Category Archives: Nandi Yoga Home

How much is enough?

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

There’s been a lot of debate lately about whether a 200 hour teacher training program is adequate to properly train new yoga teachers.  This comes in part from the proliferation of yoga centers offering basic trainings using standards set up by Yoga Alliance along with a dramatic increase in the number people becoming certified.  Are these basic trainings enough to prepare people to teach yoga?

In general, the answer is probably not: first, it’s much more common for students to take the training with a lot less yoga experience than in years past and second, learning and training to teach yoga well takes a lot of time (well beyond the minimum standards set by the industry).  Jason Crandell and I discussed this issue when he was addressing Nandi Yoga’s training program last summer and we both agreed – 200 hours is simply not enough.

Yoga teachers traditionally spent many years studying with a guru before being approved to teach.  But the market is vastly different now – potential teachers have many more choices on where to train and most programs do not require proficiency in the practice beforehand.  For those wanting to teach, it’s tempting to get started as soon as possible.  But take the time to do your homework and ask yourself two questions: first, am I really ready and prepared to do undertake a training successfully, and second, does this training give me what I need to become a successful teacher.

Your personal practice is the most important key to your ability to lead others in yoga as a new teacher.  For the most part, you will teach what you have learned on your mat.  You need to understand the effects the various aspects of yoga (including asana, pranayama, and meditation) on you personally before you can start to explore how they may affect and transform others.  Without this experience, the training is more theoretical and will give you limited insight.

It’s hard to measure what this means in terms of time – someone who has practiced once a week for 10 years may have a much more limited understanding than one who has practiced every day for a year.  In addition, one’s background can greatly impact how quickly one can pick up the material; those who have a background in dance or sports may already have developed a sense of proprioception and be keenly aware quickly of the physical aspects of the practice early on.

If you are taking a training to teach (versus deepening your practice), do your homework before committing to a program.  The standards set by Yoga Alliance are pretty broad and teaching centers have a lot of latitude in how they address core subjects and what they focus on.  If you find a training that appeals to you, talk to people who have graduated from the program to understand how advanced the trainees were with their personal practice at the start of training and how prepared they felt upon graduation to teach so you can get a better sense of whether you are ready to jump in.  I’ve loved and benefitted from the three big trainings I’ve completed but only one really focused on teaching skills; I don’t think the other two would have truly prepared me to teach well as a new teacher despite learning a lot of really interesting things about yoga.

The next step is to develop a plan for how you will continue to hone your skills upon completion.  Ideally your 200 hour training will support these longer term plans, whether it’s an internship, opportunities to sub classes or marketing on their website.  If you are planning on training out of town, talk to local studios or places you may want to teach when you return to understand what they are looking for in teachers and what experience they’ve had working with graduates of the training.

At Nandi Yoga, our graduates go straight into an internship right after graduation, assisting in regular classes each week, teaching community classes and attending sessions to learn hands on adjustments – this is where our graduates really hone their skills and get great experience teaching students (versus fellow trainees).

Learning how to teach well takes time and a lot of practice.  But you want to start your teaching career with the right foundation: a solid yoga practice at the start, a training that gives you the tools to lead students in sustainable, engaging and mindful class, and a game plan on how you can continue to develop your skills to become a truly great yoga teacher.

 

An ethical approach to yoga

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We all have choices to make in our lives about how we treat others as people but, if you follow the path of yoga as defined by Patajali in his Yoga Sutras, the first step is to cause no harm to others (in words, actions, speech, thought).  This comes before how you take care of yourself or practice poses, breathing and meditation.

These ethical rules are the yamas (right living) and include: ahimsa (अहिंसा) – nonviolence or non-harming; satya (सत्य) – truthfulness; asteya (अस्तेय) – non-stealing; bramacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य) – sexual restraint; and aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः) – non-avarice.  In every teacher training I’ve done, these ethical codes have been presented, dissected, and debated, particularly how it relates to teachers’ actions with their students.  In our teacher training program, I also discuss the role that any business which offers yoga and meditation has in maintaining a code of conduct, including a serious and thorough investigation of all issues raised by staff (including teachers and interns) or students about questionable conduct.

Further, we include in every manual the Ethical Guidelines for Yoga Teachers written by Georg Feuerstein (with permission from his widow).  Every trainee has to sign this, as does every one of our teachers.  I advise my trainees that even if they have the tiniest doubt about whether an action or statement feels inappropriate, they should bring it to the attention of those in charge and not let it rest.

This hasn’t always been the case – unfortunately there are numerous examples of yoga teachers and gurus behaving badly.  But I disagree with Sarah Herrington’s view in todays New York Times Op Ed piece that few yoga teachers know these ethical guidelines exist and only seek them out when there is trouble.  There are numerous teachers out there who see their teaching as service and seek to help and support each and every student in the spirit of “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” (may all beings everyone be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and freedom for all).

Wendy

Building Community and Reaping Its Rewards

IMG_2667.JPGAfter teaching a class at Lululemon yesterday, a student approached me to find out about our studio and, more importantly, our community.  She had recently moved from Northern Virginia and spoke in glowing terms about the wonderful people she met and practiced with at her old studio and was hoping replicate that experience again.  Knowledgable teachers leading well balanced and inspiring classes were important to her – but equally important was finding her yoga people and, in the process, making new connections and friends.  As the practice of yoga continues to grow exponentially and becomes more corporate, just how important is finding one’s community?

It’s a personal decision.  There are great options for those wishing to practice asana at home with the explosion of online classes.  So why come to a public class and get to know your fellow students?  Having a teacher see your pose and guide you towards greater stability, ease and depth is incredibly helpful. But I would argue the greatest benefit is the ability to practice with other people.  There’s a collective energy that builds in a public yoga class.  Plus, other students can help you see what to do, where you might be headed, and remind you of where you’ve been.  In turn, you can be there to help others as your practice progresses.

“Community is when people begin to care about one another, and when they begin to share things that are important to one another. Yoga is one of those things,” says Rama Berch, founder of the Master Yoga Foundation and the founding president of Yoga Alliance. “Your yoga community celebrates your breakthroughs and your growth, so ultimately the whole thing becomes based on a higher purpose, a deeper meaning, and a more profound goal in life—and that is consciousness.”¹

Sometimes our teachers will ask students before class begins to introduce themselves to the people around them (especially if it’s a large class).  This prompt is always greeted with enthusiasm and a lot of chatter.  Consider taking the initiative going forward especially if you arrive early to class.

I always thank my students at the end of every class with hands in prayer saying namaste.  One interpretation of this word  is “the light in me bows to the light in you.”  I try and remind my students that everyone else in the room is grateful for their presence as well because collectively we make our community just a little bit better every day we come together.

Wendy

 

¹https://www.yogajournal.com/teach/build-a-yoga-community

 

Mentee’s Inspiration: What Makes an Authentic Yoga Teacher at Nandi Intern Program

 

On my first day back at the studio after spending 3 weeks in beautiful Costa Rica, I had planned to simply observe my first class assisting as part of Nandi’s Intern Program (I had missed the most recent intern meeting and was not quite sure what to expect).  However, as soon as Deeb Qobti greeted me, he said, “ok you’re going to teach a 10 minute sequence today!” I remember gazing at him in shock and feeling the anxiety and fear creeping up my spine, as I clearly had not prepared for that.  A large part of me wanted to say no thanks, but the fact that he was confident in me and was offering me this incredible opportunity right off the bat convinced me otherwise.  Plus, I wanted to prove to him (and to myself) that I was up for the challenge!  So, I taught a sequence that we developed right before class, and even though I was nervous, I did pretty well, although I did forget a pose on one side. Being a self-critical perfectionist, I expressed to Deeb after class that I probably could have done better.  His response to me is something I will never forget, “it’s not about the poses; it’s about your energy and the smile on your face that makes you a great teacher.” Immediately, the self-deprecating voice in my head dissipated.  Those words were exactly what I needed to hear, and they epitomize why Deeb has been such a wonderful mentor to me. He constantly reminds me why I decided to become a yoga teacher in the first place.

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Deeb Qobti, Vinyasa Yoga Instructor hands-on assists in his Energetic Flow class at Nandi Yoga.

 

Nandi’s Intern Program has taught me the importance of being a nurturing, attentive, and supportive yoga teacher through hands-on assists.  Deeb’s approach, in particular, is about breathing and flowing in unison with the students.  It is about sharing the energy between teacher and student, using our touch to guide our connective energy through the fascia and the body’s energy channels. And of course, it is also about making the student feel good.  When Deeb adjusts a student, he instructs me to observe and then mimic his movements on another student nearby.  While I still don’t feel 100% confident giving students deep adjustments, I have definitely become more comfortable in my abilities because of Deeb’s style and encouragement.

Since my first class, Deeb has given me numerous opportunities to co-teach his sequences as well as teach some of my own.  Not only has this made me more confident in my own voice, it has also enhanced my skills (particularly in sequencing) as a yoga teacher.  My knowledge about the body’s anatomy and how to properly adjust students has also expanded, particularly because Deeb incorporates a lot of unique, fluid, and energizing poses and movements, not just your run of the mill asanas.  

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Energetic Flow students learn how to incorporate their breath throughout their poses and movements.

 

Every week I look forward to learning something new from Deeb.  Whether it’s a new pose or a new adjustment, I always leave class feeling inspired and more confident in my teaching capabilities.  This mentorship experience has already taught me so much about what it means to be an effective and authentic yoga teacher, and I am truly grateful to have such a supportive and inspiring teacher like Deeb as my mentor.

 

About Deeb Qobti

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Deeb began his yoga journey in 2008 after working as a contractor for over 20 years and hurting his back. He completed his Sri Yoga teacher training under the tutelage of Jean Mazzei and Brenna Geehan in 2011 and a six month internship at Nandi Yoga in 2012 which helped him further refine his teaching. Deeb has studied Tantra with Rajmani Tigunait and other styles at Nandi Yoga including Jivamukti and Ashtanga Vinyasa. Deeb believes if you change the mind, the body follows and if you change the body, the mind follows and integrates this approach of Krama Yoga (Yoga of Action) in every one of his classes.

Check-out Deeb’s full class schedule, and click here to sign-up!

– Celeste Wong, Mentee at Nandi Yoga’s Intern Program

Up Close with Tiffany Belzer from being a Mom, School Teacher, to Kids Yoga Instructor

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Just in time for National Children’s Day, we catch-up with Tiffany Belzer on her personal journey from being a mom, school teacher, to Kids Yoga instructor at Nandi. Her dedication inspires us in so many ways!

Nandi Staff: What are the three words would you use to describe your Kids Yoga journey/practice, and why?   

Tiffany Belzer: It’s more than three words but I go back to Pattabhi Jois and his quote which really sums it up for me, “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”  Everyday I teach, every class I teach, and I learn.  It’s the practice of teaching that continues to fuel my growth as teacher and as a person.  In Kids Yoga there is this ongoing dynamic interaction between the teacher and the students and the group as a whole.  No two classes are the same.  

NS: What do you want everyone to know about Kids Yoga, and any benefits it provide for children today?  

TB: I believe yoga is for all.  The benefits adults enjoy from yoga are there for younger students as well.  What is really powerful for children doing yoga is that they are learning to breathe with awareness and move their bodies building flexibility, strength and balance as their brains and bodies are still developing.  Kids in my classes learn that by stopping and focusing on their breath they calm down their minds and make better decisions.  I wish I’d learned that as a child, don’t you?

NS: Who was your inspiration in starting your Kids yoga journey? Please explain and share any previous stories from your personal experiences.

TB: Prior to being a yoga instructor I was an elementary school teacher.  I left teaching when I became a mom in 2000 and it was in those years at home raising my children that I discovered yoga. For me the benefits of yoga were life changing. Being a stay at home mom with two young children is challenging.  The days I practiced yoga I noticed that I was more patient, calm and had more energy.  I credit my children with bringing yoga into my life.   I completed my Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training in 2006 and signed up shortly after for a kids training.  I had spent most of my adult life working with children so it was a natural next step.  

NS: What kept you to continue in teaching Kids Yoga, and building a community at Nandi?

TB: From the beginning Wendy (Nandi’s Owner) wanted the studio to be a place that would welcome kids and families.  In addition to the several options of yoga for adults she envisioned multiple classes for kids from toddlers to teens, including family yoga, prenatal and mom & baby classes.  Being an experienced Kids Yoga teacher I was thrilled to have the opportunity to build the program in this supportive environment.  Most yoga studios don’t have options for kids and if they do there might be one or two classes but they aren’t the heart of the studio.  

NS: What’s next on your horizon that we should know about?

TB: I’ll be leading a Yoga for Kids Teacher Training at Nandi this August 6-7, 2016. More details to follow on the website as the date gets near. This training is designed for yoga teachers and classroom teachers who want to teach yoga to kids. The world needs more Kids Yoga teachers!  I currently work as a Health and Wellness Instructor in a public elementary school in East Palo Alto, California.  What’s exciting is that we’re bringing yoga practices in to the schools and teaching students who otherwise might not have the opportunity.

 

About Tiffany Belzer

Prior to Tiffany’s yoga journey, she spent over 10 years teaching in preschools and as an elementary school teacher.  After becoming a mom in 2000, she left the classroom to be with her children. During this time, she discovered yoga. 

She was Yoga Alliance certified in E-RYT 200 and RCYT. She had received her teacher training at Its Yoga, San Francisco in Ashtanga Vinyasa with Larry Schultz in 2006.  In order to expand her skills to teach yoga to children, she went on to be trained at Its Yoga, Kids. In the past 8+ years, she has taught yoga to children, adults and families throughout the San Francisco Bay area.

In addition, Tiffany’s yoga philosophy directly transcends into her teaching style: live, love, and shine your light. Her own experiences as a mother led to yoga for the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of the practice.  She believes it is through the familial relationships that we receive continual opportunities for growth.   She strives to provide a space where children and families are able to playfully connect in a stress-free environment, and enjoying the beautiful practice of yoga.

Contact Tiffany: itsyogatiffany@comcast.net

Follow on Facebook: www.facebook.com/YogaTiffany

Asana of the Week: Restorative

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As our body and mind relax, literally becoming softer, we create space to get in touch again with our natural qualities of compassion and understanding of others and self.

Benefits of Restorative Yoga: 

  • Deeply relaxes the body
  • Enhances flexibility
  • Enhances tranquil mood
  • Improves capacity for healing and balancing
  • Balances the nervous system
  • Boosts the immune system

Looking into the Lens of Restorative Yoga: Peace of Mind, Body and Spirit

 

I had been teaching Yin and Hatha yoga for some time before I decided to study under Judith H. Lasater, considered by many to be one of the masters of this style.  Her words and books really resonated with me but when I sought her out, her tranquil zen space really got me hooked.   It’s like floating on clouds while still connecting with everyone in the class.

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Judith is masterful in holding the space for her students and her dialogue, well rooted in yoga philosophy and human anatomy, is accessible to all.  I find her Sangha intellectually stimulating while very peaceful and joyful and I hope to spread that peace of mind, body and spirit with humble sense of service. From the very first class I attended as a very Stressed out Cal student years ago, I am drawn to therapeutic aspect of yoga and for that reason I have returned to school for advanced certification in yoga therapy. It’s exciting to engage in deeper learning so that I may be of better service.  

 

– Kay Tsuyama, Restortive Yoga Instructor