not always translate to my words.  I work to be clear and concise in my instructions and not overwhelm students with ambiguous instructions.

Q. Did you integrate any insights from the previous student teaching assignment?  What were they? 

A. I want to be genuine.  It is easy to get tangled up in the theory or cueing instructions and the class feels ‘stale’. Most recently, I’ve only been looking at a list of the asanas themselves and then describe based on my personal experience rather than the suggested cues in the manual.

Being genuine is necessary to capture the student’s attention and keep them engaged.  I can tell the difference when a teacher comes from their heart vs a route description.

Additionally, I have some structural challenges and study different variations. Everyone has a unique body, I want to be able to make everyone feel accepted and appropriately challenged, regardless of any physical limitations.

Finally, I work to create space or silence in the class. Students see themselves more clearly when there are fewer distractions. This is another reason to practice concise cues.

Visual representation of repetition in meditation

First, a word of thanks to all of those who extended their good wishes, food, and prayers after I broke my leg some three weeks ago.  I’m happy to say that the force of healing is alive within me and I make noticeable progress each day. In part, I attribute this healing to repetition in meditation.

As an offshoot of that healing process, I started to offer a free, online meditation course on Wednesday and Friday mornings, 7:30-8:10am. The class consists of a brief asana practice, opening mantra, followed by pranayama, then meditation proper, and a closing mantra. Admittedly, it starts abruptly to ensure we cover these synergistic practices. We don’t discuss theory so much as, well, just get started.

So, I want to give a little context and share one simple idea underlying our practice.  That is simply this, “repetition in meditation”. Repetition is integral to any discipline; whether it be learning the violin, fostering a loving relationship, or advancing spiritual growth. The journey of 1,000 begins with the first step.  And then the next step. And then the next step…. repetition.

There is a fairly well-known expression within meditation circles:

“Better to dig one deep well than many shallow holes.”

For this reason, the repetition in meditation technique I present remains the same for the remainder of the series. My hope is that we get enough of a footing on the method that it becomes a part of us – to give it a fair chance to positively shape the way we view ourselves and our world.

Adopting a single technique for forty days is a common benchmark to get acquainted with a technique.  After those forty days of repeated practice, you can adequately assess if you wish to continue, or not.  There is an overwhelming chance that you will see the benefit and want to continue, you will have seen the value of repetition in meditation.

At the same time, we live in a culture obsessed with variety, innovation, and distraction (largely for commercial purposes). Methodical repetition is antithetical to the pace of modern life (though that seems to be on hold for the moment). However, to develop mastery, or better yet, to develop mastery of your mind, body, and character it takes more than one try. With persistent effort, you will discover the benefit.  The meditation class is here to support you to develop that skill. Of course, I’d encourage you to practice outside of class as well.

“The beginner has many options, the master very few.”

The beginner has many options, the master very few.  As you develop your meditation practice, I invite you to embrace repetition.  Through repetition in meditation, gradually clear away the dust and grime that obscures the inner-mirror. This inner-mirror aids you to see yourself more clearly, to dismantle fear and anxiety and reflect greater peace and joy back upon you.  But it doesn’t all happen by itself, it requires repetition.

Dates & Times:

  • Present through May 1st, 2020
    (May extend depending on interest)
  • Wednesdays and Fridays, 7:30-8:10am.
  • Online Zoom entry-link provided with registration

= Free of Charge =

ADDITIONAL DETAILS HERE