“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” This is what Yoga Teacher Training was for me: coming home. To myself. It wasn’t easy, I called my husband angry and frustrated several times during the intense, immersion course I had signed up for just after my 40th birthday with innocent, blissed-out on vinyasa yoga eyes. I was imagining hot yoga flow classes twice a day whilst gazing at the ocean and checking out of life. At the time I was consumed by my four (lovely) children and the emotional stress I was carrying from a few separate stressful breath-robbing events that had hit me broadside in the previous couple of years. This was my time to shine: after the training I would return to my mat stronger, smarter and finally able to touch my toes to the back of my head. However, as yoga often does, he/she/it had other plans. The self-exploration, “find your authentic voice” portion of the training royally pissed me off. I think I screeched “They didn’t even mention this shit on the website” into a Costa Rican land line that Mike was probably holding away from his ear as he tried to juggle four kids between 2 and 7 years old because I “just need(ed) to do this”. I wanted to teach and I was ready to learn alignment and sequencing and anatomy and a touch of yoga philosophy. I had been leading classes before the training (don’t cringe, I wasn’t thaaat bad), and wanted my RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certificate to seal the deal and make myself official. I did seal the deal, and I did make things official. I also learned a lot about who I was and what was holding me back. It was more than I had bargained for. It needed to happen. I needed to strip away the insecurities I was carrying around like a million layers of armadillo skin in order to share and teach yoga from an honest and authentic place. Shockingly (at least I thought it was shocking, many others probably do not agree) I also had a LOT to learn about empathy. Learning that news about yourself kinda sucks. Basically I felt like I had just learned I was a certified selfish asshole and I had better change some things if I wanted to leave that bag of bad news by the side of the road. But. You know what? I did. I was pushed, and it hurt, and I did. And then, I felt miraculously better. I drank the kool-aid and it filled me up. I stopped holding on to stories I told myself to protect myself from the damage I thought had been done “to” me and starting re-writing and re-learning those stories from a new place. A stronger place grounded in truth; Grounded in empathy for those around me. I decided to live my last day under an umbrella of darkness that I kept open to hide the ugly stories that I was paranoid someone would discover about me. I truly learned that my story was mine alone and that others reaction to it had absolutely nothing to do with me (which by the way feels way better than touching your toes to the back of your head). Now… There were those who thought the yoga teacher training kool-aid was too sweet or too sour, and a few who found it downright rancid. I was ready though. My training happened at the perfect time and the perfect place. Santa could have been one of the lead instructors and it still may have worked out fine, that’s how much I needed to be there. This all leads me here: yesterday my studio manager, the tireless Annie Yoder, helped me load Flex Yoga’s very first RYT-200 onto our website and she clicked the button to go live. It’s up there. To say that this training is a year in the making is probably technically accurate, although I think it has been brewing for much longer than that. You see, when I found my voice, when I came home to who I am, I wanted to help others do the same. I am enough of a yoga geek to know that learning the philosophy and anatomy, alignment, modifications, specific verbal cues and physical assists, pranayama, mantra and meditation… is the majority of what Teacher Training is all about. You simply must prepare students to stand in front of a room full of yogis with the intellectual information they need to teach a safe yoga class. That needs to happen first, and a large amount of time and energy needs to go into that. I have read my way through 12 years of yoga books and I am well aware that there is no way to even touch the tip of the iceberg in terms of what one could learn if they truly wanted to dig deep. I have thrown a few “out of reach” books across the room in total frustration, and I have ignored my basic maternal instincts to finish chapters of others (they didn’t go hungry for long, I promise). I have taken workshops and trainings all over the US and abroad from some amazing instructors and yogis and I still worry that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. There are basics, things that must be taught and must be learned. Yoga Alliance requires a syllabus, and they offer basic guidelines to ensure you are covering the requirements as they see them. They won’t approve the syllabus if you are a total quack, and becoming a RYS (Registered Yoga School) surely means you are at least living in the same house as the higher ups there, or maybe on the same street, even if your house is a different color? I’m not sure where our syllabus landed on their “cool neighborhood” radar, but it was immediately approved. I’ll take that as a good sign. There is more to it though, learning who you are and finding your voice, understanding exactly what kind of class you need to teach, learning empathy, learning how to leave your shit outside the door of the yoga room so you can help others also requires work. It can be done. With support and an understanding of what it takes, it can be done. Some people are already or almost there, some are partway there and some have a long way to go. It doesn’t matter. We all have more to learn about ourselves. That’s what makes being human, and doing yoga, so much fun. There is always more! Now, it’s true that there are literally thousands of Registered Yoga Schools out there that offer Teacher Training Programs, but I choose not to think about that. I created this Teacher Training because I know exactly how I want it to go (in terms of material, I’m not that naive…). I know what I want each trainee to have in their briefcase as they take their last walk down the stairs of our studio with their 200 hour RYT certificate in hand. I know that an immersion course worked perfectly for me and so I created a version of that; coming and going from real life can make it difficult to dig deep into the uncomfortable places that lurk in the backs of our minds. It can be difficult to spend an afternoon asking yourself tough questions and then go home to a fourth grader who brought home an F in science class because you neglected to help them cut out and color the life cycle of a sea turtle. A consistent twice-daily asana, meditation and mantra practice can feel selfish when you have a family and a job or school or any other real-life scenario, but feels perfect when you have committed yourself to a training. You’ll be surprised how inclined you are to keep it going after you’ve done it for a good while. Also, one of the most valuable things I had held onto from my immersion training is the solid and honest friendships I built with my fellow trainees. Most of them teach or own studios all over the US. They are a valuable source of information and inspiration. We keep in touch and we ask each other questions all the frickin’ time. We share ideas and we want to see each other succeed. A few of us have found ways to work together to strengthen our own teaching and our yoga communities. In another way, it’s pretty darn practical. A ten day immersion followed by two additional big-time weekends (with a good bit of work in-between) means you can complete the course in just over a month. You’ll be fully engaged and focused just by the nature of the schedule!
In short, I have devoted much time and energy creating the Teacher Training program for Flex Yoga. Additionally, I have learned to accept that I don’t know it all and I can’t do it all. I finally asked (okay, begged) two of my favorite yogis: Andy VanDeusen and Alaina Sadick Goss to be a large part of this training. Andy was an integral part of the creation of Flex Yoga in the very beginning and taught with us until he left for Mysore, India last December. He is still there as I write this, kicking ass in his usual way (@fullybakedyoga on instagram) and living life well. Andy is an anatomy geek and his inversion and hand-balancing practice are awe-inspiring. He is also a traditionalist in many ways, and his devotion to his Ashtanga practice reflects that.
Alaina lives and teaches in Washington DC. She has an incredible story of her own, and is an E-RYT 200 hour and a RYT-500 hour. She has completed training in many styles of yoga and has done an immense amount of work learning about the therapeutic applications of yoga with a particular focus on mental and emotional wellness and healing for those living with cancer and other illnesses. She has also conducted teacher trainings abroad through Anahata International, an organization committed to bringing yoga and other wellness practices to communities affected by conflict around the world. When you hear her speak and see her smile you won’t see it, but she’s badass.
We are a fantastic team, if I do say so myself. I am immensely proud of this program and of the entire Flex Yoga staff and community. Every now and then we sit down as a team and talk about where we have been and where we are going. “Yoga for Everyone” remains our mission statement and our main goal. Being a Registered Yoga School with a RYT-200 hour program we are proud of is just another step on our journey. We are open for registration (http://flexyogawooster.com/teacher-training/) and I can’t wait for opening day. If you are interested in deepening your own personal practice, in learning more about yourself, in moving from your mat to the front of a class, in meeting other yogis who want more from their life and from their practice, this training just might be for you! Please reach out if you have any questions, thoughts, concerns… this is what we do and what we think and talk about.
Emily Moorefield Mariola