MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING JOURNEY: PART 2

This post is dedicated to the concepts we learned and put into practice regarding TEACHING yoga.

To set the stage for the rest of this series, here’s how the Kindness Yoga training program I did was structured on a day-to-day basis.

Training was Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m for 4 weeks. My day-to-day teachers were Jack Cuneo and Ellen Kaye!

Each day consisted of a mix of activities balanced with movement (yoga), listening, teaching each other, working alone, working together in groups, and coming together as a class for group discussions. More specifically, a lot of our days looked like:

 Yoga /  5 minute break / lesson / 15 minute break / lesson / lunch from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. / lesson / 15 minute break / lesson

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Alright, now about the TEACHING.

Learning to teach yoga was my number one goal for the program so I’ve focused on that aspect first. (it might come as a surprise that it’s not everyone’s top goal or reason for doing YTT)

All in all, throughout the training Jack and Ellen gave us a lot of tools “for our toolbox” to pull from related to creating a 60-minute sequence, teaching it, and facilitating an experience that appeals to all types of students.  

On Day 1, we learned what a Sun Salutation is and how to teach one. Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A and B) are a series of poses that have been passed down from the grandfathers of yoga, and are “the foundation of vinyasa yoga”.

Throughout training there were many instances where we independently created our own sequences, and taught them to each other in small groups. For example, we learned and then put into practice these teaching concepts: 

·      Classes have 5 stages:  Centering, warming the body, pathway to the peak, exploring the body, and cooling the body

·      It’s important to pick your "peak" pose, and create a class that works the body in ways that lead up to the peak pose

·      We learned that there is an order of operation in order to keep bodies aligned and balanced, including: setting the foundation, contracting muscles, internal and external rotation of the arms and legs, and energetic expansion away from the body

·      There are lots of categories of poses to choose from to incorporate into your class: standing, sitting, core strengthening, twisting, arm balances, backbends and inversions

·      We learned that are several “strategies” for creating sequences and building up the intensity of a class: hold-to-flow, stair step, and progressive

·      We learned about assisting people into poses; why you would assist people, when you shouldn’t, and how to assist properly so that you don’t hurt yourself in the process

In the Kindness program they also focused a lot on communication for getting people into shapes, and also refining the language we are using to be more affective. Here are some of the formulas and best practices we learned for communication:

·      A formula for cueing is:  Inhale or exhale >> verb >> body part >> direction >> pose name (in English and/or Sanskrit) . Ex. Inhale, step your right foot back, lunge pose

·      It’s best to cue from the ground up. Tell people where to move their feet first, then legs, hips, side bodies, arms, and head.

·      We also constantly worked on being better at the 3-step approach to cueing people.  SHAPE IT. Start with cues that get them into the right shape. WORK IT. Provide cues that help your students gain stability and strengthen the right muscles. REFINE IT. Give cues that escalate the pose to be more challenging or require paying attention to small subtleties in order to get optimal alignment.

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·      Ellen and Jack re-enforced using verbs that inspire action, and aren’t passive. One of the bad habits that I (and others) had to curtail was adding “ing” to action verbs. For example, it’s better to say, “raise your arms high” than “raising your arms high”.  It’s more direct and ignites action when you drop the –ing.

·      Perhaps most importantly, be conscious of everything you’re saying, eliminate filler language (um’s, extra and’s, etc.) and observe your students to see where you can be more clear.

We also learned about theme-ing, or adding in stories and personal touches to classes. Although Jack and Ellen let us know that it’s not ‘must’ for a teacher, theming can change the entire experience for a person. For better or for worse. And that great themes balance both personal touches, and universal concepts that all types of people can relate to. 

To put this into practice, we picked out a couple of themes that burn in our hearts and matter to us, then wrote them down and discussed in groups how those themes could tie in while also maintaining the aspect of relating to anyone. 

For our final project for the program, we got into groups of 3 and together created a 60 minute sequence that we co-taught together the last day of training.  For me, this was a really great exercise because I walked away from training with a 60-minute sequence that I created, and know how to teach. 

In a nutshell, we learned A TON about how to create a progressive and balanced yoga sequence, about affective teacher communication, and some best practices for providing a great experience for your students.

Have any questions about my experience? Please leave any questions in the comments below.

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