Becoming A Yoga Teacher
Did you know that anyone can be a Yoga instructor? Anyone at any time can say that they know how to teach Yoga and can easily begin selling Yoga classes. There is no certification required, no registration, no education.
Of course, we know that this is not what makes a person a Yoga teacher. The ability to instruct people to move through various postures does not necessitate special training. However, the skills needed to guide people through a Yoga sequence that intentionally creates physical, energetic and emotional change requires depth of study and practice. The Yoga Alliance provides us with a set of guidelines to follow in our training.
Self Study is one of the most important practices a Yoga teacher must do. While studying the texts, philosophies and practices of Yoga we must apply that which we learn to our lives. We must move with the intention of noticing how it effects our own bodies and live as witnesses and observers of our own thoughts, speech and actions.
Teaching Yoga requires constant practice and study. It requires self awareness, continued study, growth and development. A Yoga teacher is always practicing, but not always posing. They are developing deeper awareness of themselves in order to gain a better understanding of the practitioners whom they guide.
Intense, but not Intensive
The training required to become a Yoga teacher is intense, but it should not be intensive. The quality of the training a blossoming practitioner attends can make the difference between them becoming an instructor or a teacher.
The most common initial Yoga teacher training program is 200 hours in length. A comprehensive program includes everything from history to anatomy and should also cover the philosophy and practices of traditional Yoga. To fully grasp these concepts it is important that a budding teacher apply them to life. To do this, we must walk the walk and talk the talk, everywhere. We must take the time to understand and apply everything we learn. A quality Yoga teacher takes the time necessary to develop themselves, their knowledge and their own practice.
Everyone has their own special set of skills. A quality Yoga teacher does more than instruct poses. They absorb themselves into the practice and radiate their passion into the studio as well as out in the world. Every aspect of their life is dissolved in Yoga. Listen to how your teacher speaks, watch them move, notice what they do while demonstrating or moving through the room. Listen for their unique set of skills.
Learn about your teacher. Do they have a degree? In what field? What lives did they live before they became a Yoga teacher? How does their past effect the way in which they teach? Each one of us applies that which we had learned before we became Yoga teachers to the way in which we teach and live. When you practice with a quality Yoga teacher you will be able to see, hear and feel who they are as a result of their past experiences.
Value Your Teacher
Standing on your head, jumping from downward dog to handstand and being able to wrap your legs behind your shoulders does not qualify you to teach Yoga. In fact, many teachers lack the flexibility to access many of the party trick poses you will find on Instagram. In addition, just because your teacher can do these things that does not mean they can teach you to access the positions in your body or that your body can move in those ways.
Think about your favorite teachers in school. What qualities made them memorable? A quality Yoga offers more than instruction during a work out. They offer space, energy, guidance, support, instruction, direction, passion, enthusiasm and themselves. The practice of Yoga is their way of life and they share their life with you every time they teach.
When you find your quality Yoga teacher let them know how much you value them by paying full price, letting others know what makes them different and showing up to support what they do and to learn and grow with them.
Misunderstanding the Language of Yoga
When I first began practicing Yoga I could have cared less about the use of Sanskrit and struggled to understand the words being used to describe the names of postures or philosophies within the practice. I had struggled enough to understand Spanish and, as a college student, wasn't interested in adding another item to study to my list.
Now, almost two decades later, I have found myself correcting my practitioners and guiding new instructors in the proper application of Sanskrit words as they apply to the practice. I have become increasingly aware of the value of using the proper word while teaching. I spend hours practicing proper pronouciation and seeking out the most correct word to describe what I want to say (both in English and Sanskrit). I have become a language nerd. This doesn't surprise me; one of my favorite classes in college was Psycholinguistics. I probably would have continued studying had I not been drawn toward counseling.
Mantra comes from the root words "Man" meaning "mind" and "tra" or "trana" meaning "to train." The word Mantra is often translated to mean a tool for training, or driving, the mind.
Motto is defined as: a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals guiding an individual, family, or institution.
The two are very different things. Mantra requires that the mind become focused, directed and, often there is a desire to change the quality of energy and intention. Whereas a motto is a summary or explanation of a belief or idea.
The two have come to be interchanged in our culture. It is our task to change this.
Speak Clearly to be Understood
Language is a truly valuable form of communication. Accurate expression can encourage connection and understanding. As a Yoga Teacher I use language to explain postures, concepts, philosophy and more. I state and restate until it appears as though my practitioners understand. As a counselor I reflect and restate to encourage understanding, accuracy and awareness. To speak clearly is to be understood and does not require a lot of words.
Yoga was originally taught in Sanskrit. This ancient language is no longer used in conversation, but the words that live on are those that continue to be studies, taught and heard in many Yoga studios. There is a reason Sanskrit has survived; the words mean more than we can translate. There is energy within the sounds and the words have more meaning than we could ever describe. For example; the word Prana is translated to mean breath, life force, energy and more.
Let's Work Together to Remove Ignorance
As practitioners, instructors, teachers and guides of Yoga it is our duty to retain the goodness (Su) that exists within the traditions of the practice.
Become an observer of the world around you and do what you can to correct the wrongs, to encourage righteousness by educating those who have ignorance (Avidya) to the value of proper application of the practice of Yoga and language of Sanskrit.
Listen for the moments when you can truly be a teacher and help to spread the knowledge (Jnana) of the language of Yoga so that the roots of this ancient practice can remain solid.
Let's not lose sight of what Yoga is: both the practice and the result.
Lake Tahoe Yoga began as an idea. For years I would joke about various locations being "a great place for a studio." I never thought I would actually become a studio owner. It wasn't until I was approached by some locals who were curious about my skills beyond counseling that I considered starting my own business. I began with just a few classes, some private sessions, and free classes. Once I began actively teaching, I realized how much I had to learn about business, people and community.
Giving too Much Away
I am enthusiastic about instructing, guiding, and helping others to discover their paths. The teacher in me is always proud to see my students demonstrate their understanding, develop new skills and grow as individuals. While instructing others, I am always learning. It wasn't until it was too late that I realized the very people that I had been supporting, guiding, and instructing were planning on attempting to become my competition. Upon leaving Lake Tahoe Yoga Studio they took more than the knowledge I had shared; they took practitioners, ideas and more.
It is incredible to look back to 2008 and review how rapidly technology, advertising, marketing and business has changed. During this time there have been positive and negative shifts in every field. I have had to change everything about the way I market my business. What will never change is the roots of Lake Tahoe Yoga.
Many of the studios, gyms, etc. in town may be listed on Mindbody or some other app. They may have pretty photos with people posing on their instagram. Maybe they are offering classes at breweries, art studios, wineries, with goats and cats and dogs. They are viciously competing with one another. Lake Tahoe Yoga continues to remain focused on our roots: the practice, the knowledge and sharing it with others.
Putting our Money where it Matters
Lake Tahoe Yoga wouldn't exist if it wasn't for our community. It was the locals that encouraged me to begin instructing and who continue to support the studio. I didn't practice at any other studio in Tahoe. I didn't train with a studio here. I didn't learn how to run a business by working for another studio. Everything at Lake Tahoe Yoga grew through active learning, community engagement & support, and the dedication I have to the practice, studio, and practitioners.
Our social media photos are of Tahoe and people just like you and me doing their best to access more than a pose. They are trying to access Yoga. They are living in this world, working beside you. They are breathing, moving and observing themselves and the world around them hoping to bring forth positive change.
Every penny spent to advertise Lake Tahoe Yoga is purposeful and focused. From local memberships for TRYP, SLTWHS and Tahoe Chamber to social media the advertising is calculated to be the best way for us to reach the community and to give back.
Supporting Small, Local Yoga Studios & Businesses
Over the past 10 years I have learned much about Tahoe South, business, and people. I have grown as an instructor, business owner and individual. I have deepened my understanding of Yoga and what it means to truly practice. I know I am not perfect. I remind my students that not everyone lives life with an open mind and that most people are in service only to themselves. Taking this lesson to heart, I have chosen not to advertise on the popular apps so that I can donate a portion of Lake Tahoe Yoga's profits to local and international non-profits.
When traveling, I seek out the small, locally owned studios that are not listed on Mindbody and do not have fancy advertisements or websites. I have discovered wonderful studios, new instructors, friendships, connections and more. I have expanded this practice beyond Yoga studios and have begun seeking out small businesses, as well. It has opened many new doors.
Go Small, Support Locals
There is no guarantee that the studio you find listed on Mindbody is the best, nor is there a guarantee that the teacher instructing in the basement of her house is any good. You will never know if you don't try it out. How about giving that new teacher in the basement a try before heading to the studio paying to be noticed? Step into that funky little shop on the corner instead of going to the one with thousands of reviews. Ask a friend for a recommendation, ask a local where they go, step off of the beaten path and try something new. For it is only when we try that we know.
Do the Rewards Equal Your Efforts?
Everything you do has an equal return. Every thought you have, every word you speak and every action you take will result in a reaction. You have control only over that which you think, say or do. You cannot control anyone else or the results of what they do. Yoga teaches us to practice observing our thoughts, words and actions and becoming aware of the intention behind each. If the intention is to make yourself look good, hurt someone else or to improve your life alone, then Karma results. I like to imagine Karma as a small seed. One is not a big deal, but a bag, bushel or box of seeds can get very heavy. The more Karma seeds you create, the heavier they get.
Throughout your life you have stitched together various activities, people, and experiences that all have something in common. Reflect upon the work you have chosen to do, the places you have spent time, the topics that you have studied and the people to whom you have become close. Can you identify the common thread?
That to which we are drawn is most often our Dharma; our life's duty. Once you begin observing and reflecting you may be able to see the common thread throughout your life. You may even notice that it is something for which you feel passionate. In addition, it is something that effects more than just you. Typically, it is something that you are able to do that makes life better for others.
Can you identify your Dharma?
Before, throughout, or to close any Yoga class, your teacher will offer some guidance in discovering your Dharma. Knowing what to look for is the first step toward identifying your life's work. The Dharmic Topic of the day will give you something upon which to focus as you move through asana. A good instructor will weave this theme throughout the class. While you move, he or she will guide you in considering the theme. While practicing, you may make connections to how you are feeling physically, energetically, or emotionally.
Consider the Dharmic Focus of Divinity.
Your teacher may suggest that you consider the idea of recognizing divinity in all things, including other people, even those with whom you do not get along. While you move through asana, rather than getting lost in mindless chatter, perhaps you will begin to think about those who have wronged you; people with whom you are frustrated or angry. Perhaps you will begin to see that their divinity is blocked by their actions. Next, you may begin to reflect on how your behaviors may make it difficult for others to see the divinity within you. As you continue to practice, observe and reflect, you may begin to bettter understand yourself and, thus, see your Dharma.
Remaining on the Path of Dharma
Upon identifying your Dharma, the next step is to continue to do your life's work without over-doing it. Yoga is a practice of balance; we must always be seeking Sattva (harmony). Just because you finally know what to does not mean it is time to become forceful. Your eyes have been opened and you know what to look for. Opportunities to practice Dharma will present themselves as appropriate.
While you practice observing and reflecting, it helps to have some guidance. Gathering useful knowledge about Dharma can help. We recommend attending practices that include a Dharmic Focus. On your own, you can read books that provide such focus. One of our favorites is Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates.
You may also choose to book a Private Session during which we can focus on exploring the common thread within your life. Contact us to begin the process.
You are out of Balance
You night not notice it, but you have become so comfortable with how things are that you just accept that this is how you are supposed to feel. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes of time to allow your thoughts to run wild? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes to quiet those thoughts?
How well do you know your Self?
In the movie Anger Management, the main character is asked to explain who he is. Can you do this? Without describing yourself as what you do, who you know, where you live, what you enjoy? Can you describe your Self?
Try this: write down that which you do, where you live, what you enjoy, who you know, who you are in relation to others, etc. Now, describe what you look like, what you love and what you dislike about yourself.
Now, read what you have written. Is this you?
You are not your self.
Through the practice of yoga asana we develop an understanding of our habits. We learn that we have, over time, developed practices that protect us, that compensate, that hide the imabalances.
When we direct our breath, we identify the limitations we place upon ourselves and the ways in which we cheat ourselves from accepting who we are and what we need.
When we sit or rest in silence we learn to listen to the chattering within us. We begin to hear our body and breath. We notice the useless thoughts buzzing around in our heads.
Movement, breath and silence help us to identify all of the imbalances to which we are blind; it sheds light upon that which we have allowed to hide in the darkness.
You are your Self
We are not here to direct you through a workout or fix your ailments. We are here to help you to identify your imbalances. We are here to guide you through asana sequences that address physical and energetic change. We are here to guide you through breathing practices that shift your awareness and spark emotion. We are here to encourage you to be silent so that you can hear the chatter of your mind.
It's time to show up. To be here. It's time to seek synchronicity.
Yoga's sister science, Auyrveda, brings balance to our body, breath and mindful practices. By evaluating our lifestyle, eating, sleeping and working habits, we begin to paint a picture of who we are. We begin to see the difference between the self and the Self! We become whole only by breaking apart the pieces of our own individual puzzling selves. Each of us is like a puzzle that appears to be put together, but when you look closely, you see that there are pieces added or misplaced. As we practice, as we shed light upon the darkness, we begin to identify the pieces that need to be removed or replaced.
Book a Synchronicity Session today.
Identify imbalances. Learn how to return to your true nature. Return to synchronicity through specified practices.
The Meaning of Yoga
The word Yoga comes from the sanskrit root word, "Yuj," which means to yoke or unite. No matter the style which you choose, while practicing and afterward, you should feel a sense of self-connection as well as a connection with those whom you practice. No union = no Yoga.
There are two approaches to the practice of Yoga: Hatha and Raja. At Lake Tahoe Yoga we practice both, simultaneously. The effort, or movement, is Hatha. The mindful aspect is Raja. An authentic Yoga practice with offer both physical and mindful practices. Each movement should require focus and attention while at the same time an experience of release of distractions. As the practice continues, you should feel a sense of freedom and one-pointed focus.
Alignment is everything. Any teacher that tells you to "listen to your body," or "move freely in any way that feels good," is doing you a disservice. We each have our own anatomical alignment, but that doesn't mean we are all aligned properly. We have spent years moving in unhealthy, habitual ways. Yoga Asana is designed to help us adjust our bodies into the best position and to move more healthily. While moving, your attention should move to misalignments and a good teacher will help you identify ways in which to correct them.
Breathing is one of the most important aspects of Hatha. In a traditional practice, you will learn the postures first, and then the breath that directs each posture. Each breath is important as it helps to move not only your body, but your energy as well. Poorly directed breath can result in physical issues, mental strain and energetic blockages. Your breath should be effortful, but not forceful. If you are ever breathing with more effort than you are applying physically, you are breathing too hard.
Finally, energetic awareness is the key to a good class and high quality instruction. Your instructor should be able to hold your focus no matter where you are practicing. Shaktipat is the exchange of energy between yourself and your guide during your practice. If your instructor is distracted, unfocused, continuously talking, giving inclear instructions, etc., there is no shaktipat. Throughout the entire practice you should feel as though you can completely let go and just follow the guidance of your teacher.
Yoga has recently become a hot word to add to anything you do. There is Yoga with Kittens, Yoga with Goats, Naked Yoga, Paddle Yoga, etc. With the word yoga being thrown into everything from athletic work outs to types of tea, it can be difficult to figure out what type of yoga is correct for you.
One of my favorite quotes is "Yoga is not just a work-out, it's a work-in."
Something amazing happens when you begin working on something new. Whether it's skiing, playing piano, painting or Yoga; you can feel that rush that comes as you begin to develop the skills necessary to accomplish the activity. In yoga, we refer to this as Tapas. It's zeal, energy, the desire to continue.
Hatha Yoga begins as a practice with physical focus. We learn to direct the movement of our bodies, breath, internal functions and Prana through effort.
Fitness activities such as HIIT, running, Crossfit, cycling, acrobatics, etc. can help us to develop strength, mobility and physical ability. They do not qualify as Yoga practices, but do align with the idea behind Asana (postures). The more we move our bodies, the better we understand them and more control we have over them.
Beyond these work outs are the practices of Yoga that encourage wellness within. Pranayama (intentional breathing techniques), Satkarma (purifying techniques) and Bandha (pranic movement) are just a few of the practices that cleanse the physical body.
Combining the techniques of physical fitness (work outs) and Hatha Yoga can bring about general physical health and wellness.
As we keep working, practicing, and learning more, Tapas can begin to fade. Our workouts become less enjoyable, the task becomes more challenging. Our interest decreases or we become bored with the repetition. When this happens, we can become frustrated because it doesn’t feel as exciting as it did when we first began. We want to be better, to feel what we felt. We want to access what we had before or quickly become adept at something new. The challenge becomes greater and the work more difficult. This is the point in our practice when it's time to return to Svadhyaya or self-study.
Refect upon where you began and how you used to feel. Consider that which has changed about your physical body. What feels different? What do you wish to continue to change? In doing so, you begin shifting your practice from simply being about the workout and, now, being about working-in.
Stick With It
Yoga can be tricky. It offers us great gains, growth, and wellness. Each of us has the ability to maintain and move forward on our paths. However, as these tangible, physical rewards seem to decrease, the challenges begin. We must learn to honor our limitations, push ourselves further and work-in.
Be an observer of your self. Notice the subtle changes in your appearance, wellness, thoughts and general outlook on life. Stick with the practice and you will soon be practicing Yoga everywhere. As you do so, you will continue to reveal your Self.
Why do you practice Yoga? Is it for fitness, relaxation? Is it because your friends do it? Yoga is not something that we do in order to get something nor is it a fad to be attempted and abandoned when something new comes along. It is a practice for life. If you've been practicing and haven't noticed any changes beyond the physical, perhaps it's time to find a teacher who offers more than postural instruction.
Yoga is an ancient practice and science. What was discovered long ago by the ancient yogis was that there was more to life than what they could see. With each new level of consciousness reached, they sought more, they reached further. Today, may of us begin the practice with the physical (Hatha). To do Yoga we must apply the system of practices in a way that improves us beyond the physical. We must seek that which lies beyond what we can see.
My teacher and I were speaking about the dilution of Yoga that has occurred over the past decade or so. She said to me, "Imagine someone deciding to go to school to be a chef. On the first day, the teacher tells them to get out a knife and cutting board, eat a hot pepper and then go take a nap. This is what is happening in many Yoga classes: the instructor has been told that there are things we do in the practice, but they are not taught why, how or when they should be done."
I couldn't agree more. With few exceptions, every class I have recently attended has included aspects of the practice applied inaccurately or in incorrect sequence. It felt just as my teacher had described: like I'd eaten a hot pepper and tried to go take a nap.
The practice of Yoga is complete; it addresses body, breath, energy, emotion and thought. Through fitness, we find strength and balance in our bodies which moves us beyond our limits; beyond our fears. Pranayama (directed breathing techniques) connect body, energy, emotions and thoughts. Through mindfulness practices we find an inner calm that we can draw upon even in the most stressful of situations. These practices develop individual awareness and connections with others. They help us to discover the bonds between all things in the universe.
In the ancient texts these practices are outlined specifically. They are described and prescribed specifically. The names, techniques as well as time and place are included. To ignore these explanations is to ignore the practice of Yoga.
Ask yourself "why?" Why are we doing this breathing practice? Why are we holding this mudra? Why does this sequence of postures include crow? If you don't know the answers ask your instructor or teacher. If they don't know the answers, then it's time to find someone who does.
Seek more than what you expect, more than what want. Dedicate yourself more fully to the practice and be open to the experiences that arrive on your path. Include the practices of Yoga in your life and your life is bound to change.