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Yoga Teacher Training – One Year (ish) After

It is approximately 15 months since I completed my yoga teacher training at Semperviva.

Hopefully, this blog can be of some help or interest to someone who has recently completed their teacher training or is planning to.

I started out after graduating in June 2018 teaching free classes to my friends. I had no experience as a yoga teacher so I wasn’t comfortable teaching a public class without experience. The great thing about the summer in Vancouver is the weather, I had groups ranging from one to five on the beach for around three months and played around with different classes and teaching styles, discreetly (with the student’s knowledge) videotaping myself and recording the classes as I went.

One advantage I had was completing the training with my wife, Theresa. We could practise with each other and we took turns in teaching classes to each other once a week. Practise, practise, practise. Even if you don’t have a partner or close friend completing the training with you, professional life (in Vancouver especially) is all about networking so use the contacts you make during YTT to practise.

I applied to one studio just after completing the training but it was probably wishful thinking that they would hire a recent graduate with no teaching experience. I didn’t hear back from them.

It was shortly after the YTT with a few informal classes under my belt that I applied to volunteer at the YMCA. It seems that most studios are looking to hire teachers with at least two years experience so I think it is difficult to get that experience as a paid teacher. YMCA is located Downtown on Burrard and Nelson. They are always looking for substitute teachers or at least they were a year ago. I had to jump through a few hoops with references, police check, first aid certification but it’s worth it. It’s a great place to teach yoga.

It is voluntary, YMCA is a charity but you get free access to great facilities including a gym, pool and group classes. More importantly, you get to teach yoga. Some of the evening classes are quite intimidating with up to forty people. You can read about my first class here if you are interested.

I was asked by the coordinator to take a few classes and connect with one of the regular teachers as a mentor before I subbed classes. I was lucky and was offered a regular class almost immediately on Thursday mornings at 7 am. Perfect for me, giving me enough time to get to work in East Van after. I think one of the reasons I was given a regular spot so quickly was that I was willing to take an early morning. Try to be flexible with your time – it will work to your advantage.

Things started slow, my first substitute class was packed but my first regular class had only 2 people (one of them was my brother) so that was disheartening. One of the main things I learned throughout the past year is not to be disheartened. As a teacher, I read too much into class sizes and peoples reactions during class. It means nothing about you. I once had a man walk out during the middle of my class, immediately I assumed I was offering a crap class and he had left in disgust but I was wrong. He came back in a few minutes after using the washroom or whatever he needed to do.

Eventually, my regular class size began to grow from two to five up to a steady class of between eight and twelve. I got to know the regulars names and got to a stage after about 7 months where I was confident in the classed I was offering and was sure that the regulars who attended enjoyed them. If somebody didn’t enjoy it then it wasn’t for them, which is great. Different teachers and different styles of teaching will work for different people.

So, life went on at the YMCA and I continued to teach hatha yoga every Thursday morning to a growing group of regulars who I ended up getting to know and becoming friends with. YMCA is a great place to teach if you are willing to offer your time unpaid and I highly recommend that you do. You won’t get a paid teaching job without experience and you’ll probably (unless your the absolute bees knees).

I learned a lot during my regular classes. If I could share just one thing it would be to be yourself. let your personality shine through in class. some people will like it and some people will not. Some people like my classes, music, personality and style of teaching and some did not. It does not matter, those who do not like your classes will find a class they enjoy and move on. That’s exactly what we want for our students.

Learn from your classes also, after each class I make a brief recording of who was there and what went well and what didn’t go so well. I listen to those recordings every so often so I know where I am at. It is also a nice way to help you remember the names of the students who attend your class. The common courtesy of remembering somebody’s name goes a long way. Remember, even if you are volunteering your time it is still a job and you are building the foundations of your future career. We need strong foundations. Start as you mean to continue.

After about 9 months I thought the time was right to apply for some auditions. I kept my digital eyes and ears open on the social media and also visit some different studios on my lunch break.

My first audition was with The Hive climbing gym in North Vancouver. They weren’t keen on anybody with less than 2 years experience applying but included me because I have a membership there. It was fun. I was disappointed to find I was the only male teacher auditioning, I think there is a sad lack of male interest in yoga. The audition was tricky. We had to teach a combined class so we couldn’t prepare as we had no knowledge of what the predecessor might offer. It went great or at least I thought it did but I didn’t get it. Regardless it didn’t matter. I am a firm believer that auditions or interviews, no matter what the profession is essential.

I came out happy, I couldn’t have done any better nor would I have done anything different but it was great to get some feedback afterwards.

As I mentioned above I dropped into a few Yoga studios in person to see if they were hiring. Just Yoga is close to my workplace and I got chatting to the manager who is Irish. It’s such a zen space and one of the nicest yoga studios I have been to in Vancouver.

the Audition at Just Yoga was a 20 minute (If memory serves me) class. Again I was the only male to audition, I don’t know if that is typical but it probably leaves male teachers with somewhat of an advantage. I was lucky enough again that a regular class came up just after I subbed my first class and I was offered the Vinyasa power class every Saturday morning from 10:45 to 12:00. So far I really love teaching this class and have inherited a bunch of great regulars from the previous teacher.

I feel it is important to recognise your limits so reluctantly I decided to give up my regular spot at YMCA after a year. Two classes, a full-time job and a newborn baby were a little bit too much so I am just loving teaching my Saturday morning class at Just Yoga.

Apart from teaching it is so important whether you are a civil engineer (my day job) or yoga teacher to keep up professional development. I read as much as I possibly can on Yoga for example:

Your Body, Your Yoga

Bhagavad Gita

Beauty, The Invisible Embrace

Meditations From The Mat

The Lost Teachings of Yoga

Getting Unstuck

I also regularly read articles on Yoga Journal.

Over the last year, I have taken 2 courses with Semperviva (where I completed my 200 hr YTT). A 16-hour mentorship class with Julia Doty on accessible yoga and a 40-hour Vinyasa module with Clara Roberts Oss. Both were amazing, both teachers are a wealth of knowledge. I talk to and ask teachers for advice as much as possible (they are probably tired of me at this stage) and I take classes with as many different teachers as possible, though my time is limited.

I hope this was useful to any of you who have just completed teacher training or are thinking of completing it. I am far from an expert on this subject but if you do have any questions send me a message on Facebook. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

If you enjoyed this blog or found it useful, please share it and have a read of some of our other blogs.

Peace,

George

If you are interested in reading more about Back2basicslivings teacher training journey see below:

vinyasa-40-hour-yoga-teacher-training-at-semperviva

ignite-mentorship-teacher-training-part-1-help-make-classes-more-accessible-to-everyone

ignite-mentorship-teacher-training-part-2-making-postures-more-accessible-to-students

vinyasa-40-hour-yoga-teacher-training-at-semperviva

how-to-plan-a-yoga-sequence-where-to-look-for-inspiration

top-5-tips-yoga-as-public-speaking

yoga-at-sunrise

its-not-about-touching-your-toes

my-first-group-yoga-class

Vinyasa 40 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Semperviva

As I have mentioned many times in my blogs, it was stress and anger issues that brought me to Yoga in the first place, then it was through Vinyasa Yoga at Semperviva that I started to really enjoy it and started to believe that it was something I would be practising for the rest of my life, so when I took my 200 hr yoga teacher training last year I always had the intention of taking some vinyasa training.

I love practising Vinyasa and I love visiting Semperviva’s studio (Kits beach studio is a 4-minute walk away from my home) and I am striving towards 500 hr certification, so I signed up.

Turns out I had to walk another 8 minutes all the way to the City Studio but such is life.

I hadn’t met or practised with Clara Roberts Oss before. I had intended to but the baby yogi in our home kind of meant I had a busy schedule.

From the get go Clara lived up to her reputation, people had told me I would work hard in her training and true enough, 2 hours in, there was so much sweat on my mat, I could have drowned.

To begin each day we came to our mats which were arranged in a circle around a beautiful alter. We were later given the chance to add something to it if we wished. We chanted together for between 20-40 minutes. No pressure to chant if it is not your thing and then we got stuck into a physical practise.

The physical practises were tough, especially 7 days in a row (I skipped one) but we had the option to skip it so long as we observed and noted the poses all the way through.

Lucky, after the second day, I remembered to bring a spare T-Shirt and Towel as we were certainly putting in the work and banging through content also. “Momma aint got time for that,” Clara would likely say.

Some of the physical practises contained little or no vinyasas (flow from downward dog to plank to half plank, up dog or cobra and back to down dog) and sometimes we held the poses for quite a while. This surprised me as I thought flowing through vinyasas and quick transition through the poses were trademarks of Vinyasa.

How much I have to learn.

From a practical standpoint Clara made sure she knew what each individual wanted to learn or take away from the course and she seemed to have memorized everybody’s name after about 22 seconds

Not everybody in the group were teachers. It’s inspiring to see people take their own practise seriously enough to invest time and money into it.

I was disappointed to find I was the only male, we need to see more men in yoga and I think that Vinyasa is exactly the type of practice which can attract more men. Men who are not yogis.

We need to bring the gift of yoga to the bricklayer on the building site, the gym addict who only lifts weights, the bloke who is intimidated to go into a female dominated environment, we need all of these fellows practising yoga because we, as men need it both for our state of mind and for our attitude.

We discussed class sequencing and Clara introduced the concept of Wave Theory. (No, not the theory of the wave motion of light with molecular vibrations of the radiant body, but waves and troughs, peaks and valleys in a yoga class). Planning a Vinyasa yoga class is a whole lot more complicated than I imagined.

This lead into the exploration of different poses, for example handstand and wheel, and a multitude of different ways to assist people. It really brought home the importance of being able to read your class. There is no point in teaching handstand or wheel if it is not something the majority of your class will be willing or able to attempt.

We then went on to dissect peak poses like CSI experts, pulling them apart in so many different ways that allowed us to construct a class from the bits and pieces we found and put them back together like the tin man into a class that consisted of everything we needed to prepare for a peak pose.

We also explored where we have come from as teachers by looking at the lineage of our teachers, that is, who I consider to be my teachers and who they consider to be their teachers?

I always think that from an ancestral point of view that knowing where you come from tells you a lot about yourself. I think the same applies to our teaching, knowing who has thought us and who influences us and in turn their influences. It is something I should make a point to find out more about.

The final day, after another tough practise we had a discussion on the Bhagavat Gita. I enjoyed this book. Stephen Mitchells translation is an easy read and it has lots to offer in the line of living well and it is a topic that one could discuss endlessly.

One of the main things I took away from this course is how much I don’t know and how much more I have to learn. I suppose that partly comes with experience but I would recommend this course to anybody who is either interested in deepening their practise or improving as a teacher, even if you have no intention of ever teaching vinyasa, the knowledge that was available to us through Clara was immense.

Peace,

George