I recently completed a RYS 200 Hour Teacher Training at Zen Yoga Garage in Chicago and am eager to share with you my life-changing experience. It was more than just learning about how to teach a yoga class and learn Sanskrit--it gave me a deeper meaning into life…
I also have a new passion for acroyoga.
My amazing yoga teachers at Zen were so knowledgeable and inspirational and truly made my experience at Zen Yoga Garage.
This new yoga practice has allowed me to be more aware of what truly nourishes my mind and body. Of course, daily movement, healthy and delicious food, and rest and rejuvenation techniques are all very nourishing but it is so much more than that.
It is about also having a sense of overall well-being—being in touch with how you feel and what and who truly brings you bliss. (Having a greater purpose in life). It has taught me to be more curious and continue to learn from those around me. It has showed me that being yourself truly allows you to be authentic in the moment.
I can’t even begin to tell you everything I have learned over these two weeks, but here is a glimpse into my training.
I learned about Ayurveda medicine, a holistic whole body healing system based on different energy systems or “Doshas.” Dosha is a kind of energy that makes up who we are. (Pitta, Kapha, and Vata)
I learned that my energy or constitution was Kapha. Characteristics of Kapha include easy going, grounded, and slow to anger. Kaphas must keep their “space” clean and clutter free to avoid distraction and stress. They typically hate cold, damp weather and seek things that energize them.
Therefore, in order to have more balance, I need to seek out things that add stimulation or “fire” to my life such as social events with lots of people, high intensity movement, or a fast-paced city life. I guess, living in Chicago sure helps to balance my doshas.
I also learned that my chakra or spiritual energy is Sahasrara or “crown chakra.” It’s a connection to a higher power of “spirituality” that is typically formed in adulthood. When your crown chakra is balanced you can tap into a sense of purpose and bliss. The sound of nourishment is silence.
One of the most amazing things I learned during this training was that in order to take a yoga student to pure bliss, you have to give them a moment of silence. Silence is the key to calming the mind and pushing the body to a state of enjoyment. Silence can be used in the beginning of class during the centering or at the end during the final savasana pose.
Even though I went through a Vinyassa yoga training, I was able to learn about many different forms of yoga.
Vinyasa Yoga is the continuous movement from one posture to the next. Typically referred to as “flow” yoga. It usually starts with a series of sun salutations in which the movement is matched with the breath.
Kundalini Yoga is also called “Pharmacutical Grade Yoga” because it is said to make you feel “high.” It is a set of exercises repeated to achieve a desirable result. Very interesting practice to say the least.
Ashtanga Yoga is a fast-paced, intense, flowing style of that incorporates a set series of poses that are performed always in the same order.
Bikram Yoga or “hot yoga” is a set series of 26 poses that are done in a heated room of 95 to 100 degrees. The heat allows for the loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. Side note: tradition says that you are not allowed to drink water during class.
Bowspring Yoga is a dynamic posture practice that takes into consideration the natural curve of the spine. The postures emphasize a deep curve in the lower back, and a uniform arch in the neck. It can also be referred to as Srhdivia yoga. However, Srhdivia is the template of Bowspring that includes the practice and philosophy. Bowsping is sometimes referred to as “yoga for athletes.”
Yin Yoga or “restorative yoga” is a practice developed to stretch the body's connective tissue, particularly around the joints. In order to do this, specific poses are held over the course of several minutes.
I also learned about prenatal yoga, which I found to be fascinating. More than the yoga practice itself, most pregnant woman do yoga for a sense of community.
- Never practice breath retention or ujjayi breath
- No hot yoga
- No belly backbends or twisting
- Never tell a pregnant women to scoop the tale bone or tuck the hips and never have them practice kegals or squeezing the pelvic floor (Not something you want to teach someone who is preparing for child birth)
In fact, we learned a lot about the pelvic floor. Posterior tilt and tucking the hips (which is typically instructed in a yoga class) actually creates less range of motion, limiting movement and flexiblity. There are many recent studies that say kegals or other pelvic floor exercises tighten the pelvic floor but do not actually strengthen it.
Tips for Teaching a Prenatal Class
- Use blocks and blankets as props during practice
- Hip opener poses
- Standing poses
- Table top pose
Learning kid’s yoga could have been the highlight of my experience. I don’t think I have laughed so hard in my life than when we went through a kid’s yoga class. When teaching yoga to kids you have to be super animated and enthusiastic.
Example: be a tree—grow your branches. Be a cat and say “meow.” Be a cow and say “moo.”
Basically, yoga for kids is a great way to enhance flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness. It can be a fantastic way to improve concentration, focus, and create a sense of calmness.
See how fun kid’s yoga can be with this Yoga Slide.
Can Anyone Practice Yoga?
If you can breathe—you can practice yoga. However, no one can practice every form of yoga. It has to be the right yoga for that person. It has to serve you, not hurt you. There is no judgment in yoga. It’s not about mastering every pose or wrapping your leg around your head. It’s about what feels good to you. It’s not about being perfect—it’s about being better. Leave your ego on the mat and watch the magic happen.
Svadharma means “your own dharma” or “your own way.”
This theme falls in line with the 8 Limbs of Yoga or the practice of reaching a state of enlightenment. This includes the Yamas (rules of conduct) and Niyamas (rules of personal behavior). For example, Ahimsa, one of the Yamas means non- violence. This of course includes non-violence to others but also to your own body. Therefore, it is important not to harm your body by overstretching or reaching for a pose that does not serve you.
One of the Niyamas that really interested me was Tapas, meaning discipline. It is a means by which we can keep ourselves healthy and cleanse ourselves inwardly. It’s a spiritual practice that truly nourishes you from within. What is it that truly adds value to your health, happiness, and life?
The last day of teacher training involved a ripped piece of paper, a lit candle, and a large ceramic bowl. All of us teachers were instructed to write down on our piece of paper any feeling or energy that we wanted to let go of. It could be anything that has interfered with our ability to reach our true potential and allow us to live life to the fullest.
We then all lit our piece of paper, dropped it into the bowl, and watched our “fears” blow up in flames and disappear forever. I felt a deep emotion come over me and at that moment I felt a urge to go out and conquer the world with all of the knowledge I had gained in these last two weeks. It was a great end to our two- week journey and a wonderful beginning to a new life of possibilities.
The final test of our teacher training involved the group of 10 of us teaching a 60- minute yoga class to the community. (Which meant we each would be teaching 5 minutes of a class to about 50 people) We all worked together to put a sequence in place based on different poses we felt represented us as individuals.
We learned that there are many ways to sequence a yoga class. It could be a well-rounded yoga class or it could be a class that focuses on a peak pose. A peak pose class typically includes many prep postures that are used to prepare you for that final energetic pose.
We all determined that our peak pose would be Natarajasana or dancer pose. Also referred to as “King of the Dance.” This happened to be a very fitting pose considering that dancer is one of my favorite poses and is something I do wherever I go. (In fact, my wedding cake topper is actually my fiancé and I doing dancer pose). We all chose what part of the class we wanted to teach so I of course chose to teach the peak pose of Natarajasana. (Which started with first learning how to say this pose correctly in Sanskrit).
Teaching dancer was definitely the icing on the cake for me considering it has so much meaning to my life. I believe that it is a pose that creates a sense of balance and true bliss.
Overall, it was an amazing journey and I am so thankful to have left with a rewarding, nourishing practice and so many wonderful new friends.
From left to right: me, Carlos, Lynn, Jess, Meredith, Shannon, Amy, Julie, Sandra, & Veronica
I am so grateful to now have the tools to not only teach mindful eating, but also mindful movement and so much more.
Kristen Johnson, Registered Dietitian and New Yogi for On Target Living