Yoga Teacher Training Course (17)
No. it will be too demanding if the background in yoga is meagre. One needs to have a solid personal practice in asana-practice and yogic breathing.
Is it possible to participate just for deepening one’s personal practice, and not necessarily for becoming a teacher?
Yes. TT is ideal for learning effective, safe and advanced technical skills for one’s personal practice. Whether one wants to share it later on with others or not is another matter. There is some training in teaching skills, which is not obligatory if one does not want to become a certified teacher.
The college facilitating the course, Bhaktivedanta College, is run by devotees of Krishna. Is it possible to participate even if one does not share this worldview?
Yes. Having a particular faith is not a requirement. Indeed, yoga is fairly open in matters related to faith. That said, we will learn some basics of bhakti yoga, such as mantra meditation and the introduction to the central ideas of Bhagavad-gita. However, a major focus in the training is to develop professional competence in practical yoga. Such competence can be combined with any worldview that is in line with yoga’s central ideals, such as non-violence and respect for each individual.
Altogether, the teachers of this course have been practicing for more than sixty years. Gokulacandra is amongst the world’s most skilled asana practitioners. Moreover, he educates yoga teachers on five continents. Janne Kontala is particularly known for his work in Slow Yoga and conveying classic yoga philosophy with contemporary language. Emma Silventoinen is a specialist in prenatal yoga and physiotherapeutic application. The combined competence of the teachers covers all the main bases. That said, the teachers are very progressive while doing more of what they love most.
Yes, but it is low compared to others. Considering the comprehensive online module on philosophy aligned with the availability of personal interaction with three competent teachers, we are confident that the program offers essential skills for moving forward on the path of life-long learning.
I have already completed a course in teacher training. Is there any point of doing this one as well?
It depends on what you have done before. All trainers have the experience that some of their best students have been persons who are already active in the profession. A teacher is always a student as well, and learning never stops. You can consult the teachers personally if you are unsure as to whether what you have studied before overlaps with the program, or whether you can upgrade and learn new skills.
It depends on the issue. Most practitioners have challenges of some kind, and that is not an impediment to practicing yoga. That said, we do not advocate yoga as a cure for all problems. One needs to consult competent medical practitioners, and their advice should take precedence.
What if the participant is only interested in practical yoga, not in the philosophy? Can one still participate?
Yes. However, to become certified, it is necessary to receive approval for yoga philosophy as well. Without a solid understanding of what one is doing, practicing yoga is like driving a good car with neither map nor destination. The same goes for teaching it to others. There is a real need in the contemporary yoga world for a clear understanding of the central ideas behind yoga, and our TT has a special focus on learning these basics.
No, but it gets you started. However, many students of our previous courses have reported that after the initial training, they suddenly were able to teach students who had been practicing longer than them. Still, after the course, you should continue studying and learning, both for developing your competence as a teacher and in your personal practice.
When one does the physical practices with correct technique and slow breathing, the change that takes place in one’s state of mind is conducive for meditation. Although the physical aspects of yoga are not in themselves enough to achieve the non-material goal of self or God-realization, yoga asanas and pranayama are supportive to spiritual practice. Recognizing the good health and peace of mind that an appropriate practice of yoga provides, we also acquaint the course participants with directly spiritual practices, particularly mantra meditation.
They will have the opportunity to develop solid skills to help their students practice safely. They will also receive an understanding of yoga as a potentially spiritual practice; the basic principles of two major books on yoga: Bhagavad-gita and Yoga-sutra; and an introduction to mantra meditation.
I have seen the bullet-point list of topics you will be teaching. Can you tell me anything about your teaching style? What you will use, will it be interactive, etc.?
Yes, it is interactive. We have three teachers, not one. I will conduct a section that is characterized by a slow approach. We will learn the correct techniques safely, at a slow pace, and in great detail. In other words, we won’t just go through a number of exercises, but we will also examine the exercises from various vantage points. This is a pedagogically demanding and rewarding approach, and suitable for those who want to go beyond surface-learning. We will also learn to use props where appropriate. Just as on any other path involving physical exercise, yoga is not risk-free. Competence in using correct techniques and methods of protection is essential for one’s own practice, and even more so in your role as a teacher. This is also in pursuance of the ideal of ahimsa, non-violence, which is amongst the most important rules of yoga, unfortunately somewhat overlooked nowadays.
The focus on safety and anatomy heightens mid-program, when our specialist in prenatal and therapeutic yoga, Emma Silventoinen, takes over. She is unable to stay for very long, but her competence in these fields is a great asset. Teachers need to have a realistic understanding of both the benefits and risks of intense yoga practice.
Otherwise, one may unwittingly end up causing harm to oneself or to one’s students.
The latter half of the program will introduce a more dynamic and flowing way of approaching the exercises. That is the specialty of Gokulacandra, who is a master in this field. Such an approach will involve its own set of challenges, which is why the basic techniques have been introduced first. The idea is that the participants will get acquainted with both styles, partly in order to help them find a way of practice according to personal preferences and need, and partly in order to have a broader understanding of how modern yoga is practiced and taught.
One of the central features in asana practice will be the use of the wall. This is less prominent but really valuable. It initially aids practitioners in the experience of prolonged inversions, which in turn are directly conducive for meditation. The central point is that all the physical tools and practices are only meant to aid mental focus, and ultimately, self and God-realization.
The place is special. The combination of teachers that constitute the team is exceptional. We have an expert in slow yoga, in therapeutic yoga, and in challenging and dynamic yoga. Anyone of the three would make the program valuable, but now the participants can learn from a team of experts. Also, even though kirtan and chanting is quickly becoming popular in the yoga world, we are introducing that following an authorized succession of teachers, which if not totally unique, is at least extremely rare. As far as I know, only a handful of yoga teacher training courses have this approach. This means the students will get in a direct contact with a genuine chain of spiritual transmission.
We will introduce the basic techniques of mantra meditation. That will involve both personal practice, japa, and chanting in a group, kirtan. As I said earlier, despite kirtan’s popularity, it is rare that the practice is directly connected to a parampara, although some branches of modern yoga do have strong Vaishnava influences. Krishnamacarya and Iyengar are followers of Ramanuja, whereas Swami Kuvalyananda’s guru was a follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore, it would not be correct to say that this would be the first program ever to find its inspiration from Mahaprabhu, but it is certainly exceptional.
Our online philosophy module will be quite distinctive. One can study the basic ideas of yoga philosophy as in a classroom, yet through an online environment. This enables the students to get the best of both worlds. Since philosophy is mostly studied online, that will give more time for giving a maximum amount of practical guidance onsite. The philosophy module is also unique, as it presents a unified understanding of the central ideas of Yoga-sutra and Bhagavad-gita, which despite their different emphases, share much common ground. Much of the philosophical ethos in modern yoga is influenced by the neo-Advaita-Vedanta of Vivekananda, as well as by Buddhism. There are historical reasons for this, but these lines of thought work better on their own and are not quite suited for understanding the Yoga-sutra and Bhagavad-gita. To understand the central ideas of these texts, we need to approach the traditional commentaries and see what kinds of possibilities open up. The insights of the commentarial traditions are quite remarkable. In living traditions, theory is always connected to practice. The online module will have the two-fold focus of introducing both important philosophical ideas, as well as ideas about how they can be practically implemented. Hence, we try to avoid armchair philosophy, which is not suitable to yoga’s practical approach. One could, of course, study the module out of plain academic curiosity.
What will the Yoga Alliance registration participants receive at the end of the course allow them to do?
Yoga Alliance does not formally certify students. It keeps a register for anyone who is interested in finding a certified teacher. I would focus more on the content of the teaching. It is our experience that sometimes practitioners who have been teaching for more than a decade still find what we have to offer valuable. That said, there are situations in which certificates are needed. One may need a certificate when marketing, or when applying for a job as a yoga teacher. Certification is also necessary for those who want to pursue further education and accreditation, and register that in Yoga Alliance. Quite simply, Yoga Alliance is currently widely recognized nowadays, and it has to some extent managed to overcome sectarian disputes in which a particular lineage claims a monopoly on genuine yoga.
Apart from the Certification, what will people get from the course? What will they bring into their own teaching when they become yoga teachers?
Some of them will become dedicated teachers and continue on the path of life-long study. By working in the field, they will be able to help people to improve the quality of their lives, disseminate a sattvic influence that is sorely needed nowadays, and be inspired and inspire others to take yoga seriously as a spiritual path. We hope that the participants will respect their own integrity, since personally-felt inspiration lies at the root of all yoga. In this spirit, we would hope that those who feel drawn to explore the path of bhakti would do so in their personal practice.