by regular columnist Elissa Jordan, Adventures in Teaching
I’ve had the same conversation a countless number of times since I started training to be a yoga teacher – a conversation about continuity in access to a skilled senior teacher.
Traditionally yoga was taught over many years from a guru to a student. This student would often live in their guru’s home and what was given to them for a practice was never once questioned.
Times have changed and in this busy world people don’t have the luxury of devoting years of their lives to living with a singular teacher who can guide and encourage their learning. So we grab it where and when we can.
What happens more commonly today is that a student will be taught through a combination of books, DVDs, community classes with various instructors and eventually a certified training programme.
In some instances this training can be condensed down into a one-month intensive. And for some, that’s it. Others will continue to seek out opportunities to train and further their knowledge. But it’s an expensive undertaking. And it can be piecemeal trainings with different teachers, different styles.
But what this means is that we don’t always have the answers, or access to those with the answers.
A friend of mine excitedly attended a workshop with a very highly regarded senior teacher a few years ago. But was disappointed to learn that in order to have a conversation with this senior teacher, she was first required to make an appointment. Even though she was seated next to this teacher as they ate a meal, without the conversation being scheduled, there was to be no support, guidance or chit-chat to be had.
Likewise, I took part in a training that ran over four consecutive weekends. Between training sessions I was busy with working and teaching, leaving very little time to absorb what was happening. When the training finished I was a bit unsure as to the point of it all.
A month later, once I had thoroughly digested the materials, I was stuck with a whole lot of questions and no-one to take them to.
From talking with other teachers, neither of these stories are the exception.
The challenge with books and DVDs are that they’re all forms of one-way communication. There’s no dialogue. A teacher who doesn’t have time to answer, or a training where there isn’t time to formulate a question, is much the same. One-way.
So what can be done?
- Find a teacher that you respect and value. Take private lessons with them. Take trainings with them. Talk to them about observing and assisting their classes.
- Create a support group of your peers. And by peers I mean other yoga teachers and advanced students. Meet up, talk about what it is to practice and teach. Be honest about those things that are puzzling you. We all want to know it all, but unfortunately most of us don’t.
- When you’ve taken a whirl-wind training, often the instructor will give you their contact details. ‘Get in touch if you have any questions.’ Most people don’t take them up on it. But why not? You’ve paid them good money and if something they’ve told you is unclear or is bringing up doubts, get in touch with them.
- Or get in touch with others who took the same training and ask them what they think.
I think you get the idea. Don’t be shy about your questions or concerns. Heck, you can even post a comment on a yoga blog and get a dialogue happening that way. A yoga blog like this one even.
In the later part of 2011 I took part in an Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Jenifer Parker of Healium in Wellington. Through the course of the training we explored the physical body, the energetic body and sequencing theory (as covered in my series of articles related to this training).
Each part of these trainings was no small topic in itself. We had an information smorgasbord to digest each time we met as a group. And because it was a group, Jenifer’s time and energy was divided to allow for equal attention for each participant. So now a few months on, I’m full of questions and thoughts and wonders and worries. But the money has been paid, the training taken and I’m on my own.
Well, no, not really.
I’m fortunate enough not only to live in the same city as Jenifer, I also happen to teach at her studio (although this in itself doesn’t give me time or opportunity to talk to her, as we’re always on conflicting schedules).
Jenifer has committed to making herself available not only to me, but to all the teachers who took her training, whether it’s via Skype, email or face-to-face. She keeps her training purposefully small so that she can continue to support you even once the final day of training has passed.
When you’re choosing a workshop, enquire as to the level of support you’ll be given afterwards when it’s all started to gel.
Some trainings are set up so they happen every four months or so, with one level building on the last. The chance to ponder the information and ask questions is built into the structure of the training.
Others, like Jenifer’s, run over three months, with four weeks between each session where we were given not only assignments so we could apply what we were learning, but mentoring sessions so that we could ‘fess up to any questions that were stewing.
Becoming a yoga teacher is not an inexpensive undertaking. I’m not going to suggest trainings should be cheaper as this simply devalues the experience and expertise of the individual leading the training. However, I would suggest that before you shell out the cash, why not find out exactly what you can expect in return.
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Does a training that doesn’t end when the weekend does sound good to you? Jenifer is running her Advanced Yoga Teacher Training programme again in Wellington over three weekends in April, May and June 2012. To find out more get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop by the studio at Level 4, 276 Lambton Quay.