10 Things You need to stop doing if you are a Yoga Teacher
1. Stop telling your students to roll up from a forward fold to mountain pose. This damages the vertebrae in the spine.
2. Stop telling students that they need to line up their pelvis as though they are between 2 panes of glass while in triangle pose. Triangle pose isn't about flexibility in the legs or squaring the pelvis, it is about side body release and engagement and utilizing your obliques.
2a. Stop telling your students to try to put their hand on the floor in triangle pose. See note above. Students are damaging the SI joint because of entering the pose this way.
3. Stop throwing pigeon pose randomly into your sequences. It is a complex posture that requires preparing the body for safe entry.
4. Stop pushing your students deeper into pigeon pose. As an RMT, I have seen some of your students for injuries related to this one!
5. Stop teaching your students to flow from Warrior 3 to Half Moon Pose or Revolved Half Moon Pose. This causes damage to the femur head and acetabulum of the pelvis and is a road that ends with hip replacement surgery.
6. Stop demo-ing the most advanced version of the pose so that your students know your qualified to teach them. Your students love you and they already know you are amazing. You don't need to impress them. What they need to see is how to access the pose from its rudimentary stages. They are there to learn. So teach them how to understand what it is that there own body needs. Show them how to actually practice yoga.
7. Learn what Vinyasa Krama is. Full stop.
8. Learn how to hold space for yourself and then bring this to your students by learning how to hold space for them.
9. Stop selling yourself short. Stop telling yoga studio owners that you aren't doing it for the money. Not everyone out there is ethical. The message you send, when you say this is that you are a person who can be taken advantage of. You may not have gotten into this profession for the money, but you are now in this profession, and you like everyone else on this planet, need to eat and pay your bills. Your time is valuable and what you offer is valuable. Stand up for yourself and expect fair compensation that honours your time for transit, preparation and teaching.
10. Continue to learn. A 200 hour certification is just the beginning. It may feel daunting at first, because most 300 hour trainings are going to cost more than your 200 hour did. But, a 200 hour certification is just the beginning. If this is your passion. Give it your whole heart and take the leap. If you ask those of us who have been in the industry and survived the industry these past 20 years, we will tell you, you have to LEAP. It won't always be easy, but it you set the intention and take the steps, things really do have a way of working themselves out. And it isn't WHO you have studied with that will distinguish you, but what you have LEARNED. It isn't about marketing or setting yourself apart from the pack. It is about doing the SELF work and the SELF care and experiencing the transformation of yoga on a deep level. And this will only come through going deeper into your sadhana.
10a. DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR PERSONAL PRACTICE BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO BUSY TEACHING. You will burn out and what was once your joy will be stolen from you.
I thought I would share a few words about why I feel Mandorla trainings are dear to my heart. There are so many wonderful yoga schools, but each of us has something unique that we offer and that isn't always easy to see at first glance. So, what makes Mandorla special?
First off, our trainings are taught with incredible student to teacher ratios, about 6 to 8 students per teacher and that intimate support doesn't stop after graduation. We are a village of women. We believe in our community and we are always looking for ways to support one another, in not just our teaching but in our lives. We get together for meals and coffee and wine.
We are passionate about sharing the fusion of Thai Yoga Massage and Yoga with our students. The element of healing touch that we teach in our programs is a healing experience in and of itself that prepares you to become a profound teacher and healer. Our two main offerings, Embodiment Yoga Teacher Training and Thai Yoga Therapy Training are designed to support you first and foremost in your own healing journey. We do this by ensuring that we create an atmosphere that it is safe and non-intimidating. We keep our class sizes small and we make sure that we, your teachers, are accessible and approachable.
The 200 hour Embodiment Yoga Teacher Training is a personal journey of self reflection that supports you in establishing a personal yoga practice that will last you a lifetime. From this foundation, we share with you our tried and true techniques for offering inspired group yoga classes. This training goes more deeply into teaching you the specific yoga asana and how to properly explore and teach them and includes a thorough teaching on sequencing, modifications and hands on assisting for group classes.
The 200 & 300 hour Thai Yoga Therapy Training is reflective both emotionally and physically. Rooted in yoga therapy and Thai Yoga Massage, this offering prepares you to offer one on one yoga classes (private yoga classes) and Thai Yoga Massage sessions. In this program we share with you techniques for supporting emotional health with a focus on anxiety, depression and stress. Additionally, you learn to work with the physical body through the lens of yoga therapy by acquiring skills for releasing and re-patterning the myofascial meridians and musculature. This training goes more deeply into how to support an individual with tailored breath-work, energy work, restorative and yin yoga and massage.
We believe in the whole journey that yoga offers us and are intentional about leading you in a thorough exploration of all its tenets. Exploring meditation, reflective journaling, inspired dialogue, mantra (chanting), mudra, pranayama (breath-work), and asana (yoga postures) each of our programs is an opportunity to begin to know yourself on a deep level and an invitation to come home to yourself.
We believe that the mastery of yoga is not the mastery of a specific yoga posture or series of postures, but the mastery of your own body. It is the development of an intimate understanding of your physical, emotional and mental patterns and perceived limitations so that you might, through this understanding, uncover a life where you begin to live past these limitations.
As much as is possible, we make our programs available to anyone with a sincere desire to begin this journey. You do not have to have a previous background in yoga, nor do you have to register to take the entire training program. If you find yourself with financial limitations, we will do our best to work with you. We also endeavor to make our programs accessible scheduling wise. We offer a combination of week long immersions, weekend trainings, weekday and evening traingings and online courses, so that you can find the options that work for you.
It is important to us that students know they are receiving a quality training.
My yoga practice hasn't changed my life in the way that you might think. I don't float through life on a blissful cloud while performing gravity defying, pretzel shaped movements worthy of Cirque du Soleil. My practice did not elicit a poignant moment of enlightenment where all of my prior life changed in an instant. Rather, I have experienced a series of poignant moments, both on my mat and off it over the years. This is not to imply that these shifts have been any less profound for me.
The truth of the matter is that mental resiliency is not something that came easily in my early life and I have struggled over the years with strong surges of emotion that felt like they would consume me. And at certain points of my life, these surges of anxiety and depression left me feeling incapable of functioning at any capacity, other than to crawl into my bed in defeat. When you experience emotions as strong as these, the sensations that you feel throughout your physical body, leave you feeling unsafe in your own skin . . . betrayed and wary of the next episode.
There is something important that I would like to speak to here. So many people, over and over again have expressed to me a difficulty with getting onto their yoga mat when they are feeling this way. Often with an air of guilt or shame over the matter, again and again, like a dirty secret that only they are guilty of. What I would like to say here, is that when you are feeling these emotions, it is a very physical experience. Your breath feels restricted and the tension in your body can feel so palpable that you would claw it out of your body if you could. IT IS PERFECTLY UNDERSTANDABLE THAT YOU WOULD GO TO THE SAFEST PLACE YOU KNOW OF WHEN YOU ARE FEELING THIS WAY. And for many of us, this safe place is our beds.
I think that for many of us, there is a perception of yoga that prevents us from seeing ourselves engaging in yoga and even for those of us who do practice, there are stereotypes that subconsciously, we feel we need to live up to. When the truth of the matter, is that yoga, quite simply, is the choice in any given moment, to take an action that better connects us to ourselves. It is an action of reclaiming our bodies and becoming at home with ourselves again. It is a learning of how to release those overwhelming bodily sensations that coincide with challenging emotions and a way to retrain our nervous systems and our minds to cultivate ease and contentment.
As I said earlier, I have experienced a series of small, yet not insignificant moments through my yoga practice that over the years, have helped me in a profound way. It is my intention, to share a few of these yoga epiphanies, here in this post and also, to continue this thread through the month of March.
Yoga Epiphany # 1 - Create a safe space
While crawling into a cozy bed can feel wonderful at first, when you are feeling stuck, your bed can quickly become a trap. Create a safe space for yourself in a sunny spot in your home and make it as inviting and nurturing as possible. I keep a yoga mat rolled out on my bedroom floor by the sunniest window in the house. If I am feeling upset, it is natural that I will start to head toward my bed, my go to, but having the mat there allows me to make a choice in those mere moments when I may not feel like a have a lot of energy for decisiveness. If I feel immobilized by my feelings, I put myself into a gentle back bend lying on a bolster and even take the duvet off my bed and snuggle into it. (I have even on occasion borrowed the table warmer from my massage table to make my mat that much more enticing and nurturing.) I am still lying down because that is what I feel that I need when I am feeling overpowered by my emotions; but I am lying in a posture that forces me to keep my chest open, instead of allowing myself to lie in a closed off position.
Yoga Epiphany # 2 - You don't need a yoga mat to do yoga
Listen to your body. If you feel fidgety and agitated, you may respond well to movement. If you are feeling stuck mentally and physically your body is charged with frustrated energy, this can be especially hard. I have found that when I am feeling this way, that the hardest thing, is for me to do something new. In fact, I am painfully resistant. This is about safety too. The more you can remove the barriers for yourself to engage in something that you need, the more likely you will be to engage in the activity. Ayurveda classifies stuck emotions and feelings of depression as Kapha dosha and according to Ayurveda, when Kapha is in excess, we need the help of others to help us regain our momentum. Reach out to others and get them to help you in making healthful movement based activities FAMILIAR to you.
Yoga Epiphany # 3 - Just Stand Up
You do not need to do something grandiose to shift into a healthier head space. In fact, it is the smaller, more attainable actions that you are more likely to repeat that will give you the greatest success. All that you need is to do one small action that gives you enough momentum and inspiration to do the next small action. For example, if your house is a mess and you feel overwhelmed, just stand up and pick something up and put it back where it belongs. Repeat. If you are feeling stuck and movement feels inaccessible to you, try the breath of joy that we demonstrate in the clip. That may just give you the momentum that you are needing to take the next small action, that over time, will lead you in a healthier direction.
Everything in practice has meaning, intention and purpose. This is what I love about yoga. There is no such thing as just doing a yoga pose. Each posture has an effect on me physically, emotionally, mentally and energetically. And like any human, I feel my emotions in a very physical way. I wanted to share a short peak of my personal practice during Elle's nap today. I have been dealing with a lot of frustration lately. Turns out, it is very hard to be a loving mom and run a company and still make time for your own needs. The truth? This was my 3rd attempt at posting a practice this week. My computer also crashed while uploading my online course that I teach and I lost the entire 2 hour session. It hasn't been the easiest week. But this is something that I know to be true. Yoga poses are not just random postures. They are profound and unique and we can choose the asana that we need for our specific circumstances at any given time. My practice draws from yoga therapy and ayurveda, so I can experience release of these frustrated feelings. I use twists to help myself move agitation and anxiety out of my tissues, so that I can feel like I can breathe again. I use core engagement and arm balances to reinstill my confidence and to strengthen myself to move past this challenging point in my life.
Stefani shares a short 15 minute yoga practice that can be helpful during those times when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed and only have a limited amount of time for self care. This is a practice that speaks to mothers but is supportive for anyone who is feeling this way.
I wanted to share something quick with you all around Trauma Informed Care today. You can now take Trauma Informed Training through Alberta Health Services, ONLINE and for FREE. Trauma sensitivity is quickly becoming a very important topic as so many individuals in our fast paced society have experienced some form of trauma in their lifetime. Especially for those of us who are supporting people in holistic professions like yoga and massage, I would say that this information is an absolute must. So glad that AHS is being proactive and releasing this information to the public. And, if you ever want to chat with me on my own experience or perspective, my proverbial door is always open. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the link:
Yoga is the practice of embracing whatever is in front of you in this moment. As a mother, there is nothing more powerful than including your child into your time on the mat. The power of touch and movement that you share with your child is transformational, not only for them, but for you. It is my reminder that I don't have to be perfect and an embracing and allowance for myself that is liberating. I wanted to share this practice with you from this morning. And do notice, how my dog, Darwin is completely uninterested. He was far more interested when he was Ellie's age!
One of the benefits of being both a yoga therapist and massage therapist is that I am able to bring the wisdom of these backgrounds into my sessions. A topic dear to my heart of late, is trauma informed practice as it is apparent to me that more people than we have previously acknowledged have experienced trauma of some sort. I am very privileged to work with a team of psychologists who support me in sharpening my own skills on this matter and I would like to share some thoughts I have been having with them around this important conversation. In particular, this article is written for massage therapists as most RMT trainings focus on safe practice for the musculo-skeletal system. Just as important is practice that makes our clients feel emotionally and mentally safe and supported.
How do you know if your client has experienced trauma? What are the signs? How do you approach treatment in a safe and sensitive way without labeling and stigmatizing?
A safe assumption to make is that everyone has experienced trauma and that all clients should be approached in this way. Especially if your client gives signs that they feel nervous about the appointment, have experienced disappointment with a previous session or indicate that they need to feel in control of what is or isn’t happening.
Informed consent is important, not just at the beginning of the session but throughout the session. Just because you have been given permission for one area, does not guarantee that your client is ‘OK’ with you moving into another region.
When supporting an individual who has experienced trauma, who suffers from chronic pain or whose nervous system or endocrine systems are in a state of stress; some important factors need to be considered.
It is not always possible to feel what the nervous system or endocrine system are doing through the muscles. It is important to not make assumptions that the pressure you offer is appropriate because you feel a knot or don’t feel any resistance. In the case of emotions, the nervous system and the endocrine system, a lot more can be observed when there is movement. Just as we perform proper orthopedic tests prior to treatment of musculo-skeletal issues as RMTs, we must perform certain emotional tests. Do not just talk to your client and get them on the table.
If there are indicators for trauma, chronic pain, nervous system or endocrine stress, as above, lean into questions around what has and has not worked for them in the past. If they indicate holding tension in a certain area, talk to them around what their pain free range of motion is, not just on the musculo-skeletal level. For example, a person experiencing depression, may feel safe with their shoulders in a protective and closed stance. Can you, through gentle questions and invitation for movement, assess what their comfort range would be to open up their shoulders. Forcing such an individual into a deep backbend, could trigger a panic attack.
When the nervous system and endocrine system have experienced trauma, it is similar to physical pain, it overtime can become a chronic issue, meaning that less stimulus is needed to trigger a response and the response effect will ring for a longer period of time. When we work with such individuals, it is about re-patterning the nervous system, letting them know that areas they deemed unsafe are now safe. This is done slowly over time by challenging their current pattern at their edge of comfort, never beyond it.
I would love to discuss this further with all of you. Have you had any experience in this area? Do you have any insights of your own?
Stefani Wilton and Contributors
Finding beauty in the midst of joyous imperfection