Teaching a group of students spaced out in my backyard doing the pose, Warrior 2.

Yoga Teacher Training

August 15, 2020

I think it’s safe to say that this year has not gone as any of us had planned.

COVID-19 has completely changed our way of life. There have been some pros amidst the cons, but we have definitely gone through various stages of grieving for what could have been and the way of life that we previously lived. I don’t want to dwell on the negative. I’m sad about the cancelled trips, races, and of course most importantly the separation from family and friends. There are points throughout each day that are constant reminders of what has changed, but with that we have had to change our day-to-day lives dramatically.

I am so grateful that my husband and I can work from home, and were already doing so. Throwing the kids into the mix was a challenge, and I can’t say I don’t have concerns over school ‘starting’ next week. I don’t know how we will do it all. I do know that we’re not alone in this and that everyone is dealing with their own challenges with many people not having that same ability to have work-location flexibility. The lack of having a daily place to go (and therefore, no commute) has meant more time together at home. While I think we all get a little tired of each other’s company, it has led to more quality time together and creative ways to hang out. Together, we take walks, have gotten in a ton of swimming since the weather warmed up, and I’m around for more of the day to day things that I often missed when I was heading out for runs or off to teach a class.

Teaching my virtual PiYo class via Zoom

In North Carolina, gyms have been closed since around March. I’ve been teaching virtually since sometime in April, after a few students had reached out to see if I would offer online classes while we were all stuck at home. While I was hesitant in the beginning (the whole world of virtual classes was so foreign to me), I wanted to be of service to them and my local independent gym where I taught PiYo once a week. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I had been so anxious about teaching virtually as it has become a comfortable routine. I teach 3-5 times a week, just to a private Facebook group that I created for my students, a closed gym group for one of the main facilities where I teach, and a couple of 1:1 sessions with friends where we can catch up on life while doing strength training. It has been wonderful to see so many familiar as well as new faces, and has helped keep me accountable with all of the cancelled races and plans.

If you’ve been following along for a while, you have probably seen that I am very focused on an ‘end goal.’ When I have a race looming, I’m invested in my training and planning out my race day targets. As races and vacations were cancelled one-by-one, and then more importantly nearby state parks were closed and trails were overcrowded, I saw my running circle grow smaller and smaller. Soon I was exploring different streets around my neighborhood. While exciting at first, running the same routes gets old, and it’s hard to muster the motivation without any clear goals in sight. I miss the escape that running used to give me as it’s currently tied in with a lot of anxiety and frustration. But I’m slowly working to build back up and set a virtual ‘race’ for the horizon to keep me moving.

Practicing yoga with a friend outside on my deck.
Taking a virtual CPY C2 class with a friend outside on my deck.

In the meantime, I did find another way to occupy my time. For the past couple of years, I have been trying to find the time to focus on 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. Due to my crazy race schedule, oftentimes taking us out of town for races, I couldn’t ever commit to a solid 3-6 month program (three months usually meant every weekend and the six month programs always seemed to fall on the one weekend a month when I was racing). Between those dates and the regular weeknights that would conflict with my teaching schedule and commute times, it just wasn’t ever the right fit. Enter coronavirus.

I had been talking to CorePower Yoga trying to see if the dates would work for either their Fall or Spring sessions and once again, no luck. At the end of May, they announced that they would offer the program virtually, and if everything opened back up or even to a smaller scale where we could go in the studio for classes, we could transition to that option. The classes would be taught live virtually while still requiring the same number of lectures, taking classes, and teaching as a regular program. The catch being that we would now be conducting our training via Zoom. Having experienced a mad-rush to online teaching with my 1st grader’s school, I was hesitant to think that this would work. I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of ‘hands on’ experience that we actually get.

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t actually put our hands ‘on’ people through the computer. But that leads to the latest discussion about what the future of yoga (and fitness interactions in general) will look like going forward. Conversations are taking place around how hands-on assists will take place in the future, especially given some of the controversy around them in the yoga world today. I love hands on assists and am fortunate that I have never had any that have left me wondering if they were helpful or appropriate, but this was also an area that I was worried about going into teacher training. I wanted to make sure I know what I’m doing if/when the time comes that we are allowed to do them. The thought of how intimate the assists can sometimes be (guiding hips in the right directions, touching limbs to aid in positioning, etc) is intimidating. But we have been given guidance around practicing them on people we know as well as spending even more time on verbal cueing and direction to guide students into their asanas.

Students in child's pose outside in my backyard during one of my practice teaching classes.
Students in my backyard during one of my practice teaching classes.

The interaction in the classes has been great, and I love when we’re broken into our small groups where our instructors are able to pop in to listen, guide, or instruct us on specifics of our lessons. We do virtual classes regularly where we can view poses and positioning through our webcams, and we still take the same number of required classes through various outlets. I’ve been taking classes through live Zoom classes, approved YouTube programs, CorePower OnDemand programs, and classes through other yoga studios to compare and understand the different teaching styles and techniques.  

Going into my YTT, I also had a very loose understanding of the history of yoga and a lot of the fundamental beliefs around it. The class has been incredibly eye-opening and I’ve loved learning about the implementation of yoga into every day life or ‘off the mat.’ The foundational wellness and spiritual intentions surrounding the basis of yoga, from the chakras to yoga sutras, to the yamas and niyamas. Some of our recent lessons have been around the sequencing of the classes and how they can build to a peak pose or an overall rounded intention. It has been fascinating and has made me notice so much more within my own yoga practice and the classes that I’m taking.

I’m just a couple of weeks away from completion of the program, and then I’ll have some more hours of practice to take, but it’s been great finding a way to find something that has been so motivating and inspiring, and honestly couldn’t have been at a better time given the spiritual nature and inward reflection that yoga can really provide.

At times I’m able to remember some of the positives of this new way of life. There have been many ups and downs, and have moved on from thinking this is temporary to working on figuring out how to make this work for us for the long term. Every week brings new challenges (hello, virtual schooling!) but all that I can do for myself and my family is try to find positive coping mechanisms to integrate into my life. As well as some nice, socially distanced venting sessions with girlfriends one to seven times a week. Ok, maybe not seven… this week.

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