Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Weekend session # 1: Friday March 21, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:11 pm
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This weekend’s teacher training session was, first of all, pretty fantastic.  I drove home Friday night thinking, Wow, I think I’m really going to love this.  N & J are great and teach really well together.  There are 12 trainees in the program, and I really like all of them so far – and I’m not just saying that because we’re all friending each other on Facebook and they might read this, I genuinely do like them all.  Which isn’t all that big of a surprise when you think about it, because what kind of people are going to choose to drop $2K+ on a yoga teacher training course?  People like me, that’s who, people who like things I like and are passionate about things I’m passionate about.  We’re all different people, of course, at different points in our lives (some of the other students are younger than me, some older; some have little children or grown children or no children at all), but we have a common bond just by virtue of the fact that this was important enough to each of us that we plunked down our money and chose to be in that room.  So, yeah, I do like everybody, and everybody had something interesting to say at some point in the weekend.  N & J made the point that, at first, the two of them will be doing most of the talking as we cover the basics, but later on, the trainees will be doing most of the talking.  I’m happy to hear all of these people talk.

The class itself of course was really interesting.  We spent most of our time in lecture, which surprised me a little (although I’m not sure what I was expecting).  Friday night we did introductions (kind of awkward – I think everyone was about as nervous as I was – but by the end of class on Saturday we were all more comfortable and I think we all know one another’s names now).  Friday’s lecture covered, first and foremost, requirements for graduation, which are as follows:

  1. Attendance at the weekend seminars
  2. Attendance to hatha yoga class at least once per week
  3. Completion of writing assignments on time each month
  4. Ability to teach a yoga class by the end of the program.

Very reasonable, I think, but N wanted to emphasize that they’ve had a number of students in the past who might’ve made good yoga teachers but who didn’t complete their requirements and therefore didn’t graduate.  Point taken.  Friday’s lecture also covered the basics of our yoga tradition and lineage, and what it means to be a “householder” yogi (i.e., we’re not closeted up in an ashram, we live in the world with homes and families and responsibilities).  Much of this I had heard in some form before (probably in BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life, which I may have to reread after this program is over), but still, informative.  We finished class with a brief yoga practice together, which kicked my butt.  (This will be a common theme, at least for a while, because I’m used to vinyasa-style yoga, where you flow through the poses, and N & J are teaching us to teach classical hatha yoga, which emphasizes holding the poses for much longer, which I’m not at all used to and which results in the aforementioned butt-kicking.)  N asked us to pay attention to our practice and see where we were and what we learned about ourselves through the practice.  I learned that if I practice yoga after 9:00 at night, I fall asleep in sivasana.  Probably not quite what she was going for, but good to know nonetheless.


What does a yoga teacher training course entail, anyway? March 17, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:31 pm
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I thought it might be useful to go over what exactly is involved in a yoga teacher training program, for those you out there who might not know.  In the US, Yoga Alliance, a national yoga education and support organization, sets minimum standards for yoga teacher training, to ensure that yoga teachers understand and value yoga’s history and traditions.  Yoga Alliance advocates a 200-hour training program for new yoga teachers.  Yoga schools and studios can apply to have their 200-hour programs approved by Yoga Alliance.  If a student completes a Yoga Alliance-approved 200-hour training program, then she is eligible to register with Yoga Alliance as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and put fancy initials after her name.  Yoga Alliance keeps a searchable database of both registered yoga schools and registered yoga teachers.

Although it’s possible to teach yoga without being registered with Yoga Alliance, it seemed like a really good idea to go through the process.  First, if I choose a registered yoga school, then I know I’m getting a worthwhile education in yoga itself and in the teaching of yoga.  After completing the program, I’ll have a really strong foundation for my future practice and teaching.  Also, being able to register as a RYT means that I’ll have actual qualifications to show to prospective employers when I go looking for yoga teaching jobs.  And, theoretically, I may make good connections through the program and through Yoga Alliance that will help me to work as a yoga teacher down the line.

So what’s involved with the 200-hour training program?  Yoga Alliance standards including the following categories: 100 hours on yoga techniques/practice, 25 hours on teaching methodology, 20 hours on anatomy and physiology, 30 hours on yoga philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics.  The rest of the time is spent on practicum (hands-on practice in teaching) and electives at the school’s discretion.  East Eagle’s training program conforms to these standards.

So that’s what I’m in for!  It’ll be a huge challenge, but I can’t wait to get started.


Letter of Intent March 16, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:39 pm
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In order to sign up for the teacher training program, I had to send the instructors a letter of intent.  I thought it’d be nice to post it here, since it describes how I got into yoga in the first place and talks about why I want to teach.

Dear Nicole,

I would like to participate in East Eagle’s 2011 teacher training program.

I first started practicing yoga in the spring 2003 while in graduate school, and I loved it right away.  Shortly after that class ended, I moved to Boston, where I continued my practice, attending yoga classes twice a week from 2004 to 2006.  My teacher, Gene, taught Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, and was a stickler for keeping a straight back and doing poses accurately.  He  provided me with a great yoga foundation.  When I left Boston for Philadelphia in 2006, I knew I wanted to pursue a teacher training program.  Of course, life intervened: I moved to a new city, found a new job, and fell in love with a man who lived in California, so for a long time my weekends were devoted to traveling to maintain our relationship.  Eventually F moved to Philly and we were married last year.  Through all of this, yoga has been my lifeline.  When I didn’t have enough in my budget to attend yoga classes at a studio, I would practice at home, rolling out my mat in the tiny space between the back of the couch and the hall closet.  In my new home with my husband, I am fortunate enough to have a dedicated yoga space, and I wake up early several mornings a week to practice before heading to work.  On our recent honeymoon, one of the places we visited was a yoga retreat in Belize (and it was heavenly!).

During the past few years, I have been reading books on yoga, meditation, and Buddhism as a complement to my yoga practice.  To provide just a few examples, I recently read BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life, Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, and Nischala Joy Devi’s guide to the yoga sutras for women; I also spend some time every night reading authors like Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chödrön on meditation.  I subscribe to Yoga Journal and read it cover to cover every month.  The reading requirement for the teacher training is something I’m truly looking forward to!

Yoga is an important part of my daily life.  Over time, my practice has deepened, from simply accomplishing the physical poses, to relishing the emotional calm and spiritual growth that yoga makes possible.  Yoga is something I love and something I want to share with others.  I get excited about yoga the way a young child gets excited about a flower and wants to show it to everyone.  Yoga is so incredibly good for us, physically and emotionally and spiritually, and I want to help others  realize those benefits.

One of my long-term goals is to teach yoga for the elderly.  My former teacher Gene told us about the classes he taught at a retirement home, and how much yoga helped those older students stay strong and balanced and flexible. When I was a teenager I watched my grandma gradually decline and lose her sense of balance until she could barely walk. I don’t know how much of that was medical in nature and how much was a result of her sitting in a chair all day, but now I wonder if things could have been different for her. How many grandmothers could be helped by yoga, staying mobile and living longer on their own?  This is a subject really close to my heart, and it’s work I feel called to do in the world.  Completing my teacher training is the first step to eventually realizing this dream.

In short, I want to participate in East Eagle’s teacher training program in order to deepen my personal yoga practice and live a more yogic lifestyle, not just for myself but for the life that I share with my husband and the children we may have.  I want to learn how to teach this practice and share it with others.

I look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks very much,



Why I chose East Eagle’s program for my teacher training March 15, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 9:47 pm
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I’ve been wanting to enroll in a yoga teacher training program for a while now.  When I was laid off from my job and moved to the Philadelphia area in summer 2006, I deposited my severance check into a savings account and mentally reserved it to pay for my teacher training.  I hadn’t looked into programs yet, but I knew that I wanted to do it.  So… what took so long?

Life, mostly.  I moved to Philly; I found a job; I moved into a new apartment.  Then I fell in love with a guy who lived in California and spent the next two years traveling, planning trips, and recovering from jet lag.  At the end of 2008, we got engaged.  Then he moved cross-country; we got a bigger apartment, planned our wedding, then our honeymoon.  It’s amazing how much time all that stuff can take up. I was practicing yoga all along, at home, at the gym, and at studios in the area, but didn’t have the time to invest in another big project.

When my now-husband F started looking for jobs in Philly in fall 2008, I started researching teacher training programs and found some good options in our area, like Yoga on Main in Manayunk, where my friend Lucia did her training.  Then F got here, and having him actually around all the time was a big change, plus we had to find a larger apartment. I started researching again in summer 2009 after we moved to our current home.  That’s when I saw that Jennifer Schelter, a teacher I really admire, was going to be doing a teacher training… in the neighborhood I’d just moved away from.  We’d moved from one side of Philly to the suburbs on the other side, and from our new home, it would take me close to an hour to get to Jennifer’s studio.  I couldn’t commit to a commute like that, not while planning my wedding too.  I knew that when I did my training, I wanted to be truly able to devote my time and energy to it, not just to squeeze it in.  So the timing just wasn’t right.

F and I got married in June 2010 and had an amazing honeymoon in Belize in November.  We came home to all the usual holiday activity, but after Christmas, he encouraged me to start looking at teacher trainings again.  And, as my friend Kristina often accuses me, I don’t seem to be happy without a project.  So I started looking, and about an hour later I clicked on East Eagle’s website.  They were having their teacher training again this year, and in fact would be hosting an information session in one week!  Perfect timing.  I went to the session, practiced at the studio a few times, dragged F along for his expert opinion, and consulted with some other yogis I know in the area.  I heard, observed, and experienced nothing but good things, and East Eagle’s approach to teacher training really clicked with me.

They set up their program over a series of ten months so that students will have time to absorb what they’re learning – different from trainings that take a fast-paced approach, where you drop everything else for a month and just do yoga.  Those programs have many benefits, of course, but I imagine it’d be a challenge to really retain everything you learn.  I had considered finding an intensive program and taking a leave of absence from my job – part of me wanted to just get the teacher training over with!  But East Eagle’s approach really appeals to me, and they’ve structured their program so that it’s reasonable to accomplish it during your normal life. I’ll be there one weekend a month, Friday and Saturday, from March through December.  Once a month is do-able, and I’ll still have Sundays for, you know, life stuff like errands and laundry.  I’ll also have to attend yoga class at least once a week (complimentary yoga? I’m there) and read books (hang around this blog for a little while and you’ll see the great enthusiasm with which I’ll tackle that particular requirement).

I also like East Eagle’s approach to yoga itself. They don’t want to teach me just a series of poses – they’re most interested in where yoga leads us, the spiritual benefits of meditation. And that’s something I want to explore too.  So the timing is right and both the course schedule and content fits with my lifestyle.  This training really seems like the right fit for me. And it starts this weekend, so we’ll soon find out if all my hypotheses are on the mark!


Why I Love Yoga March 14, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:02 pm
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For my first real post here, I thought I’d write about the obvious: why do I love yoga?  What is it about yoga that makes me want to devote 200 hours of my not-so-copious free time over the next ten months to learning how to teach it?

I love yoga because it feels great.  Yoga stretches can be as simple or as challenging as you want them to be.  When I’m practicing at home, sometimes I want a fast-paced practice that will get me sweating, and other times I just want some gentle stretching.  When I’m sick or injured, I can scale back my yoga practice and still benefit from it.  No matter how old or young or fat or skinny or flexible or stiff you are, you can still enjoy yoga.  I love the feeling of stretching during a practice, and the slight soreness afterward reminding me that I still have more to do.  I love the feeling of working on a particular pose for a while (sometimes years!), and gradually being able to move farther and farther into the pose.  I love that moment when I’m suddenly able to do a pose I hadn’t been able to do before.

I love the physical benefits of yoga.  I’m much stronger and more flexible now than I was before I started doing yoga several years ago.  Then, a year and a half ago, I committed to practicing yoga in the mornings before work three days a week.  I have firm, shapely Michelle Obama arms now, and what 30-something woman doesn’t want those?  I’ve also lost weight and gained muscle just about everywhere. And after yoga practice, my body feels hungry for healthier food.  Dunkin Donuts?  No thanks, please pass the bananas.  I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since high school, I’m happy with how I look, I have plenty of energy, and I feel great.

I also love the emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga.  Yoga practice calms me and lifts my spirits – I almost always end with a smile and feel great for the rest of the day (or at least until I get to the office).  I’m a busy person with worries and fears like anyone else, but yoga helps to make it all feel manageable.  When I’m practicing yoga regularly, I feel like I can do anything.  As trite as it sounds, yoga really does help me to be my best self.  And bringing a calmer, happier me to my family and my friends and my job means that I have more to give to them.

I want to complete a yoga teacher training program partly for myself, to deepen my practice and continue to learn.  But more, I feel like yoga has done so much for me, and, like a little kid with a cool new toy, I want to show everyone just how awesome it is.  That’s why I want to be a yoga teacher.  I hope you’ll follow along with my journey.