The Top 3 Things to Do (and Don’t) after Yoga Teacher Training

So you’ve finished yoga teacher training… now what?


You’ve invested time, money, and energy into a yoga teacher training program. You’ve met new people, honed new skills, and likely learned more than a few things about yourself on the way.

So now what?

This question is all too familiar to new graduates of yoga teacher training. While you may now be certified to teach, actually securing a teaching position is its own journey.

As someone who embarked on this journey, herself, and has witnessed many others navigate the transition from training to teaching, I can attest there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Still, there are several strategies everyone should employ – and avoid – to ensure future success.  Here are my top 3 do’s and don’t’s:


DO:

  1. DO Keep Using Your Skills

The number one issue that I was both warned about as a student, and have later witnessed as a teacher & mentor, is that people complete their training… and wait…and wait… and wait. Don’t let your skills atrophy.  Think of your knowledge as a muscle – use it!

AdobeStock_69654837.jpegIf you don’t have the opportunity to start teaching your own “formal” classes or work with private clients, then reach out to your friends.  Ask people in your social circles to let you practice-teach using them as students.  If you feel ready, ask local yoga studios if they offer (or are willing to explore) community/donation-based classes that you can teach either free of charge, or at a significantly discounted rate. Think of this as playing the long game – as with any industry, you need experience to be hired.  So even if you find yourself initially teaching for free, you can leverage this experience when applying and auditioning for paid positions.

  1. DO Stay Open to More Learning

A good teacher in any field always remains a student. Even if you left your teacher training feeling ready to take on the world and a class of your own, there is always more to know.

Also recognize that everything there is to know about yoga cannot possibly be covered in 200 hours (or 500, or 1000, or 10,000). Think of your 200-hour certification as a Bachelor’s Degree, and your post-RYT200 time actually working with students as your advanced degree.

AdobeStock_65718528.jpegThis doesn’t mean that you aren’t ready to teach after earning your certification. But the best teachers are open to recognizing areas of improvement or gaps of knowledge they want to address. This is part of your yoga, and part of your yoga teaching!

Continue to take classes as a student. Look for specialized workshops led by master teachers, or in areas you think could use more training.

  1. DO Confidently Chase Opportunities

As with everything in yoga, self-awareness is a balancing act. While you want to be honest with yourself and others about the areas you might want to improve, maintain the self-confidence to embrace and communicate your strengths!

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Think of it this way- the worst thing someone can do is say no. Very rarely will someone come to you asking you to teach. To successfully secure employment, you WILL need to become comfortable reaching out to people and pursuing opportunities. Register your information in as many online directories of local yoga teachers as possible. When you attend classes at yoga studios, mention you are a yoga teacher and, using your judgment,  ask about employment opportunities. Consider making a website and building a social media presence around your offerings as a yoga instructor.


Of course, in the yogic spirit of balance, there are several behaviors to always avoid when making the transition from yoga student to teacher.

DON’T:

  1. DON’T Market Yourself Dishonestly

In my opinion, this is the most important “don’t” – which is why I place it first. Think of satya, the yama representing truthfulness. In recognizing and communicating our true abilities, there is a marriage of confidence and humility that the self-aware and honest yoga teacher learns to hone.

This is such an important principle, but one that I believe can be difficult for people – even with the best intentions – to visualize. So here are a couple examples:

Example 1:  A prospective private client approaches you to ask for a restorative session, but you have little to no experience in this area.

Response: Be honest! There are ways to do this without entirely dismissing the possibility of securing the client.

You might say something like:

“My specialty is ____. I am happy to do some research on restorative yoga and lead you through a session, or refer you to someone with more extensive experience in that area.”

If the client opts for a teacher with more experience, she will know that you act with integrity, and might either seek you out in the future or recommend you to other prospective clients. If the client chooses to move forward with you, your candor provides you with a landing pad that will cushion any growing pains you might experience as a teacher while navigating the session.

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Let’s look at a more high-stakes example.

Example 2: A prospective client is interested in advanced-level private sessions, perhaps focusing on inversions and arm balances.  You do not have much experience with these postures, either in your own practice or as an instructor. 

Response: If you have little to no experience teaching these postures, faking your way through a private session risks consequences much more dire than embarrassment or your reputation. Your client could face serious injuries if you do not lead him safely in, through, and out of these poses. If you find yourself in this situation, always opt to refer the client out to a different instructor, but provide your reasoning so she doesn’t feel rejected.

You might say:

“I don’t feel comfortable enough teaching those groups of poses to offer you a safe and constructive learning environment. I am happy to refer you to ____, who I trust can provide you with a safer experience.  If you are ever interested in [insert your area of training/knowledge], I would love to work with you!”

As with our first example, even in losing a prospective client, you gain their trust – and potential future clients because of it.

  1. DON’T Instruct Without Insurance & Documentation (boring but so, so important)AdobeStock_91387298.jpeg

You hopefully covered the importance of liability insurance in your “Business of Yoga” section of training, but it is worth emphasizing here. Even in seemingly casual settings, you always want to ensure you are legally protected. Buy yoga teacher insurance, and design a liability waiver for private sessions or classes. There are numerous free templates you can find online and personalize for your needs. Even if you’re teaching a free class in a park, or working with a group of people you know, think of it this way:

  • Worst-case scenario, anything can happen. Injuries – or even freak accidents – are rare, but you want to be protected. You also have an obligation to your students to inform them of any potential risks associated with your classes or sessions.
  • Presenting these materials speaks to your professionalism. Many yoga studios require teachers to possess their own individual insurance – especially if you are hired as an independent contractor. By having these materials prepared, you will present yourself as an organized, professional candidate for open positions. Similarly, you will reinforce your legitimacy to new clients by showing up with organized, prepared materials.
  • It’s good practice! We often focus preparation around what we perceive as more complex, and ignore the basics until necessary. You’ve probably spent more time thinking about teaching postures and sequencing classes than the process of introducing yourself, beginning and concluding sessions, and explaining consent forms and waivers. The more experience you have practicing these conversations, the more smoothly your classes and private sessions will run – allowing you to focus your energy on the actual content you are providing.
  1. DON’T Jump Without Research

This final tip is less high-stakes than the first two, but very important. After achieving your RYT-200 goal, you might feel ready to take on the world and tempted to chase other dreams. This is all well and good – but do your research! Resist the urge to jump into business ventures just because they have “yoga” in the name.

One of the most common tendencies I see in students going through teacher training is a desire to open their own studios.

Remember that a yoga studio is, first and foremost, a business. You can be a top-notch instructor, but a shoddy business owner. Conversely, successful studio owners might not have any experience teaching yoga.

AdobeStock_60769071.jpegIf you are serious about wanting to open your own studio, I highly recommend working for a period of time in an administrative role at an existing studio. Behind-the-scenes experience is invaluable, and can help you determine whether you truly wish to embark on a journey that, while rewarding, is also very time-consuming and challenging.


In conclusion,

I first and foremost want to congratulate you on embarking on this new chapter of your life! Teaching yoga is such a rewarding experience on many levels. The best part – it is a dynamic experience of constant exploration, empathy, and self study. You will rarely be bored and frequently be challenged.


Your thoughts?

In that spirit – I want to hear from you!

Yoga teachers – or teachers in training – what would you add to my lists of do’s or don’ts?

How would you advise people who are just finishing their teacher trainings?

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The Life-Changing Power of Printer Cords

Plugging in a printer made me better at yoga, and a better person.

Yep, you read that right.

There aren’t a lot of transformations in my life I can pinpoint to the second, but this is one of them.

About eight years ago, I was fresh out of college and working an office job. After a few years of dappling in yoga, I had started a regular practice of 1-2 classes a week.

It was when I bent down one day to adjust a printer cord that I first consciously took yoga off of my mat. I accidentally maintained awareness – in real time- as I transitioned from standing to kneeling – recognizing how my hips, knees, and feet were aligned.

This was the first time I acknowledged that the physical asanas (poses) we practice on our mats translate to “real life.” It took another year or two until I had embraced my practice enough to implement the benefits of meditation and mindfulness off of my mat.

Everybody is different, and every body is different. Some people have their “a-ha” yoga moments way before I did, and for other people it takes longer.

I have a-ha yoga moments to this day – literally as of tonight, when I stretched toward my toes while taking a bath, and realized (literally laughing at myself) that I was approaching this subconscious stretch with paschimottanasana mindfulness.

At the risk of sounding overly academic and pedantic, yoga is totally super cool. As you develop body awareness on your mat, you discover body awareness off of your mat. This awareness helps us navigate our lives with balance, grace, and health – whether these benefits are manifested through our personal relationships, our physical endurance, or our ability to plug printers into the wall.

And at the end of the day, that awareness is worth more than any down dog, chaturanga,  or handstand.

As always, thanks for reading.

xx,

JW

 

DIY Succulent Frame

Inspiration.

As only the best cat ladies, chronic crafters, and aspiring introverts can, I recently found myself catapulting down the quicksand-lined rabbit hole Pinterest becomes when paired with a Saturday night and wine.

My newest aspiration was to tackle the enviable framed succulent wall art with which any desert-chic enthusiast worth her salt drought-parched sand should be acquainted by now.

There are lots of other posts (like this one) circulating the web with great step-by-step process photos.   I drew inspiration by looking at several different approaches, which I recommend if you plan to engage in your own succulent project.

In addition to outlining the process, one of my goals in this post is to provide money-saving ideas and general tips born from my struggles in the trenches to help others proceed more smoothly :).


Materials.

Essential:

  • Photo frame (just the front) or materials to make your own
  • Shadow box/open-faced box that fits behind the photo frame
  • Chicken wire/mesh/hardware cloth: I’d recommend ___ size
  • Shears/wire cutters
  • Photo hanging supplies
  • Craft glue
  • Staple gun (+staples)
  • Selection of succulent cuttings, moss, and any other fillers you choose

Optional:

  • Paint
  • Ribbon
  • Glue gun

Penny-pinching tips:

  • Instead of investing in a shadow box, consider getting a cheaper, unfinished version at a craft/hobby store. I actually found the most cost-effective option to be a craft chest.  Unscrewing the hinges and clasps is quick and easy, then voila – you have two shadow boxes for the price of one. I purchased mine at Michael’s, but there are similar ones at Joann’s and any other craft store. 

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  • Rather than discarding chicken wire scraps, you can use them for other crafts like these mason jar flower lids.
  • If you live in an arid climate, you can forage for succulents rather than spend money buying them at a store.  If you need to purchase them, avoid buying ones that are pre-arranged in decorative containers, as those tend to be pricier

Process.

Step 1: Using shears, cut the wire mesh slightly wider than the opening of your photo frame.

  • If you don’t have a pair of heavy-duty shears, it is definitely worth it to invest in one for this project (especially if you plan to use chicken wire for other crafts). I started off using a pair of industrial scissors, and ended up only dulling the blades, hurting my hand, and wasting a lot of time. 
  • Consider wearing heavy gloves when handling the mesh, or at least operating with caution as your cuttings will have very sharp edges.  This is probably a good time to mention that this project (at least the first part) is not a good one for kids – though they might enjoy helping to fill the frame at the end!

Step 2: Use a staple gun to attach the mesh cutting to the side of the frame that will not be exposed.

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  • Make sure your frame is a material you are able to staple-gun. I loved this silver frame – even more so since I purchased it on sale – but realized once I was home that it was entirely made of metal.  If this happens to you, the situation isn’t hopeless – I simply glued it on top of a wooden frame I could staple the mesh on, but that adds an extra step.
***If you want to paint any part of your frame or shadow box, do so now or before you begin Step 1***

Step 3: Attach your picture hangers to the back of the shadow box.  I used these metal “teeth,” but you can also use wire or hooks.

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  • Make sure your method of hanging is appropriate for the final weight of your project.  When you pack the shadow box with dirt and add your succulents, you’ll add at least a pound or two depending on the size of your frame. 
  • If you don’t want to hang your frame, you can also place it on a shelf to lean against the wall

Step 4: Tightly pack your shadow box with slightly damp dirt.

Step 5: Glue the mesh-filled frame on top of your shadow box.

  • I originally planned to use a glue gun to attach the frame to the shadow box, but I discovered I wasn’t able glue fast enough before some of it started drying. I ended up using craft glue, which worked fine.  
  • After gluing the frame on top of the shadow box, I noticed several areas of space (Depending how you staple it, the chicken wire might prevent the frame and box from sealing perfectly). I added more glue around the edges of the “seam” to make sure there weren’t any cracks where dirt could fall out once I hung the frame on the wall.

Step 6: After glue dries, arrange the succulent cuttings, moss, and other fillings inside the wire mesh.  These were my results with 4×6 and 8×10 frames:

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  • After filling my frame with succulents, I realized the edges were pretty messy with a variety of dried glues.  I created a more polished look by gluing ribbon around the edges.  Even if your process reveals a cleaner final product than mine, you might want to dress the sides of your new-and-improved succulent frame with decorative fabric, ribbons, additional paint, or other decorations of your choice.

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Ideas.

The primary “work” in this process resides in the first few steps.  If you prepare a series of frames up to Step 6, selecting succulents and filling the frames makes a really fun activity for a wine night, birthday party – really any gathering!  The best part – you have a group activity and party favor all in one.

These also make great gifts – they’re personal, creative, and very easy to care for.  Depending on your climate, you’ll simply spray the succulents with water every few days (drier climates will need more spritzing, humid climates can handle less).


Do you have experience making succulent frames? What other suggestions would you add?

As always, thanks for reading.

-JW

Propogating Legacies

The 7.5 billion people who comprise today’s global population communicate in over 6500 languages. Amazingly, these thousands of dialects can all be traced back to one of only three root languages: Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, or Afro-Asiatic.

FullSizeRender-3.jpgThe languages that stemmed from these roots germinated with the influence of environment, politics, religion, culture – nourished and cultivated by the countless nuances of social interaction. To this day, changes continue to occur as societies grow in an increasingly dynamic global environment, but enough remnants of original roots prevail for linguists to trace a dialect’s specific lineage.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgMuch like language, nature has amazing capabilities of adaptability. As the daughter of a horticulturalist/botanist, I grew up surrounded by plants. When I left for college in 2006, my mother lovingly transplanted a cutting from a houseplant to send a little piece of home with me to the dorms. Some years later, the tradition continued as I moved across the country for graduate school.

I dressed my West Coast apartment with one solidary plant – a pothos, which is very similar to the philodendrons I had long since grown to love for their durability and resilience in the face of what I term my “yellow thumb.”

As the vines of a pothos grow, one can cut the stem below a joint (where a leaf or additional stem branches off), and place the cutting in water. The cutting will adapt to this new environment, and once it grows roots, can be transplanted back into soil.

Five years later, my apartment is wreathed with “floating” cuttings, fully transplanted reproductions, and the same original pothos that birthed them all.

FullSizeRender-2.jpgNestled in my indoor jungle, I am reminded daily of the myriad of ways we can adapt to both sudden and steady change, regrow even after being cut down, and thrive in new environments. One plant can produce twenty, three languages can yield thousands, and one life can impact countless others.

What legacy will you propogate?

 

3 Ways to Make Your New Habit Stick

 

By the time May rolls around, we’re well past the point of New Years resolutions, and on the cusp of summer. With thoughts of sundresses, shorts, and bikinis, many people embrace a second wave of health and fitness motivation. But after the “want,” there’s the “do.”

Research has shown that a staggering 92% of people do NOT achieve their goals. This blog will offer strategies for making the transition from goal to action. While I focus on the fitness/wellness industries, you can apply these principles to any field, any time!


1- Pair with an Existing Habit

It’s a LOT easier to link a new behavior with one you’ve already established than to start with a blank slate.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your goal is to do 10 push-ups each morning. If you already make coffee each morning, you can set your coffee maker and spend the brewing time doing your push-ups.  In this way, you’re not creating something from scratch, but drawing on your existing routine.

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2- Set Reasonable, Evolving Goals

There are two major points to consider here:

a- If you aim too high too fast, you’ll discourage yourself

b- if you aim too low, you’ll end up getting bored or making excuses (e.g. since I can do __ easily now, i can afford to skip a morning) 

I recommend setting goals in stages. Let’s say your goal is to run a certain distance. Maybe you start by planning to run 10 minutes each morning for one week. Week 2, you add 5 more minutes; Week 3, you add 10 more minutes- and so on. This way you start small so you don’t get discouraged, but iteratively add more layers of challenge to stay motivated – and avoid a plateau.

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3- Create Your Own Carrot and Stick

For those unfamiliar with this terminology, it draws from the psychology of operant conditioning. Basically we reward behavior we want to continue (carrot), and “punish” behavior we want to stop (stick).

How does this apply to new exercise regimens?  This is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure area- which is why it works!

Think of a way to treat yourself before or after (I’d recommend after) your desired behavior. Let’s say your goal is to go for a 10-minute run each morning. Each day you accomplish that goal, maybe you treat yourself to something special. It can be a particularly delicious breakfast, Starbucks, Happy Hour – your choice!  In contrast, when you do not meet your goal, find something you can reasonably withhold from your routine (maybe the flipside of your “reward”).

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In sum, if you have the goal, you’ve completed the hardest part.  The next step – taking the plunge – but strategically.  Follow my 3 steps, and you’ll find yourself soaring to success in no time!

-JW

 

Author Bio:
I am an eRYT-200 yoga teacher and NASM-CPT personal trainer with a Masters of Arts in Social Ecology.  My goal is to educate busy individuals on ways to comfortably fit health & wellness into their schedules.  Contact me by email at jennyswanyoga@gmail.com or through any of my social media channels (@jennyswanyoga).

 

Turn Your Walk into a Workout

The most commonly cited obstacle to regular exercise is lack of time. Factoring in preparation, travel, and shower time, even a 45-minute or 1 hour class can easily take a couple hours out of your day. Not to mention the financial and logistical issues of paying for the class, covering travel expenses, and figuring out childcare.

But most people would agree they have time for a 20-30 minute walk – whether around your neighborhood or a nearby park.

And if you’re already going for a walk, why not take the opportunity to get a full-body workout in?

Below I’ve outlined a four-circuit program that can be completed anywhere, with no equipment needed. Each exercise group has a corresponding video (linked to Youtube). The videos have been sped up for faster viewing, but the more slowly you can do each exercise, the better!

Each individual exercise should be repeated about 8-10 times, and try to complete at least two rounds of the entire circuit.  I like to walk for a few minutes in between workouts to get some cardio in and allow for muscle recovery.


Workout 1 (focused on legs and core): Planks around the world

Starting in standard plank position with hands stacked below shoulders (option to come onto knees), raise one leg at a time, trying to keep hips level.

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Rotate to one side, coming into side plank. Raise one leg at a time, or draw circles with your raised leg for an added challenge.

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Rotate onto your back, into a reverse plank position. This can also be done with bent knees in a reverse tabletop position if straightening the legs is uncomfortable or inaccessible. Lift one leg at a time, engaging the core to keep your hips as level as possible.

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Rotate onto the other side to finish with a final round of side plank leg lifts. Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.01.18

 


Workout 2 (focused on chest, shoulders, and arms): Pushup Variations

Starting with tricep/chaturanga pushups, bring hands shoulder-width apart and lower down tracking elbows along your sides. Instead of lowering all the way down, try to only lower halfway. Press up keeping your back in a straight line, avoiding collapsing in the upper back. Also try to keep your neck straight (which I did a poor job of 🙂 ).

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Bringing knees to the ground, do a round of one-legged pushups, raising one leg at a time as you lower toward the ground.

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Finish by pressing back up to plank, spreading the fingers wide, and doing a round of chest push-ups with your elbows tracking away from the body.

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Workout 3 (focused on core, legs, glutes): Balancing Acts and Squats

Begin in mountain pose, standing with feet hips-width apart. Shifting the weight to one leg, raise your other leg off the ground with a bent knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground.

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From this one-legged mountain pose, shift the upper body forward while simultaneously extending your raised leg behind you into warrior 3/balancing stick pose. Slowly return to your one-legged mountain pose.

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After a few rounds, return to one-legged mountain and begin lowering down into a one-legged squat.

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You can keep your raised leg bent as I did, or straighten it for a pistol squat.


Workout 4 (focused on legs and glutes)Crescent Lunge Dips

Begin in a high/crescent lunge position.

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Slowly lower your back knee closer to the ground, then press back up. After completing one side, shift your weight toward your front foot and try to step your back foot forward in one clean step (option to move through one-legged tadasana). Step your other foot back and repeat on the second side.

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This circuit will provide you with a full-body workout at no cost! You might consider bringing gloves for the pushups and planks if you don’t want to place your hands on the ground, but otherwise zero equipment is needed.

So get outside, get moving, and stay healthy this holiday season!

 

As always, thanks for reading,

JF

Why to Enroll in Yoga Teacher Training – Even if You Don’t Want to Teach Yoga

Don’t want to teach yoga? Teacher training might still be for you – yes, really!


Though it may sound contradictory, yoga teacher training isn’t just for future teachers. Some people come to the realization that they do not wish to teach their own yoga students as they are going through a training program. Other people enroll in a teacher training program knowing this the whole time.

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I personally fell into a different camp. I knew I wanted to teach yoga, and enrolled in a yoga teacher training program to obtain the necessary skills and credentials to do so. I’ll admit to being mystified as to why people would allocate time and money to yoga teacher training if they weren’t going to “do” anything with it.

As I came to realize, there are LOTS of reasons – and “doing something with it” takes many forms.  Though yoga schools differ in the weight they place on various sections of curricula, you can expect to walk away from a teacher training with the following new additions to your soul, spirit, and practice:


  1. You will enhance your own practice

This is perhaps the most common reason, outside of plans to teach, that people cite for going through a yoga teacher training program. Though I walked into my training realizing this would likely be an additional benefit, I had no idea how much YTT would help my own practice.8iA6nLk5T

You will both learn and understand the logic behind correct alignment. You will start to recognize strong (and poor) sequencing when you are in yoga classes as a student. You will learn how to listen to your body, and what adjustments you need to make for your own practice without relying on someone else to provide cues.


2. You will learn new skills to incorporate into other parts of your life

Being a yoga instructor is only partially about yoga. It largely involves public speaking (regularly cited as one of people’s most common fears), which you practice by teaching your fellow teacher trainees and sometimes even “real” classes if you shadow a mentor in the community.di8r8drie

Additionally, you will gain training on client relations, marketing, finances, scheduling, and business management skills. Depending on the yoga school, some of these topics are more heavily covered than others, but you can expect to walk away with more confidence and an enhanced “toolkit” of interpersonal and management skills to bring into other areas of your life.


  1. You will broaden your worldview

people-holding-hands-around-the-world-mdYoga teacher training is in many ways a series of lessons on culture and history. You will trace the origins of yoga back to the Vedas, learning Sanskrit terminology for asanas, the Hindu symbolism behind many poses, and the story of yoga’s migration to the West. You will find how your unique practice fits into these broad lineages of yogis and gurus


  1. You will make new friends and connectionsari wow 2

For one, you’ll be connected to some awesome new yoga teachers in your community whose classes you can take in the future! But aside from the practical benefits of connecting with fellow yogis, you will meet people from all walks of life.

These people may become your best friends, your yoga family, future business partners, or just acquaintances passing through your life like ships in the night. Whatever their role is revealed to be, you will learn from them, they will learn from you, and your life will be forever changed.


  1. You will learn more about yourself

Though teacher training provides a great deal of objyoga_01ective information – facts about anatomy, how the human body processes breath and movement, the history of yoga — the majority of teacher training is about finding your own voice.

And this “voice” doesn’t just mean the words that come out of your mouth. Your voice is your attitude, your pace, your tone, your approach to the world. You look inward to explore who you are at your core, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and goals.


Maybe the title of “yoga teacher” isn’t something you see, or want, for your future.  But as you construct your list of goals for the next year (or 5, or 10), don’t write off “yoga teacher training” on the sole basis of not wanting to teach your own students.  Many people enjoy teacher trainings as a gift to themselves – an opportunity to look within, strengthen their own yoga practices, and form lifelong connections.

Are there other benefits you obtained through your teacher training? Join the conversation below.  As always, thanks for reading.

JW