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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.

A well designed yoga class flows effortlessly; every instruction or posture builds consecutively.  And at the end of 60 minutes you seemed to have magically found the reset button. How is this possible? A successful class does not happen by accident, an experienced teacher will reference set principles to design and deliver their classes. Here are three keys to teaching yoga.

Three Keys to Teaching Yoga:

Connection

Connection happens when we truly take in, listen too, and or observe whatever is in front of us with genuine wonder, empathy and appreciation. This is true of all genuine human interaction. Relationships occur when we set aside our personal agenda and become more curious and attentive.

As a yoga teacher, we can build connections with students by closely observing students.  On the most surface level we observe their alignment.  We can reflect upon the quality of our instructions and if they translate for students.

Teachers can also be attentive to more subtle signals from students; such as the quality of breath, skin pallor, responsiveness, focus and general quality of energy. 

Experience

Most importantly, a yoga teacher is there to provide an experience for students.  They help them feel integrated and at peace. The sequence of a class, and the cues that a teacher uses, either support or undermine a students ability to have an integrated experience.  

Some teachers get lost in the superficial aspects of a class. They focus on the kind of music they play or how to choreography multiple postures together and miss the bigger picture, often falling back on cliche cues

The point of yoga is to connect to a reservoir of peace inside rather than manufacture a sensational experience.  As a yoga student matures, they become sensitive to their environment. Too much stimulation makes it hard to be mindful and attentive.

One of the most important ways that yoga teachers create an experience is through the cues they give.  Different yoga teacher trainings have different views on how to design a training and instruct a class. Students on our teacher training become fluent in four different kinds of language; each of which creates a specific kind of experience.

Briefly said, some cues direct the students attention to the outer body while others ask them to direct their attention to their inner experience.  Additionally some cues awaken the practitioner’s imagination.  These kinds of instructions are more visceral than they are literal.

Coherent

Practiced deliberately, yoga can be very therapeutic. A skilled practitioner knows how to modify their practice based on their circumstances. The practice they do when tired looks different than the one they do if they feel anxious.

The postures need to build off of each other naturally and based on established principles.  A class should to be integrated rather than disjointed.  When a teacher does not understand the deeper “why” behind each pose, and puts them together haphazardly, the class is less potent.

There are many factors that go into teaching a yoga class. Connection, experience and coherence and three important keys to teach yoga effectively.  A masterful teacher knows how to combine these elements to awaken the higher nature of the students.

Students in Denver Yoga Underground’s yoga teacher training instruct classes outside of the studio. They offer their written reflections on teaching yoga in the community. Here is one such example from a dedicated student who fully embraced the process.

I enjoyed this teaching exercise. I have a background in teaching, so I am already quite comfortable with giving instruction in a group. As a teacher, I sometimes doubt myself or get stressed when I don’t know the content. This came up when I taught my first two yoga classes.

I was very focused on what I was doing, but it wasn’t until the end class that I actually looked up and realized I had students to engage with! After the first few classes, I started to become comfortable with more of the content and the flow of the class, so I was able to start engaging with the students (this also aligned with our YTT classes as we began to discuss the power of observation and different language techniques).

We began to discuss the power of observation and different language

woman with pink hair teaches yoga to a male student

Like anything, by my fifth class, I became more comfortable with what I was doing. I think I still have a lot of areas to work on, for example: reading the students, working on directive language, adding creativity to the class, and practicing safe sequencing. Overall, this exercise was a great way to jump in the deep end of teaching and just start somewhere.

I am often the type of person who needs to make sure everything is aligned before I start to do something, so I appreciated that this exercise forced me to start and begin to learn something from each experience as a teacher. I would like to continue providing practice classes for friends and family so I can continue learning and growing in my teaching skills.

How to integrate these reflections on teaching yoga?

1. Connection (with students and their needs)

2. Experience (teacher as a guide)

3. Fluidity (sequencing and flow)

As I progressed through my practice classes, I believe I was more and more able to incorporate these intentions into my classes. And discover more reflections on teaching yoga. After a few more practices, I started to ease into what it meant to create an experience for the student.