On teacher training.

Based on calls and e-mails I’ve been getting, this seems to be the time of year when serious yogis and yoginis start thinking about going to a teacher training. A lot of programs start early in the new year, and this week I’ve gotten several questions about “shoud I do a training”, or “should I do this training” and the like. The short answer to the first is yes, if you’re asking me about teacher training, then you should probably do it. Maybe not immediately, but soon. (My friend and colleague Karen Fabian wrote two posts recently on the subject, which cover a lot of the basics.)

I’ve already done three full trainings, including a 500-hour, and many, many workshops and mini-trainings since I started teaching in 2006. And I’m building a pattern of doing at least one training per year with a master teacher; it makes me a better teacher, always. Last year I got to be on the other side of the equation for the first time as a part of the teaching team for a local training. I’ve gotten a huge amount out of just about every one of these experiences (even the ones I didn’t like at the time), and I feel in many cases I was getting just the right thing at the right time for me. I wholly endorse the statement that if your a serious yoga student, even if you have no desire to teach in a public setting, you’ll get a huge amount out of a good training.

As to the which training question, that gets a little trickier. There’s no one right answer. The wonderful thing about the huge proliferaton of trainings is that there really is something out their for eveyone. The downside is that, frankly, more means more trainings of dubious quality. Yoga teacher trainings (or YTTs) are cash cows for studios, so it’s often in a studio’s financial interest to do trainings whether or not they have the personell to pull them off well. Beyond the advice Karen gives in her post, I’d add:

Yoga Alliance credentials mean nothing. NOTHING. See this post.

If you are in love with a system of yoga, get as close to the source as you can. I became serious about yoga at a power yoga studio, so when I did my first training, it made a lot of sense to study with Baron Baptiste, who systemized the “power yoga flow” that so many studios use or build out of. If Shiva Rea or Ana Forrest or John Friend’s style really turns you on, try to find them, or if not them their senior teachers.

What kind of a teacher do you want to be? Find a teacher that reflects that. As someone who never thought of themselves as charismatic, to study with Baron, who has a quirky but undeniable charisma, was very useful.  Likewise with others who trained me; they had both information and styles that I felt would be important to my teaching.  (And, on the days where they were driving me up a wall, I was able to remind myself specifically why I was there)

Experience matters. At my recent Acroyoga immersion, the lead teachers talked about their teacher training process. They said something along these lines: practice ten years before you teach, teach ten years before you train teachers. (I think they were mostly trying to start to let us down easy if we don’t get into this year’s Acro teacher training, but I took their point.) I’ve taught my first class more than five years ago.  It took me two years to feel like I was even a remotely good teacher, and only in the last 18 months have I felt like I could start to translate my experience  into leading other teachers.  And I’m still not ready to lead a training, not by a long shot.  You’re investing a lot of time, and money, and self into this, so find a guide who knows the terrain.

On that tip, I recommend against any “inaugural” training. No matter how good the teachers and their intentions, it’s impossible to work all the bugs out before you teach your first training. (a sentence that I know will come back to bite me if/when I ever lead a training…)

Make sure you’re ready.  In one sense, you’re never ready, just like you can never be completely ready to have a kid.  But you can prepare yourself- if there are books assigned for the training, try to read them before it starts.  Practice a lot, start to clean up your diet or habits as needed.  Put yourself in a place where you can best absorb what’s being taught.

And enjoy- if you decide to do a training, no matter which, it’s almost guaranteed to be an powerful, strange, exciting, funny, transformative experience.  Kind of like all of yoga…

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