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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.

In the previous blog, I discussed how online reviews can help you determine the right yoga teacher training for you.  It is a simple and convenient way to start. To go deeper, I suggest you speak with any programs Lead Yoga Teacher Trainer. 

The Yoga Alliance requires that there be one specific person who teaches the majority of content – the “lead teacher”.  This person also plays a key role in designing the overall program and it’s content as well.

They have a watchtower view of the flow of the program and be able to highlight its strengths and weaknesses.  Think of them as the conductor of the orchestra of peer-teachers, the content of the training.  Truthfully, some people are more masterful at holding that much space, and all those moving parts, than others. In part, you need to gauge their ability in your one on one conversation.

The lead yoga teacher trainer can tell you what they are good at. They should also be able to tell you they don’t emphasize in their training. Furthermore, they should be able to articulate what they look for in a student. Remember, you are not the only one in the training, your peers will be a critical part of your experience as well.   

I’d be dubious if the lead yoga teacher trainer speaks in overly generalized terms.

If you want to learn about meditation, ask exactly how long you can expect to meditate. Or ask the underlying philosophy behind their approach to meditation. What is the range and average amount of time you spend in meditation?  I’d be dubious of a program that cannot see its own biases and claims to do it all.

Ideally, this will not be their first time a lead-instructor has offered a yoga teacher training.  In my view, lead yoga teacher trainers should have at least five years of experience teaching before instructing a YTT.  It takes years to refine the content of a training.

Furthermore, there will probably be 3-4 additional teachers present in the program. One teacher who focuses on anatomy as a simple example. Or another who specializes in philosophy. The lead yoga teacher trainer keeps the beat of the program and additional teachers add embellishments, color and flavor.

It is worthwhile to speak with those instructors as well. Ask how they see their role in the flow of the course and how many actual hours they will teach. You may love what they have to offer and they may only be there for three out of 200 hours. Ask how many hours they plan to teach.  A bit of math will clarify exactly what you sign up for.

In summary, there are lots of ways to assess if a yoga teacher training is right for you.  A direct conversation with the lead yoga teacher trainer will be very informative and help determine which training is best for you.

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.