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Back to flying school: 100-hour teacher training

Over the last month and a half, I have spent every weekend afternoon and early evening at a yoga studio to complete a 100-hour yoga teacher training. It was quite a journey – a pleasantly unexpected yet rewarding journey.

It was unexpected because the course is drastically different from my expectation. The course took place at a studio that is quite well known for grooming practitioner to do hand balance and handstand; hence, I was expecting a lot of actual handstand practices, drills, and many coaching on different “flying” poses. I think it was also part of my own stupidity for expecting so much of actual practice knowing that the course is a teaching training at the core of it, and my past experience with a structured teacher training is actually full of “yoga teacher stuff”, such as adjustments, philosophy, pranayama, and anatomy.

Having said that, it was not there is no practice at all. The course came with credits for Mysore classes, and we have group practice at the beginning of the class nearly every day. There were also some drill sessions for “handstand essentials” such as L-sit, handstand with walls, and toe taps. However, I was expecting more.

It was “pleasantly” unexpected because despite the mismatch between expectation and reality, I am still quite happy with the outcome. I got to push my limits, step out of my comfort zone, and even be proud of some accomplishments from the course.

Teaching, teaching, and nerve-wrecking

“We really want you to be able to teach as this is a teacher training” said the lead teacher, and, indeed, teaching is the main emphasis throughout the entire training.

The first teaching practice came as a surprise on the second day of the program – the first week of the 6-week journey itself! We were asked to teach parts of the modified primary series. I was lucky enough to be offered to teach just the first 5 sun salutation A. However, it was still nerve wrecking because I have not taught any class for over a year already. It went okay though.

Now that the first surprise has passed, the rest of the teaching practice was not as surprising any longer – though still nerve-wrecking just the same. Each week came with a new challenge, longer teaching, and harder assists / adjustment. The most challenging one for me was the last one, where we were asked to teach a Vinyasa-style sequence which I have just tried for the first time on that day. Plus, we were also taught the last bit of assist / adjustment on that day as well. I survived just fine, though barely made it.

Assist in Mysore – tougher than you think

Throughout the program, we were offered to be allowed to assist 3 Mysore classes at the studio. While I think I did well in the class given my past study in a 200-hr YTT, I didn’t expect the real experience to be this… tiring. It was not hard, but exhausting… very exhausting.

On the first class of assisting, I was first asked to just observe the body type of each student in the class – longer limbs, rounded back, naturally flexible, etc. However, the challenge escalated quite quickly for me. Within the course of 3 hours, I was asked to assist Maricasana D for a few people. I was also asked to help with some back bends, handstands, and some strength-building drills. By the end of the class, I was out of gas, but still had to continue on with the teacher training in the afternoon.

The second class was even more draining. I was asked to teach more and assist more poses. I was more familiar with the student body and gain more trust. However, that also came with more request and expectation. Hence, more energy being drained from more assist. The same was my third class – though with a relief that this was the last!

Despite the drain, it was quite a rewarding experience. To be able to gain trust from students in the class within a few attempts and to see some even progress with my support was something that I really feel rewarded. One student in particular that got me quite scared initially since she was quite reserved turned out to be very appreciative of me to the point that she posted on IG how I helped her get deeper in her pose.

At this point, now I understand the words of my teach: The spirit of Mysore teacher is to help students progress in their practice.

The Video – my personal challenge

The final project came in a form of a video class. We were asked to prepare to film a video to teach anything we want in a short 30-minute video format. The studio will prepare a set and crew, we just need to get a sequence approved.

Some of my classmates chose to do a how-to video. A few of my other classmates and I chose to do a yoga class. For me in particular, I am a Vinyasa practitioner at heart, and I chose to do a Power Vinyasa class because it best represents my favorite style to practice.

The best way to describe this project for me is: “I create a problem for myself”. First, I chose to teach a Ladder Flow sequence that includes handstand, and it is very tiring and tricky to teach and demonstrate at the same time. Second, I have a high expectation that I really want to do this well, because I want to have a solid internet footprint as a yoga teacher. Lastly, I really hate my own voice, and I can’t really bare speaking and listening to my own voice multiple times.

Adding on to my own personal pressure, the teachers also said that the real set is not very forgiving and that we need to be extra well prepared. There were also a mini-sales pitch script that we need to add to our opening to make the class more professional and show that we are part of the school. To be honest, while I do presentation for a living, doing it in front of a camera for recording is an entirely different world.

My coping mechanism for this is to put in more practice and preparation. I prepared my sequence 2 weeks in advance in order to have more time to memorize (though I didn’t actually memorize until the very last week). I also wrote down a full script in a way that I would eventually say it. Though I did not follow it to the T, but it helped because I learn better through writing. I also practiced my sequence while speaking every day the week prior to the actual filming. The last part helped a lot to build my stamina and actual speaking part.

The reactions of my fellow students were not the same as mine. Many were very stressed quietly. Some voiced out their opinion in the chat group, and one even almost dropped off from the actual shooting just a day prior to the filming itself due to stress and general unease. In the end, everyone finished the video filming session though.

The actual shooting was easier than our expectation overall. It took me only two takes for the introduction video. The first one was better in my opinion, but the teacher liked the second one better for the more upbeat energy. The short clips of the key transitions were cleared within 1 or 2 shots. There was even a surprise request for press up to handstand, which I managed to do in one attempt to my own surprise.

The actual teaching part did not go as planned in many aspects. I ended up with only two pauses because I was so in the flow during teaching that I did not make conscious pauses during each ladder of the sequence. I also did not manage to do a long 5-count handstand hold, but I think I brushed it of just fine. Whatever will be will be… right?

The final version of the video came out on the last day of the TT, before our graduation. My blunders were actually well covered! Patting myself on the back here – good job Sea! And many of my classmates had made a good output as well.

If you are interested, see below my video. The teaching is in Thai though…

My main takeaways from this experience are:

1. At times, pushing the boundaries and stepping outside of comfort zone may not be too bad after all. And you may be damn proud of it in the end!

2. Presenting your actual self and “true you” is always easier than pretending to be someone else you are not. I was more at peace teaching my own sequence than any other practice teaching

3. Practice makes perfect, but when shit hits the fan, few deep breaths can help!

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