Friday, January 28, 2005

Yoga Teacher Training, Weekend 1 - Friday

I’m starting Level 2 teacher training at the Tranquil Space studio. We’ll be in class from 6-9 PM every Friday and from 2-9 PM every Saturday for four months, and at the end of the training I’ll be a Yoga Alliance-certified teacher with 200 training hours. Those 200 hours of training include:

-40 hours already completed in my Level 1 training
-100 classroom hours (10 weekends x 10 hours/weekend)
-20 practice hours (taking different classes at the T.S. studio)
-40 "non-contact" hours:
-Take 5 classes in different yoga styles (Bikram, Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga, etc.) and write up studio reviews
-5 book reviews from a list of recommended texts
-Teacher assisting in studio classes
-Personal journal writing

I'm going to post many of my teacher training-related meditations, because, well, I think it's a fun thing to do in DC!

Friday evening, Weekend 1

We start right on the dot of 6pm. Kimberly Wilson, the owner of the Tranquil Space studio and leader of the teacher training, is an affectionate, bubbly, pink-accessorized sprite of a woman, but she is amazingly good at enforcing timeliness in her students (something I appreciate, since the lackadaisical attitude towards the clock I was born with has been reinforced by my many South Asian friends, and I'm usually lucky if I get the time right within an order of magnitude). She's got a fist of steel inside that purple velvet glove with cute little hearts embroidered all over it. And although I suspect that she was one of those people who, in second grade, bound their book reports inside a glossy binder and printed out colour cover sheets, I can forgive her for that. (Or perhaps even accept that there is nothing to forgive.)

We spent a while reviewing the syllabus for the course, class policies, and broke up into groups to introduce ourselves. Most of my fellow teachers-in-training are in their late 20s or thirties; everyone is a woman except for two men, both (I think) in their forties. Some of us have been teaching yoga for a long time; some are beginners; some intend to teach full-time, some part time, and some intend to apply the training to other disciplines.

One woman I met. Christina, is a former ballerina whose career was ended early by injuries, and now teaches ballet and flamenco. "Most dance teachers used to just teach you the poses, but not how to keep your body in condition for them," she said. "But the field is changing; there's much more of an emphasis on keeping dancers dancing for longer, allowing them to have longer, more healthy careers. I wish I'd known about yoga before I'd started dancing; I think I would have avoided several major surgeries."

Caroline is a social worker and interested in meditation and its effects on mood and lifestyle. She is slender and was dressed all in black last night, with a soft voice and a weak aura. "I want to build my confidence as a teacher," she said earnestly.

Kelly, works in opera; she used to sing, and now works for the Kennedy Center, edits an opera newsletter, and is working on producing a modern version of Mozart's "Don Giovanni," incorporating yoga/dance choreography. She started yoga to help rehabilitate a severe injury from a car crash three years ago, and said, "I was very aggressive with the rehabilitation and trying to get my body back into shape. Eventually I started to accept my body's limitations, and reconciled myself to the fact that there would be some poses I'd never be able to do."

I said that as well as intending to teach part-time, I was interested in the connections between different types of sacred meditational movement: yoga, tai chi, qi gong, capoeira, belly dancing, aikido, the Dreamtime dances of the Australian Aborigines - as well as the roles that these different disciplines play in society, and how they are changed and adapted as they move between different cultures.

Among our assigned readings was the Anusara Teacher Training Manual, and we discussed the idea of applying the yoga yamas and niyamas to our teaching. Following these ethical "dos" and "don'ts" is the first step of a yoga lifestyle, and they comprise:


AHIMSA (Non-violence)
SATYA (Truthfulness)
ASTEYA (Non-stealing)
APARIGRAPHA (Non-attachment)


SAUCHA (Purity)
SANTOSA (Contentment)
TAPAS (Austerity/Discipline)
SVADHYAYA (Study of the Self)
ISHVARA PRANIDHANA (Worship of God/Surrender to the Divine)

How can a yoga teacher exemplify these? Well, an important principle of ahimsa is not causing damage to the body by pushing it too far; we should not encourage our students to strain themselves. Part of satya involves speaking with an authentic voice; we should not parrot learnings we've heard if we don't truly understand them, just to seem like a wiser teacher, and if a student comes to us with a question we don't know the answer to, we should never pretend to. Asteya, non-stealing, involves treating students with respect for their time, effort, energy, and money: not wasting their time by starting or ending class late, making sure to always be prepared for class and to give them a good experience. The concept of moderation is often applied to sexuality, and obviously it's important to avoid what Lisa likes to call the "player assist", but more generally is linked to ahimsa in terms of not pursuing anything fanatically, including a yoga practice. Non-attachment involves letting go of ambition to achieve a certain goal (as Kelly, for example, learned to accept her injuries).

Saucha, or purity: always keeping class space clean and organized, as well as keeping a class organized and structured. Santosha, or contentment: being happy with whatever you have, whatever stage of your practice you're at, and encouraging a similar attitude in your students. Tapas, or discipline: making sure you push yourself to your edge, using willpower to exert effort to achieve your goals. (Kimberly on tapas: "The most frustrating thing is when I try to show beginning students a new pose, like crow, and they all just sit down and don't even want to try it. Oh, it drives me crazy!") Svadhyaya, study and study of the self: meditation, reading yoga texts and educating yourself; learning more about yourself and the way that your body responds to your yoga practice also allows you to teach your students with an authentic voice, and better anticipate their responses to challenges you've already faced yourself. Surrender to the divine got a lot of raised eyebrows from the secular members of our training group, but it was proposed that this could be thought of as serving a larger community, or dedicating oneself to ideals - not necessarily a specific divinity. (This seems to me a bit of a cop-out, but anyway, I think that Ishvara Pranidhana is embodied in the other niyamas and yamas, so if you follow the rest of them, it doesn't matter...or perhaps you'll come to change your mind.)

There was a lot of discussion about how these precepts are intertwined, with a Platonic unity-of-the-virtues flavour: for example, following ahimsa by not stretching yourself too far in a pose also involves satya, or truthfulness to the stage that you're at, moderation, non-attachment to your goal, asteya in the form of non-covetousness (being jealous of your neighbor's greater accomplishment), contentment with your current level, svadhyaya in terms of understanding your own capabilities...and so on.

Nicole, a perky girl I met in my Level 1 training, piped up, "Kimberly, whenever I put back my block and blanket after class it's like I hear your voice echoing in my head: 'Saucha, guys! Keep the yoga studio clean!' "

Tomorrow we're going to review our Level 1 training and go through the anatomy of all the different poses. Kimberly asked us to bring one of our favorite books to share ("Something inspirational!") and I'm completely torn between Rilke, Rumi, Hafiz, my Sufi anthology, Pablo Neruda, Tagore, and the Dalai Lama. Perhaps I'll bring them all.


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Free Daily Yoga Tip

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