What I didn't learn from Yoga Teacher Training

I finally completed my Yogaworks yoga teacher training (YTT)!! It was taught in the 4-week intensive format; Monday through Friday from 9am-6pm. I was an in-training assistant (ITA) so I had to arrive early to open the studio and leave after I cleaned up. In that way I really immersed myself in YTT-- for the whole 4 weeks I lived and breathed yoga. I met so many great souls and learned a tremendous amount about yoga, about others and myself. It will take me some time to process all the information I learned. After finishing my training, I wanted to share 5 things I DID NOT learn from my YTT.

1.     How to do fancy yoga poses

One of my biggest insecurities coming into this training was a lack of flexibility. I am a pretty stiff person. I thought everyone else in the class was going to be super flexible and I would be the only stiff person there. My lack of flexibility prohibits me from doing certain poses such as splits, king pigeon, flying crow, full wheel and the list goes on and on. So there are many “fancy poses” that I cannot do. I thought coming into this teacher training, maybe I will learn how to do these poses and become more flexible. I was very wrong about that. Very early on in my training I realized that this was not what they are trying to teach us about yoga. Yoga is not about fancy poses. Yoga is not about flexibility. Yoga is much, much more. Yoga is about acceptance of where you are at this moment without any attachment to the end-results.

Most of the time I studied the classical yoga poses, what some may consider to be the ‘boring’ or ‘dull’ poses. I learned the fundamentals of these yoga poses; correct alignment, proper breathing, and all the tiny details that are so crucial. Without a strong base we cannot build up from it. My chief instructor, Malachi Grieves, and her assistant, Vivica Schwarts, were amazing teachers. They made us pay close attention to the simple poses and we realized how hard it is to do them properly while being fully aware of our body alignment.

So no, I did not learn how to do fancy yoga poses in my training and did not become super flexible, but I am thankful for that. I learned something of much greater importance.

2.     How to lose weight or get fit

We had 2-3 hours of yoga practice every morning during our 4 weeks of training, yet I did not lose weight. I did not sweat like crazy in our practices, nor did I gain a six-pack or a cuter butt at the end of my training. Still, the long hours of yoga practice in the mornings were very sacred to me. We learned to pay attention to every corner of our body, we learned to isolate muscle groups to align our bodies in a healthier way, and we learned to be conscious of the artful way in which the sequences were put together. We did not learn how to focus on weight-loss in yoga classes or how to get our heart rate up. After 4 weeks of practicing with my teachers, I felt stronger, better aligned and more content with my yoga practice and with my body than I had ever felt before. I believe these are far more valuable commodities than losing weight.

I think we can all agree that yoga in Western society is becoming more and more popular. We see so many more people practicing yoga today, and I think that’s a great thing. But modern yoga focuses too much on the physical aspects-- exercise, sweating, toning our muscles and losing weight. But Yoga is much more than that. The physical aspects of yoga are only one of the eight limbs of yoga, yet that's all we focus on.

Diamond Head hike in O'ahu

Diamond Head hike in O'ahu

So, no I did not lose weight myself, nor did I learn how to use yoga to lose weight or get fit. That’s because yoga is so much more than physical appearance. Our wise teachers taught us to go out to the world and teach more than just the physical asanas. Which is what yoga is truly about.

3.     Memorize a teaching scripts

Have you ever been to a yoga class where it felt like teachers have memorized a script and she/he would use the same script over and over again? I have. It felt like authenticity of the teacher was lost. Unlike some teacher trainings, we did not learn a script. We learned how to put intelligent sequences together, but we were not given a specific sequence to copy and memorize for when we start teaching. Of course imitating your teacher in the beginning of your teaching career is normal, but we were also encouraged to find our own voice. Teaching from your authentic self.

4.     How to create a playlist for class

Music was absent from our yoga practice during the 4 weeks of training. We did not have mirrors to look at ourselves, either. We did chant mantras, we meditated and we looked at different bodies to help us correct our alignment. We did not need mirrors to get into the right alignment because we had amazing, hands-on adjustments from our experienced teachers. We did not need music to pump us up or get us in the mood during the practice. Our teachers encouraged us to go within, and practice focusing our awareness on the internal self rather than on the externals. Mirrors and music would only have distracted us. Don't get me wrong, I love music and I enjoy music during yoga. But I also like silence. I like hearing my own breath as I practice yoga or as I meditate. I was fond of this practice of quieting my mind, and it would have been more difficult with music in the background, or in a room full of mirrors.  

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5.     Yoga business

I did not learn how to create my own yoga business, or how to promote myself using social media. Some of the questions that were left unanswered were: How should I approach different gyms and studios when applying for a teaching job? Do I wear a professional outfit or do I wear yoga pants? We did touch on these subjects slightly but nothing in depth. Part of the reason that this was not a big part of our training was because our teachers have been teaching yoga for 15-20 years. They were teaching and practicing yoga long before yoga became mainstream. They did not have to promote themselves on social media when they started to teach yoga. Yoga has changed so much over last 10 years and business of yoga has changed. What you had to do to land a teaching job 15-20 years ago is very different compare to today. So I plan to learn through experience on this journey.

As a new teacher it will take some time and practice to find my own voice and hit my groove, but without teaching I can never improve. So I plan to tackle this challenge head on, and start teaching right away. Please join me on my journey and any positive encouragements and energy