Teacher training weekend 7 recap

This past weekend was our 7th weekend together. It was somewhat of a catch-up weekend, allowing us to revisit some poses and concepts in a little more depth. Our teaching practice focused on longer holds and getting comfortable with silence. We also had a couple of wonderful guest teachers who shared some special teachings.

On Friday evening we reviewed our breathing practices. The students did some teaching of long-hold poses and meditation. Each student had a different, manageable pose to lead the class through. Examples of poses that can be safely held for 4 minutes for most people include bridge pose, mountain pose, downward dog, bound angle pose, legs up the wall and wide-legged forward fold. The challenge is to talk the class through the pose without having it feel like a jail sentence. We did this exercise a few times over the course of the weekend, using different strategies. On Friday, the students all accidentally fell into the same strategy of telling their class exactly what would happen, and then counting down the 4 minutes. This strategy can be used effectively if you are keeping track of your holds and trying to improve your length in poses. However, it is not the most interesting or useful strategy for teaching. So after this session we talked about mindfully and carefully guiding students in the pose so that they are given information about what to focus on physically and the effect that the pose is having in their body. The second time that we did this teaching exercise the students were much more relaxed and seemed comfortable with the time and the silence. 

During our Saturday morning class, we worked on a couple arm balances that the teacher trainees were interested in - grasshopper pose and Astavakrasana. There was a considerable amount of overlap in terms of what is needed physically for each of these poses, so it worked out nicely to practice them together. And in both of them, as with most arm balances, there are little tricks that can suddenly make the pose very accessible. There were several successes in both poses, and the teacher trainees now have new projects for next time.

On Saturday afternoon, Andrea Dixon led the students in a segment on prenatal yoga. Andrea has been teaching prenatal yoga for over 15 years and is the director of the prenatal teacher training program at Blue Point. She teaches a nurtured, grounded approach to pregnancy, one that honors the innate wisdom of the pregnant body. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to show up in regular yoga classes, so it is important to be informed and at ease with how to guide them in their practice. 

The next day the teacher trainees took class with Allan Stevens, who is an incredible yoga teacher and massage therapist. Coincidentally, he was also focusing on longer holds in class so that was another perspective for the teacher trainees. After Allan’s class, we reviewed some key concepts of the musculoskeletal system and anatomy, as well as how yoga teachers can use anatomy effectively without overwhelming their students. Anatomy is a topic that new teachers find to be daunting because there is SO MUCH information, and it’s difficult to sort through what is important. A yoga teacher should have a general knowledge of how the musculoskeletal system works and what movements are possible at each joint. It is not necessary to know the name of every single muscle, but a yoga teacher should know what muscle groups do at each joint. Along those lines, teacher should also know what poses will stretch and strengthen muscle groups. The general goal, from a physical standpoint, is to build strength, but also to cultivate spaciousness and good movement at the joints. 

Later that afternoon, Jacque Johnson visited again to teach Sanskrit. She reviewed some common words that the students will encounter in their teaching. She also taught them the Gayatri Mantra. 

In all, it was a full weekend of teaching and learning. In February, we will begin to learn how to teach yoga to new students. I say ‘begin to learn’ because teaching yoga basics is a complex topic and it’s impossible to learn it all in a weekend. But we will start with broad concepts that the teacher trainees can refine over time.

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