3 Important Questions to Ask and 3 Questions that Really Don’t Matter if You Are Considering a Yoga Teacher Training Course

It’s a thought you can’t unthink — “I want to do a yoga teacher training.” Once that thought crosses your mind, it’s just a matter of Where and When until you find yourself locked in a yoga studio for 8 hours a day on all of your weekends. I’ve noticed over the years at Dhyana Yoga that people enter the program in different ways. Some have absolutely no questions at all. Others have a rolling list of questions that spills over into the first day of class, every discussion throughout the program, all breaks big and small, and requires multiple emails threads to complete. I’m equally appreciative of both approaches and find that the mix of personalities that land in any given semester of training keeps my excitement level about being there as a trainer really high. Although the content may remain consistent, every training program is wonderfully different based on the energy of the group that comes together. For each of these two types, though, I offer the following “Do” and “Don’t” lists which I think will help teachers-to-be understand the program they are considering much better.

Do ask…

1. What is the lineage of the school you are considering?
I was surprised recently when speaking with a yoga student who is currently enrolled in a teacher training program at her home studio to get a blank stare when I asked her what the school’s lineage was, as if she had no idea what I was talking about. Do your research! What you will learn and how you will be taught will be a direct reflection of the lineage. This blog entry from YogaDork (regardless of the spelling issues) gives a pretty understandable overview of lineages if you are wondering about your school. You may be able to bounce from studio to studio and teacher to teacher when you are starting out practicing, but when it comes to training and what you will graduate being able to teach, this question needs to be answered and understood!

2. Do the lead teachers teach yoga full time, and/or how much actual experience do they have?
There is no substitute for time spent teaching, and no short cut either. Your teacher trainer will only be able to pass onto you what they have experienced, so why not connect with someone who is not only a great teacher, a great person outside of the yoga room, and someone you feel comfortable with, but also who has a good chunk of time put in actually teaching, interacting, navigating different situations, and learning how to pass on content in a generous and practical manner? Find out how long the trainers have been teaching, how much they actually teach, and how long the school has been offering their teacher training program. I’m not saying there aren’t good new trainers out there, but if you have the choice between someone with a little bit of experience and a lot, or between a school that is offering it’s first teacher training or 21st, finding out the answer to this question may give you a little more insight into the program you are considering.

3. Who did the lead teachers train with themselves, and/or who are their greatest influences?
The lineage question will give you a school of practice and philosophy to track back to, but this third question will fill in the gaps. For example, someone may tell you they practice Ashtanga Vinyasa in the lineage of Krishnamacharya, but it is unlikely they actually studied in the direct presence of Krishnamacharya. However finding that out, and then finding out if they either studied with BKS Iyengar vs. Pattabhi Jois, or even with Tim Miller vs. Erich Schiffman, or a teacher under either of those teachers, will tell you a tremendous amount about the program. Check out the teachers noted or thanked in your teacher trainer’s bio and you’ll start to understand where their teaching is flowing from and that will help you decide if the program is a match for you.

Don’t bother asking…

1. Is the program Yoga Alliance certified?
In my opinion, it means absolutely nothing. That’s all I’ll say for now.

2. How many people will be in the program?
There are benefits to having a big class, and benefits to having a small class. I think some people get hung up on wanting to have a small class thinking that they’ll get more attention, not feel overwhelmed, or not get lost in the shuffle. While this may be true, you also interact with fewer people in a small training, which means fewer ideas and opinions are offered, and fewer body types and practice levels are part of such a training. All in all, I think it’s a pretty even race between pros and cons of each size, so don’t over emphasize either.

3. Will I be able to teach after taking this program?
There are no guarantees in life. Yoga teacher training is as much an opportunity to get to know yourself better and examine your choices as it is to practice more yoga and potentially teach yoga. Some people enter yoga teacher training with a background that makes them more comfortable in front of the room than others, and some make major leaps in self confidence just because the time is ripe for them. Others enter thinking that they want to teach immediately and then realize they need more time being a student or just want enjoy practicing without teaching for a little longer. In any case, yoga is a lifetime of study, so whether you teach after the program or not doesn’t matter very much. The best thing to do is go into the program with a desire to learn and see where that takes you!

If you’ve had the thought you can’t unthink, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re on your way… Swaha!

More info about Dhyana Yoga here

ALTERED SPACE // WHAT WE EAT

In 2002 I moved back to Philadelphia after 14 years mostly in Southern California, and partly on a journey literally around the world (more on this later). I came back in July, and it was hot. By August I had found a little room at 12th and Walnut and rented it in a handshake deal with plans on opening a yoga studio. I sweated it out the next few months getting that room ready by refinishing the floors, painting the walls, and doing a 3 layer lotus stencil design 108 times around the top of the walls. I wasn’t used to the humidity, and as I sewed curtains and made pillows and even stapled in some carpet, I longed for the cool breezes of San Diego. On October 5th, 2002, Dhyana Yoga at 1212 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor had it’s Grand Opening celebration, though, and my friends and relatives showed up in support… and in sweat. The turn out was great, and the room was HOT! It got even hotter as more people arrived, and even more so as my new friends Simon Park, Marni Sclaroff, and Phil Migliarese did asana demonstrations in the front of the room.

And then it got cold. So very cold. I hadn’t endured an East Coast winter for quite some time. I thought I owned a coat. It was not a coat, it was a thing with sleeves. In San Diego, a nice, heavy, cozy sweatshirt is a coat. In the middle of winter in Philadelphia, that sweatshirt did nothing to protect me against the biting wind as I walked my also cold dog, Santa (AKA “Bob”) morning, noon, and night. I fell on the ice in my Puma sneakers and Bob ran home without me. It was almost too much to take. I had to rally. Winter lasts awhile. So I bought a big, unflattering, puffy jacket at a thrift shop on South Street and my neighbor gave me a hat. And I practiced a lot because at least the practice room was warm! I’ll admit, I wondered more than once that long winter why I ever decided to leave San Diego and come back to my hometown.

Now 11 years later I have a little stockpile of winter gear, the right boots for snow and ice, and that gritty Philly girl that got soft on the West Coast resurfaced, and even enjoys the winter cold these days! I also have support from the inside, via my Ayurveda practice, to keep me warm. Below is an amazing, easy, and absolutely delicious recipe for a hearty soup that will keep you toasty, nourished, and going back for another bowl! Also keep in mind that Ayurveda says when you feel wet and cold, to favor lighter, warmer foods and spices that balance out Kapha (the earth and water elements that may make you feel cold, damp, and lethargic). Also, during times of transition, be they seasons of nature or seasons of your life, it is wise to pay special attention to the basics of good health: meditation, regular exercise, sensory nourishment and emotional healing. I hope this healthy soup recipe will warm your body, delight your taste buds and make you happy! Enjoy!

Heart-y Ginger Vegetable Soup

Ingredients: 3 carrots, 4 rutabagas, 3 stalks of celery, 2 inches of ginger, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 an onion, 1 turnip, 2 cartons vegetable stock, 1/2 small carton of Pomi tomatoes, 1 tablespoon evoo, salt & pepper (parsley to garnish)

John's 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

John’s 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

Preparation:

1. In a stock pot, warm oil. Add diced garlic, ginger, and chopped onion, stir 3 mins (don’t burn the garlic!). Add chopped celery and turnip and cook on medium heat stirring lightly 5-7 minutes so they can soften.

3. Add chopped carrots and rutabagas, which look like crazy carrots. If you have knife skills it’s best to chop them by hand because your shakti (love and power) goes in them, but I don’t have knife skills so I do them the in the food processor and say a mantra instead, which is also fun! And fast…

4. Stir up everything in the pot and keep cooking for 5 more minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir more. Everything should be in the pot now. Bring it to a boil.

5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

6. Stick an immersion blender in the pot and blend everything up. You might end up with a few chunks of rutabaga or carrot but that’s kind of fun to come across in a bowl of this soup so don’t worry about getting it perfect.

7. Salt and Pepper to taste, but you won’t need a lot. When you serve it up, put some fresh Italian parsley leaves in the bowl if you have them, totally optional.

This yields about 8-10 bowls, but everyone will want seconds! Enjoy!

ALTERED SPACE // Origin Magazine features 10 Philadelphia Yoga Teachers!

This photo is so special because Joe, who has a way of catching special moments on film, took our baby's first picture here! That's Joe himself in the photo under the pink line.

This photo is so special because Joe, who has a way of catching special moments on film, took our baby’s first picture here! That’s Joe himself in the photo under the pink line.

Kudos to the editors of Origin Magazine for recognizing some of the teachers in the Philadelphia yoga community in their latest issue, which you can pick up now at Whole Foods! John and I are so happy to be snuggled in this feature with so many good friends and respected peers, and we are especially grateful to Joe Longo (www.joelongophotography.com) who I suspect orchestrated the entire situation! A lot of the other teachers in the photos you’ll see did their Teacher Certification at Dhyana Yoga and nothing could make us happier than their success in pursuing a career teaching yoga, which is not a path for the faint of heart. My Kundalini teacher, Yogi Bhajan said the students should become 10 times stronger than the teacher, and while I keep up in my own right, I always remember that, and revel in the victories of others.

All 10 of the Philly teachers in the article are unique in their lineages and styles, but I’ll tell you something we all have in common — At a certain point, every person you see there took a risk. There’s a point when, no matter what vocational path you follow, you come to a fork in the road and have to decide, do I go forward or go back? Do I take a risk or take the easy way out? There is a lot of processing, perhaps some uncomfortable but honest conversations, and ultimately a moment when you step forward into your destiny in such a powerful way that it inspires everyone around you to do the same.

The photo Joe chose to submit of John and I is especially dear to me because it is the very first picture of our whole family, including baby Raine, together. It was just hours later that I took a pregnancy test and it was positive, and we were positively overjoyed! That was such an amazingly happy time in our marriage, and boy, what a fork in the road! I feel like yoga was our training for all of the adventures parenting has presented to us.

An interesting sidebar for anyone who has read this far…

In my former life as a young woman working in the music industry in Southern California, I dated a musician for a few years who broke my heart. It turned out he had a “karmic connection” with someone else, of course, and this someone else (NOT a yoga teacher by the way!) is also in the very same issue of Origin Magazine. It just struck me as funny somehow that all these years later she and I end up in the same magazine just for doing what we love to do and are enjoying wonderful lives because of it…. Both of us WITHOUT that musician I might add!

The real victory for me is that I can look at this woman’s picture and truly harbor no lingering resentment for that whole messy situation. I can appreciate her beauty and talent  and not feel like it takes away from my own. I’m so grateful this article came out this month but without this karmic layer it would just be some passing press. Instead it’s been a great reminder to me that we are all, at our origin, intimately connected and infinitely entangled, and even if it’s messy, it’s up to us to wrap those connections in peace and love.

Connected and Entangled

Connected and Entangled

 

 

 

 

Sat Namaste,

Diana

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