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Yoga Teacher Training


Vrkasana (Tree Pose) with Kollin (Photo by Laura Watson Photography)

As my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) is coming to a close, I thought I would share a blog post about my journey and why I decided to go through with the training, what the training was about and what it meant to me.





Urdva Muka Svasana (Upward Facing Dog - Photo by Laura Watson Photography)
MY HISTORY


I have always considered myself to be athletic, dancing ballet all throughout my childhood up until college, swimming in high school and most recently competing in my first mini Triathlon. After college, I dabbled in some at home yoga practice through DVDs and so on, but I really became interested in it after I had my son, Kollin, in 2011. 

Paschimottasana (Seated Forward Bend - Photo by Laura Watson Photography)


I started working out with a group after I had Kollin, I was able to bring him and workout and it worked well with my schedule, and they had a small yoga program on the side. After being with the group for awhile I became one of the workout instructors and fell in love with teaching. I became group fitness certified, and I love it. It reminded me of dance and brought me back to my roots. I continued to take their yoga but I felt like I was stuck and needed more so I started doing more yoga at home, then started taking a few Bikram Yoga classes. (Is it just me or is Bikram a "gateway" yoga drug?!?!?) I really enjoyed Bikram but I didn't want to take the same exact class every time. Then I learned the Lululemon in Sugar Land has a free yoga class on Sunday nights and I started taking classes there and then I fell in love with Lindsey one of the Awakened Yoga Teachers and I started taking classes there and from the first class I took with her there she talked to me about YTT.

Makarasana (Dolphin Pose using Dharma Yoga Wheel)


THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS

I was still teaching for the workout group and I was taking more and more yoga classes and realized that yoga was my passion, and yoga was what I wanted to do and teach. I missed the Spring YTT at Awakened, but I decided I was going to jump on the next one and during the summer of 2014 I started taking some Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga classes and became downright obsessed, even buying my own SUP board.
Supported Headstand at Oyster Creek Boathouse

I loved it so much I took the SUP Teacher Certification Course, which you technically have to be YTT trained for since I was already teaching (and group fitness certified) and had taken a large amount of classes they let me go along with the program. This was such a great decision, not only did I make a ton of friends, but I also made a ton of connections before I was even teaching yoga. I have to do a plug here for one of my friends I met through the SUP training, she was living in Dallas and dropped everything to go to the Virgin Islands to create her own SUP Yoga program. (Check it out http://www.supyogavi.com/)

Sorry I took a selfie, so its backward. Check out my sunburn though...can you imagine what the rest of me looked like?
In our SUP Yoga training, we had to put pen to paper about a goal and what we were going to do that week to make our goal happen. My goal was to become YTT certified so I could not only teach SUP yoga, but yoga. So that next day after training I emailed Grace, the awesome owner of Awakened, and told her I was interested in YTT and I wanted to sign up. She probably thought I was crazy because the new program dates weren't even released yet.

Meet Grace...I mean she is a badass

The next step in reaching my goal was quitting my current teaching job and focusing on yoga, I wanted to take a bunch of classes and make sure it was something I really wanted to spend lots of time and money on. During that time I was told it was a "phase I was going through" but that phrase just solidified that I loved it and it did great things for my body and my life. The decision I made was the right one.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Toe Pose - Photo by Laura Watson Photography)

AND IT WAS DONE....

Quitting teaching to focus on yoga was the best thing ever, my life changed, my attitude changed and my friends changed (for the better). It felt right. It just felt like everything in my life was where it needed to be to do the training. Kollin was going to school a few days a week, my schedule opened up and lets be honest I wasn't/am not getting pregnant anytime soon, so my hubby said GO FOR IT. I debated backing out from Awakened and going full on Baptiste YTT, but I didn't like their schedule options. Awakened was just a few weekends of training spaced apart. I could still keep my normal schedule and training was on the weekends so childcare was no problem (sorry husband). It was something for me and only me. It was something I could do on my own and be proud of. Jumping ahead to now I would like to say I am very proud of jumping in and doing it, because it has changed my life.

Finally, the dates were posted. Grace emailed me to let me know and sent me my application. Which once again overly eager, I filled out and gave it to her like the next day. After a few weeks, she called me in for an interview to see if I was right for the training. Um, obviously I am, but its cool. But wait, back up did she say interview? I mean I have two majors in business and I was freaking out, because do I wear a suit for an interview to go over my Yoga Teacher Training application. No seriously, do I? Luckily I had a friend that went through the last program and she said it was a super casual interview..."Erin, it is a yoga studio". So I put on my best Lululemon (I can only assume that is the suit version of yoga apparel) and rocked the shit out of that interview. But really Grace and I clicked and it seemed like we were a lot alike.

And of course, I updated my Facebook Status......because EVERYONE NEEDED TO KNOW THAT I WAS IN.


Eka Pada Koudinyasana 2 Variation using Dharma Yoga Wheel

THE TRAINING 

We had four ladies in my training class (including myself), when I walked in I was quite surprised at the difference in all of us. All different ages and backgrounds. This is probably why I love yoga so much, it doesn't discriminate, LIKE FOR REAL DOES NOT, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. All of us were slightly nervous, and maybe didn't know quite what to expect but we all got to know each other quickly. The first weekend of training just flew by. I couldn't believe I was at the studio at 7AM on a Friday morning and then BAM I was passed out asleep in my bed on Sunday night. Two yoga practices per day that weekend and we even already started practice teaching. WHAT ALREADY TEACHING IN FRONT OF MY PEERS, ON THE FIRST WEEKEND? Yup, true story. That weekend we went over everything from goal setting, asanas, teaching, breathing, and even ways to prevent injuries in yoga. PACKED FULL, then at the end of the day on Sunday Grace started talking about our homework.  Uh, homework? This is YTT why do I even need to read and I'm sorry, did you say write a paper? This 200 hour YTT business I guess is no joke.

Sandy, one of the other trainee, and I working on assisting in Tree Pose

I, like most people I told, had the reaction of REALLY???????? when it came to the yoga paper writing, but I did it and I understood quickly why after the first assignment it was needed. It wasn't a book report, I can only assume Grace doesn't want to read the same paper over and over again. But, it was about understanding the book and applying it to your life, much like yoga. Also, it was about being able to understand what the book was saying and applying it to our teaching.

There was always a nice break between the YTT weekend trainings. Those trainings are packed and your brain is so full, I needed time to process and do my homework and continue on. Between each weekend, I took classes, observed classes, and tried as many types of yoga as I could.

Weekend two was all about teaching and knowing yourself. And Starbucks, did I mention Grace has a major coffee/tea addiction and we went to Starbucks like three times per day and they ALWAYS spelled my name Aaron. No seriously like always....

Anyway, we learned about sequencing and we learned how to assist each other in yoga poses. Let me just say for the record, I have never been so sore in my life after that day. I always thought when they assisted you they were correcting your posture or whatever, but really it is about helping you get deeper in to your pose and push yourself to your fullest expression.

Kollin assisting my seated forward fold.
Well, imagine doing that for every pose in a Hot Power Flow class over and over again. Holy sore muscles Batman, someone get a crane to lift me out of bed.

That helped my asana practice so much though,  it taught me how I wanted to feel in each pose, where I wanted to feel it and how far I could push myself. Plus the two teachers helping us were cracking us up the entire time. They had gone through teacher training together at Awakened and I swear they were like soul mates.

The weekends weren't just always about learning how to teach. A big part of YTT was knowing who you are as a person, so you are your 100% authentic self why you teach. Think about it, why do you love your favorite yoga teacher so much? Because their personality shines. And I'm sure that some people it comes naturally to and others it doesn't, but to be a great yoga teacher, you not only have to know your yoga, but you have to know yourself. I liked to think I was confident and knew who I was before I started training, but I did learn a lot about myself during the process.

We had another paper to write and more books to read in between. From Weekend two to Weekend three we had the holidays and of course, I injured my shoulder like BAD (due to overuse), I thought I tour my rotator cuff, luckily I pulled my supraspinatus (rotator cuff muscle that I like to now call Stupid-spinatus) and I thought I was done. I didn't practice for about 3 weeks. I would collapse in Chaturanga and I seriously thought my arm was going to fall off in down dog. Luckily, my doctor is a yoga teacher also and she really helped me. She taught me how to modify my poses and showed me what I could still do, and I thought WOW. I really love yoga even more, I can't put any weight on my shoulder yet I can still take a full Hot Power Flow class with modifications of course, but I could do it and thats what was most important. Yoga was going to help me recover.

Ustrasana (Camel Pose) Variation using Dharma Yoga Wheel
Going into our last weekend with my shoulder injury I was nervous, my husband kept asking me over and over if I was burnt out yet. And, I always had a confident "NOPE". I just learned that I needed to slow down and really take it easy with my shoulder. The final weekend of training was a full weekend where we all had to stay overnight. Our house was in Galveston. I can't lie, I was pretty nervous going into our last weekend. I felt unprepared. I procrastinated on my homework and I thought, seriously how am I supposed to teach like this? I had to really get out of my head and get present for the last weekend together.
The view from the house we stayed at, Tiki Island.

The moment we got to the house and I stepped foot on the deck, it was beautiful.

First Morning Sunrise over Tiki Island

It was the best place for all of us to be. Maybe its because I'm a Cancer and I love the water, but our view over the bay was INCREDIBLE, and it hit me. It isn't a joke when everyone says the last weekend is the best weekend. It changed me. I had such a great time with all of the other ladies, and we went over a lot of teaching stuff in the process. From practice teaching to reviewing assisting, plus I swear we ate like every two hours, and there was wine! Saturday morning we even did a meditation looking out over the bay as the sun rose.

Sunrise the second morning over Tiki Island 

Like I said before, its not just about learning how to teach, its learning how to teach at your fullest expression of yourself. We did some "soul searching" as well that weekend. Learning that your past affects your future and how you live, whether its a small or large thing. For instance, hurting my shoulder made me learn to slow down and not go so "Balls out" all the time and that I am not in fact bullet proof. Hurting my shoulder gave me Gratitude not only for my practice but once I am healed I will be stronger than ever. Using instances like this we learned can help us set a theme/intention for our classes and share some authentic wisdom. Because showing how something has helped you can help others.  At the end of the weekend, we set a mantra for ourselves. Mine is "THE LIE THAT I GIVE UP IS FAILURE, MY NEW WAY OF BEING IS FEARLESS."



I never thought that would be my mantra, but now it makes perfect sense.

Partner Fun one afternoon - Double Dolphin


NOW

Back to real life right, we are done with all of our together training, our book work, our observations. Thats totally nerve wracking. I've assisted a class already and I'm signed up for our community classes which are going to happen within the next month.


More partner fun with Sandy - Double Dancer 

WHAT ARE MY REAL FEELINGS ABOUT THE TRAINING

I left the final weekend excited and confused. I thought "why wasn't I given a booklet of classes to teach" or music to play or themes. Well because ERIN, Grace has been saying this whole time how teaching is an expression of you, why would she give me those things. Those are her things. I also thought "I'm kinda bummed we haven't taught a full class yet, or why don't we teach just sections of class?" Well that's what the community classes are for. Plus I guess it would be totally distracting to have two different teachers trying to teach the same yoga class in different portions. The only things I still felt like I had questions about were just the mechanics of teaching, because I'm a brand new teacher. I have to create my classes with who am I and how I want them to be.

Lotus with backbend over Dharma Yoga Wheel 


WHY YOU SHOULD SIGN UP FOR TRAINING 

Let me start by saying if you have no desire to do teacher training, I'm surprised you read this entirely long thing. Because honestly the only reason you did it was because you are my friend or family member...Right?!?! HI FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER :) But if you did read it because you are interested think about it. Seriously, if you are on the fence about doing teacher training ask yourself "Is this the right time for me, and if so can I fully commit?" That is seriously the only question you need to answer. Even if you have kids, the schedule is easy, not only because its on the weekends, but its given to you so far in advance  it is easy planning. Plus, you have ample time in between to work on what you need to. If you are thinking about it at all, honestly answer that question. You can make it work if you really want to. Just be sure to be committed to your answer.

"Will it help your practice?" YES! I don't know how for you, but I know how it helped me. It taught me, as you read previously, to slow down in my life, to be present, to be patient, and to commit to something. I learned the basics of proper alignment but I learned how to take myself to my fullest expression.

"Do you have to teach?" Well...yeah that's why its called Yoga Teacher Training. No, you don't have to end up being a yoga teacher, there are a lot of people that say they did YTT just to help their practice. I unfortunately cannot give you that insight, because I signed up to actually teach. But yes, there are sections in the training in which you will have to teach. But it's your decision what you do with your certification.

"Why 200 Hours?" That question I personally can only give you an opinion answer, I can't truly answer why, because I didn't in fact create the program. No you aren't becoming a lab technician or going back to college. But, you are teaching people about their bodies, and how to maneuver their bodies. So...you should probably know what you are talking about. Just because that girl you follow on Instagram can pose and describe poses doesn't mean she is in front of you in a class teaching you and moving your body to help you get into your fullest expression. Although she will probably have an advantage when it comes to describing poses and transitions. Its kinda like asking your brother who has an accounting degree do all your business accounting instead of having an actual CPA do it. I will say keep following those yogis on Instagram though, they inspire me everyday and keep me practicing everyday, some might not be YTT but they have some AWESOME pictures.


Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) using Dharma Yoga Wheel - don't worry I had a spot


FINAL THOUGHTS

Grace made training fun and exciting. A few times I felt like I didn't know what was coming next in the training, but I think that's Graces's way of making sure you aren't overly prepared and "practiced" for something.  It was a way for her to make you be yourself in the moment. (I would like to say we did have a syllabus for each weekend, but if it says "Group Activity" I had no idea what we would be doing.) Yoga teaches you to "Drop the Expectation" and it was a simple way for Grace to show us that.

I can't lie, there were times I thought "how is this really helping me and my teaching?" But that was just me being stubborn in the moment (Me...Stubborn...WHAT?!?!) But like I have said over and over again, its about teaching you to teaching in your fullest expression of yourself.

I am so excited to start teaching classes, and to teach people that yoga isn't just about fitness but it is truly a way of life. It clears my mind and its something I do just for me. I will be an awesome teacher, and I am so thankful for the support and the mentoring along the way. I feel like I still have much to learn, but that will come over time. I'm excited to keep learning and training.

I am truly grateful for Grace and Awakened letting me be apart of their program.

Namaste hOMies.

One Arm Handstand (Photo by Laura Watson Photography)

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