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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 6

My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 6

This last post is dedicated to the BUSINESS OF YOGA, and the things we learned about teaching yoga as a profession. 

Lynn Koves Yoga - Yoga Teacher Training at Kindness Yoga

Certainly, one part of yoga teaching training was reviewing how to find work and also the realities of what it’s like to be a full-time teacher.

My biggest takeaway from the lesson was that being a yoga teacher, in a lot of scenarios, requires having an entrepreneurial spirit. What I mean by this is that is it common to have to create your own opportunities in order to gain experience in the field.

One way to gain experience is by working within the community where people work, spend time, and have fun. Many businesses, schools, recreational centers, assisted living facilities and more value yoga as a part of their wellness programs. In order to find these jobs, it’s common to have to create the opportunity for yourself by reaching out to companies out of the blue.

Once you're teaching, it's helpful to have a following of students - which requires consistency in teaching, providing great experiences, and marketing yourself and your classes. 

To work at studio, often you need to have prior experience and/or know someone at the studio in order to get an audition. The Denver market is fairly saturated, which can make finding work challenging but not at all impossible or out of reach.

Another option for teachers is to rent a space for an hour at a time. Yoga studios vary in terms of what they charge teachers to rent their spaces, but from what I’ve heard, $25-40 per hour is fairly common.  This strategy has some risks associated with it, in that you need to find enough students make up the cost of the class before you can make any money.  

As an independent contractor, you’ll need your own insurance to protect yourself in the event that someone gets injured. (To that note, it’s also good to get people to sign waivers that release you of liability.) Also, most teaching scenarios do not offer health insurance, so you’ll have to buy independently or get your insurance through a family member.

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Regarding the “realities” of being a teacher, something I learned is that many teachers only teach a few classes a week. Teaching can be draining, and also with scheduling, it’s not always feasible to go back and forth to a studio (or more than one studio) a few times a week.  One solid tip we were given was:  If you can, it’s a good idea to know a couple of styles of yoga so that you can teach back-to-back classes. 

In terms of salary, we learned that studios pay teachers a number of ways. Usually a studio either pays teachers a flat rate, or a flat rate + $ per head. Teachers often make anywhere between $20 and $75 per class on the high end if you have years of experience.  However, it’s definitely possible to make more. 

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Lastly, one piece of advice I have for teachers in Denver is to join the Denver and Boulder yoga teacher Facebook Groups. Having been in the Denver yoga community for a few years, I’ve gotten to know and observed the teaching landscape. The Facebook Groups seem to be the best way to keep a pulse on the yoga community, and hear about teaching opportunities.

These groups are ~ 

Boulder and Denver Yoga Instructors https://www.facebook.com/groups/177711345627347/?fref=nf

Denver Yoga Teachers https://www.facebook.com/groups/denveryogateachers/

Yoga Teachers of Denver https://www.facebook.com/groups/246227295423199/

There is definitely a lot more to it, but these were a few of my main takeaways. 🙏

 

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

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 5

MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING JOURNEY: PART 5

This post is dedicated to the WAYS I GREW and the LESSONS I LEARNED in yoga teacher training. 

Lynn Koves Yoga - Yoga Teacher Training at Kindness Yoga

When you talk with people who have graduated a YTT program, it’s really common to hear about personal transformations, revelations, and the ways in which people grew in the process of training. 

I can’t speak for everyone (nor would I want to try), but it seems like the specific transformations that occur within people are specific to each person, where they are in life, and also based on who their teachers are.

When I look at back at my Kindness Yoga training, here a few very memorable lessons I learned and took to heart in my personal life:

·      Don’t do things out of habit.  Ellen and Jack reinforced to us that it is important to say things with intention. Not to go on autopilot with your teaching practice, or say things that you don’t wholeheartedly believe. Doing so can sound disingenuous and sometimes, like bullshit.

In life, live awake and make conscious choices for how you spend your time, who you spend your time with, and where your money goes.

Also, it’s impossible to change what you’re not aware of.  For me, this re-enforced the benefits of getting constructive feedback from mentors, peers, and people who observe my work. 

·      Words matter. Choose them wisely. In yoga, being a successful yoga teacher very much requires being a great communicator.  Ellen and Jack encouraged us time and time again to eliminate filler words, extra words, and confusing language in order to be affective teachers. Also, to be aware of the words you use when helping people get into poses or providing feedback on their practice as well.

In life, how you say things can determine the entire outcome of a situation, or even a relationship. Be mindful with your words.

·      Self check-ins are important. Ellen started week 2 with a question for people to self-reflect on. She asked us – “Up until this point, how have you shown up to training? And does it match what your goals are for the program? If yes, great.” If not, she advised that now was a good time to change course. 

In life, it’s a good practice to be self-aware of your participation in life, in your relationships, and amount of effort you’ve put towards your goals. I personally value self check-ins, and credit them for keeping me on track toward my goals, and also making sure I live a life that makes me truly happy.

·      Get out of your comfort zone.  There were plenty of times in YTT where I found myself a bit uncomfortable with the task at hand because it either put me on the spot, or was generally something I had never done before and wanted to do well.

During training, and in life, I recognize that getting out of my comfort zone is one of the best ways (if not the BEST way) to grow and evolve. When life gets uncomfortable, acknowledge that you are learning -- and appreciate where you are. It's all about the journey anyway. 

 

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

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 4

MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING JOURNEY: PART 4

This post is dedicated to all of the YOGA RELATED CONTENT we studied during yoga teacher training. 

Everyday during YTT we spent some time learning about other interesting and fun topics related to yoga, including:

  • the history of yoga and how the practice has evolved over the last 5,000 years

  • different philosophies of yoga that have been passed down from ancestors

  • benefits of particular breathing and physical practices

  • about the other 6 limbs of yoga that don't get as much attention in modern, Western forms of yoga

To summarize the topics we studied, the materials we utilized, and a few books that were recommended ~ here's a top-level list: 

Topics we studied:

What is yoga?

The history of yoga

The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali (with translation and commentary by B.K.S. Iyengar)

Bhagavad Gita

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga

Pranayamas and bandhas

Sanskrit

Modern hatha yoga, and the elements of vinyasa

Anatomy and biomechanics (including over 9 hours with guest teacher Jen Wilking)

Meditation

Chakras

Yoga & pregnancy

Ayurveda

Mantras

Ethics of being a yoga teacher

Our materials:

“Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar

Excerpts from “The Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali

Excerpts from the “The Bhagavad Gita”

Excerpts from “Core Concerns in Teaching Yoga” by Judith Hanson Lasater

Our Kindness Yoga YTT binder which is packed with information

Other recommended books:

 “Wheels of Life” by Anodea Judith

“Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga” by Michelle Marchildon

"Yoga Toolbox" by Joseph and Lilian Le Page

& MANY MORE

Namaste. 

 

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 3

MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING JOURNEY: PART 3

This post is dedicated to how much time we spent on our mats PRACTICING yoga.

It's probably pretty obvious - we did yoga every day during YTT! For most of the 4 week intensive program I participated in at Kindness Yoga, we started each day with 60 to 90 minutes.

A lot of days the theme of the practice we had in the morning was used as a jumping off point for the lessons we would learn later that day.  For example, one morning we used straps to stretch our hamstrings, and then later that afternoon practiced with straps, and reviewed best practices for how to use them properly and safely.  Another morning, we learned a breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama or “alternative nostril breathing”. That afternoon we learned about other breathing techniques you can include in your classes to warm up your students.

The yoga itself was really nice and turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the training and of each day. (Surprising, I know.) I loved going there and waking up with a class by Jack or Ellen.

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One of my personal breakthroughs in YTT was with crow pose. When learning about this pose it was suggested to place 4 blocks in front of your nose as a safety net. I didn’t realize until I did this that part of my issue with crow was completely mental. Having the 4 blocks in front of me calmed fears of falling on my face, and gave me the confidence to learn fully forward. As a result, I held the longest crow I’ve ever held.

Lynn Koves Yoga - Crow Pose

Another afternoon, Jack debunked for us handstands, forearms stands, headstands, and shoulder stands. Learning forearm stand ended up being on the the best ways for me to improve my handstands, as it allows me greater stability, while feeling what it's like to have everything from my hips up properly stacked to keep me inverted. 

The day we learned inversions we spent mostly sitting against the wall to use it as support.

The day we learned inversions we spent mostly sitting against the wall to use it as support.

For me and a few others one of our favorite activities was getting into groups of two one afternoon, taking pictures of each other doing 10 different poses, then matching up our photos against the pictures of B.K.S. Iyengar in Light On Yoga to see the differences in form. During this exercise it was when I fully realized that sometimes I bend at the back instead of bending at the waist.

As Jack once said, “It’s the little things.”  This phrase stuck with me, and became more and more apparent to me as true as we learned about the benefits of proper alignment.

We also had the great opportunity to learn from guest teachers about other styles of yoga, including Yin, Nidra, Restorative, and pre-natal.

During the pre-natal lesson we did with Kristen Boyle, we tied blankets around our waists with straps and practiced yoga that way to feel what it would feel like to do poses with a huge bump. 

In this lesson we discussed modifications for pregnant women, some poses that are probably best to stay away from, and the whole notion that yoga teachers are not doctors – and shouldn’t be treated as them either when it comes to people’s abilities if they are experiencing complications or are worried about them.

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The last week of training, we did A LOT of yoga in order to practice our final projects.  And on the last two days, we did a total of 5 1-hour classes in order to participate in each team’s final project. It was a bit strenuous, but also a great experience and so fun to see each person rock their part.

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

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 2

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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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 1

My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 1 

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If you are considering yoga teacher training, or are curious about the value it can bring to your life, this blog series is for you.  

In February of 2017 I fulfilled my goal and dream of completing a 200-hour yoga teacher training program.

As a way to document my experience and help anyone considering Yoga Teacher Training (whether the goal is to teach or not), this 6-part blog series is designed to help prospective YTT students get an idea of the sorts of information and lessons one could expect to learn in a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training program.

In this blog series I will be sharing about my experience in themes. Truth be told, every day we did a little bit of everything. So for those interested in one aspect or another, the content has been broken up into the following 5 themes:

·      STUDY ~ BECOMING A PROFICIENT TEACHER I’ll review the things we learned related to: crafting a 60-minute yoga class, communicating yoga poses, and about how we put everything into practice by teaching each other.

·      PRACTICE ~ HOW MUCH TIME WE SPENT ON THE MAT Everyday we practiced. Most mornings we started with an hour or 90 minutes, and worked on individual poses and sequences throughout the day depending on the scheduled activities. We also learned from other Kindness Yoga teachers about Yin, Nidra, Restorative, and pre-natal yoga styles.

·      LEARN ~ ALL THE TOPICS WE COVERED We were given a lot of other context into topics related to yoga. We learned about anatomy, the impact of injuries, breathing techniques, meditation, yogic philosophies, the history of yoga, and much more.

·      GROW ~ THE LESSONS I LEARNED From what I’ve both heard and experienced, YTT can be a transformational experience. In this post I’ll share what life lessons I learned from training that I feel transcend past yoga into life off the mat.

·      TEACH ~ THE BUSINESS OF YOGA What I learned about the business of yoga, what you need to get work as a teacher, and how to find teaching jobs. I will also offer a couple of tips based on my own experience in the Denver yoga community over the last few years.

Before diving into the content of the program, here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the posts:

·      200 hours is a lot of time! This blog series is a mere summary of how my 200-hour YTT program at Kindness Yoga was structured, and about the broad topics we learned about and put into practice during the 4-week intensive.

·      Kindness Yoga in Denver, CO was where I chose to do my training.  After much research, I chose them based on their reputation in the community, the fact that they teach Vinyasa style yoga (the style I wanted to learn), and because I heard from other teachers that Kindness’ YTT program would give me the tools and knowledge to become a teacher shortly after program completion. As a full disclaimer, Kindness offered me a scholarship (discount) to blog about my experience on unlimitedyoga.com. That said, all opinions in this blog series are authentically my own.

·      While exploring YTT programs I quickly learned that YTT curriculums differ from one program to the next.  And no program, from my research, shares their entire agenda online. So you really have to make an effort to talk with people about their experiences and with the program managers in order to get an idea about the details and nuances of each program. I was surprised to learn that some programs make the ‘learning to teach’ part ancillary and focus more on yoga history, philosophy, and about the individual poses. Depending on your goal(s) for training, the details you find out could affect which program you invest your time and money in. Definitely do your own research and weigh your options.

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·      Something that cannot be understated in the whole experience is the people. While this blog series documents my experience, and my experience only… my classmates and teachers shaped everything about the program and the feel of each day. I am grateful to each and everyone one of them for their friendships and the lessons they taught me. They inspired me by the strength they exuded in the face of challenges and uncertainties, the vulnerability they let go of to learn something new, and their perseverance in a program that is appropriately entitled an “intensive”. 

If you have any questions or thoughts, please drop them in the comments below!

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