I played around with the idea of participating in a teacher training for nearly a year before I finally found one that fit my crazy schedule, and I immediately signed up for a 200-hour training course hosted at The Yoga School New York (TYSNY). Unlike most trainings, which are intense immersion experiences lasting only a few weeks, TYSNY offers extended trainings over several months. My 200-hour training course, which began in September of 2016 and ended in July of 2017, met one full weekend each month. The structure of the training was perfect for someone like me, who works a full-time job with occasional late nights and weekends, or for anyone who really wants extra time to reflect on and absorb the dense material.
Style of YTT: TYSNY offers group classes and 200- and 500-hour teacher trainings in the Desikachar/Krishnamacharya Tradition, which emphasizes yoga therapy. According to Krishnamacharya, the practice of yoga should be personalized to meet the needs of each individual, taking into account the individual’s age/life stage (vayah), occupation/lifestyle (vritti), energy level and general health (sakti), the amount of time he has to dedicate to practice (kala), his physical space (desa), his goals for the practice (marga), and his beliefs (iccha). These factors, and therefore the student’s yoga practice, are constantly evolving throughout his life. (If you want to learn more about this tradition of yoga, I’d highly recommend The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, written by Desikachar’s son, T.K.V. Desikachar.)
Because this style of yoga is highly individualized, it does not lend itself well to be taught in group class settings. Rather, the Desikachar/Krishnamacharya Tradition requires that each practitioner have an individualized “home practice” designed and regularly updated by the student’s mentor. For example, I have a thirty-minute home practice designed by my teacher, Guta Hedewig, consisting of asana, meditation, pranayama, and vedic chanting.
I chose this style of yoga for my training for several reasons: first, because I have no short-term plans to teach yoga in a group setting; second, because I wanted to move beyond the heavily physical asana practice taught at most studios; and third, because I agree with the philosophy that the practice of yoga should meet each individual student where he or she is, based upon his or her own physical, mental, and emotional attributes.
YTT Practice Areas: Whenever I told someone that I participated in a YTT, they ask me why – why would I pay someone money to teach me things that I could already do? They point out that I was already flexible and could stand on my head, so what else is there to learn? Full disclosure: there are far more poses that I cannot do than poses that I can do, so there is plenty more asana (physical practice) for me to learn. But more importantly, there is so much more to yoga than asana. My YTT course covered each of the following topics:
- Asana: vinyasa-s of postures, adaptations, variations, and modifications.
- Course Planning: how to structure a comprehensive yoga class.
- Teaching Methodology: the art of guiding a group or an individual student.
- Pranayama: breathing techniques and pranayama course planning.
- Meditation: yoga’s approach to focusing the mind.
- Philosophy: study of the Yoga Sutra-s and the Bhagavad Gita.
- Vedic Chanting: recitation of ancient mantras.
- Anatomy: exploration of the body’s anatomical structures and systems as they relate to asana practice.
- Sanskrit: introduction to the Sanskrit alphabet and pronunciation.
- Prenatal Yoga: what to account for when teaching pregnant women.
- Yoga for Children: how to teach children of different age groups.
- Subtle Anatomy: panca maya model, the cakra system, agni/mala model.
- Ethics: guidelines for teaching yoga.
- Individualizing the Practice : how to create practices tailored towards a student’s specific needs.
This is just a snapshot of my own YTT experience – of course, every style of yoga is unique, and therefore every YTT is different. If I find some time, I plan on posting more about my experience and reflections on the program. Although I did not enter into my training with any intention to teach yoga to others, mid-way through my training I found Exhale to Inhale, a wonderful organization that brings yoga to survivors of domestic violence. I now teach weekly trauma-sensitive yoga classes to survivors living in shelters throughout NYC.