Advanced Yoga Asanas
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon teaching Teacher Training at Tranquil Space. As always, it was a fabulous experience and I left feeling exhilarated, exhausted and inspired. To me, there's nothing like a group of students who are hungry for more-who have chosen to study what they're studying because they truly love it- and who have so much knowledge, experience, and wisdom to share with one another.
Working with this group of women yesterday (it was all women, which was also very powerful!) got me thinking about a question that I recently received from a reader. So today, I thought we would chat a bit about yoga teacher training, and specifically, some pointers for figuring out whether or not you're ready to dive in.
Here's the question I received via email a few weeks ago:
I had a question about the decision to start yoga teacher training. I have been thinking about doing it for probably five years now, but have yet to take the plunge. I practice regularly, but due to time (and money) constraints I mostly practice at home. I know that teacher training would be a great thing for me, but I am having trouble figuring out if I am advanced enough for it...I wanted to see if you had any words of wisdom on knowing when it is right.
What a wonderful question, right!? How do you know when the time is right to enroll in a teacher training (TT) program? Although I think the answer definitely is a very individualized one, here are some things that I've learned about TT, both from working with teachers and being a teacher over the past couple of years...
Practice "level:" Although I've already shared my thoughts on what it means to be an "Advanced" Yogi, and this label, "advanced, " is definitely controversial in the yoga world, I do think that in order to enroll in teacher training you should have some level of comfort with the asanas, or feel comfortable in an intermediate or Level 2 class.
This doesn't mean that you need to know how to do every arm balance, inversion, or "advanced pose, " as I definitely didn't know these things when I did TT (and still cannot do many, many advanced poses and transitions!), but you should feel comfortable playing with some of the more advanced asanas, or at least pushing your edge and trying them.
Desire to learn: More important than an "advanced" practice, in my mind, is the true hunger and desire to learn more about yoga. You have to want to try, to push, to learn, to experiment, to study, to devote your time and energy to practicing and teaching yoga. I think this makes one much better prepared to jump into such an intensive study of the subject, and eventually, makes one a much better teacher.
When I enrolled in TT I couldn't do a headstand, most arm balances, or many of the more advanced inversions, but I had a hunger to learn everything, and that desire led to my learning how to teach and eventually do these poses over time (many of which I learned how to do during TT!). But to be clear, this desire to learn should be broader than just the asanas-it should also include other aspects of the practice, such as pranayama (breathwork), meditation, anatomy, philosophy, etc.
Life situation: If you know that you want to do TT and have the time/finances/space in your life to do it now, do it NOW. I know lots of people who had been wanting to do TT for years, but kept putting it off because of one thing or another; then, when they finally do it, it's life changing and they wish they'd done it years ago.
If it's something that you know you want to do eventually, but you can do it now, just do it, so that you don't end up feeling like you've wasted many years not following your dreams. I know this sounds cheesy, but if your life opens up a bit and you have space-just enough space to take the plunge and make it work-then do it.
Studio/training program choice: Most importantly, you should find a program that is the perfect fit for you. If you have a studio or a teacher who teaches the way that you want to teach, try to take TT with them or at that studio. Every studio is different, every teacher is different, and every training program is different, so I strongly suggest finding out which teachers teach the bulk of the training that you're planning on taking, and then, if you haven't already, take their classes to be sure that they teach in a style that resonates with you.
I know quite a few people who did their training somewhere without doing a lot of research into the program, and later, had to either take TT over again or augment their training with many other trainings in order to hone the skills needed to teach in the style in which they wanted to teach. Best to figure this out before you fork over a large sum of money and an even larger chunk of your life.