Undoing Yoga Asana - 50 Hours
A Series of Teacher Development Workshops with Jenelle Leat
(upcoming dates TBA)
Most teachers would agree 'yoga is for everyone'! However, that statement isn't always demonstrated due to the lack of knowledge on HOW we can make this yoga accessible for everyone. Despite the growing awareness of just how beneficial a yoga practice is, approximately only 10% of people actually practice yoga. That means 90% of people do NOT! This indicates many things, for example, yoga is marketed to exclude the average person and may create an uninviting, judgemental atmosphere. Which we know is incorrect. The concepts we will explore in this course are designed to elevate your offerings so that you can begin to discover HOW to help more people feel welcome, included and develop the right approach for them through the efficacy of your teaching.
As a teacher it is incredibly important that you understand that the majority of people in our western society come to a yoga class to practice yoga poses. Otherwise, they would just simply attend meditation/breath work only classes. Yoga asana is a crucial aspect to counteracting the negative effects of our excessive and disharmonious lifestyles. The attraction of a holistic and mindful yoga experience is the pivotal difference that draws people into a yoga class versus just a 'stretching/strengthening' class. Whilst both practices use the physical body by moving, stretching and strengthening, a yoga class includes breath awareness, mental clarity and centring one's self to access deeper parts within. In summary, those choosing a yoga class are using their physical facility during asana as a tool, to generate transformation on many levels. Teachers often negate the importance of knowing how to thoroughly teach yoga asana with statements like, 'it's not about the pose'. Although this statement holds true in many regards as yoga encompasses SO much more than just the physical, it would be irresponsible to not acknowledge that people are coming for poses and movement. As already previously mentioned, if they weren't coming for those things, they would just do a meditation or breath work class with no focus on movement.
Therefore, you as a teacher need to be incredibly responsible and highly knowledgeable with how you offer this physical practice. This knowledge is imperative to your skillset as a yoga teacher, it enables you to help MORE people not only start yoga, but also sustain a consistent, intuitive, health-giving practice. Throughout the 13 years of my teaching career the last 5 I have spent discovering and expanding on this topic. This pathway has allowed me to align my intentions as a yoga teacher to create an approach I am incredibly passionate about, which is finding various ways to extend the practice of yoga to as many people as possible. Down below, I have shared in depth, my personal journey and how it relates to this topic.
Dissecting yoga asana in the 5 key areas listed below will give you the tools to confidently assist a large variety of students and offer an accessible practice that is inclusive and empowering. That's what this course is all about, learning how you can help MORE people access the therapeutic benefits of a transformative yoga practice.
Too often, yoga poses are being taught while the teacher is totally unaware of the potential risks involved. We will dive deep into dissecting a variety of poses to be able to better understand the prospect of injury, which is more common than we think. This knowledge allows you to educate your students so they can make informed choices and you can better respond to real-time variances within each person's body.
Without even realising it, a teacher's language, intonation and choice of words can immediately disempower and exclude particular individuals when it comes to offering up options for poses. We will look deeper into finding the best use of unbiased words and instructions. This leads to empowering your students to make intuitive choices that are based around their body autonomy.
The rewards of each yoga pose are often overlooked by teachers due to a limited understanding of the intentions behind each asana. Because of this, we can end up offering modifications which aren't aimed at the poses' benefits. We will be breaking down the layers of certain yoga poses in order to deeper comprehend the value they offer in the physical body. You will acquire the knowledge and tools to effectively identify which adaptations are going to be suitable while still retaining the intended benefits.
Many yoga styles are taught in a manner which provides potential short-term gains instead of long term results. This approach doesn't generate a sustainable practice. We will be focusing on the longevity of certain poses and styles based on various methods and how they might encourage or discourage the development of a nourishing and viable practice over the long run.
Yoga asana is not easily accessible to the average modern body/mind as people are often coming in with ailments. We will explore various preparatory methods, such as reciprocal inhibition, to learn how to invite the body into a pose, rather than forcing it. This may not look like yoga asana, but it provides a natural invitation to opening and releasing that is very low risk for a larger number of people, therefore making yoga asana more accessible.
The benefit of doing this course in person goes way beyond the content and dives deep into integrating what you've learned into your teaching. You'll be able to ask questions in real-time pertaining to the topics at hand and actually put into practice, what teaching looks like when considering the 5 key points mentioned above. You will be given the chance to practice on one another and on yoga students, which helps you to comprehend the information you are learning about, in a contextual way. Your newfound knowledge is immediately applied after each lesson, which catapults your ability to use it functionally rather than just having it in your head yet being unsure of how to actually implement it. If you need to recap the lesson, you will have access to all of the same video content as those who are doing the online course. Included in the in-person course, is 10 complimentary classes to practice at NSYFC from February 27th to June 14th.
$999 early bird offer (dates TBA)
$1,250 secondary offer (dates TBA)
$1,750 full price (dates TBA)
This course includes written material and 25+ hours of video content. If needed, you will have access to booking 3 x 1 hour private zoom sessions with me to ask questions and discuss the course content. If you'd like to have your teachings reviewed by me once you begin incorporating the course content, you have the option to submit up to 2 hours worth of video footage. In this process, I highly recommend watching yourself teach this content and giving yourself feedback in addition to taking into account what my observations are. The online course content is available to access one week after the in-person workshop dates. For example, the video content and written materials from February 27th and 28th will be available to access by March 6th.
How fulfilling and joyful is it to be a yoga teacher! The most important aspect of being a yoga teacher is your ability to help and inspire as many people as possible in the most effective and therapeutic way. As a teacher of NSYFC, your offerings must be clear and aligned with your intentions. Consciously connecting your purpose for teaching with the content that you choose to teach is a big focus of the teachers on our team. Being an instructor at the centre, means you have the ability to thread in NSYFC's principles that pertain to teaching. Your instructions are unbiased and inclusive of all people, your sequencing/poses are offered in a safe and sustainable way and you're open to growing and evolving yourself as an individual and teacher.
Teachers of NSYFC are constantly developing their skills through the following:
Monthly 'Teacher Topic' meetings
Monthly 'Self Development' projects
Practicing under the guidance of other NSYFC instructors
Some of the contributions that NSYFC teachers make include the following:
Social media posting and sharing
Attendance of centre events and workshops
At minimum, a weekly practice of NSYFC classes
If you are interested in teaching at NSYFC, please first familiarise yourself with our philosophies and approach to determine if what we do resonates with you. Some of the requirements for those interested in teaching for NSYFC are:
Emailing through your resume
Emailing through answers to the following questions;
1. What styles are you currently teaching?
2. What inspires you to teach?
3. Are you practicing? If yes, what styles and are they on your own or in a public class? If no, explain why that is?
4. What about NSYFC resonates with you?
Including any other information that you think is relevant to your teaching/personal profile
AT PRESENT, WE ARE NOT IN NEED OF ANY ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTORS, HOWEVER THINGS ARE ALWAYS SHIFTING AND CHANGING SO WE ARE ALWAYS ACCEPTING ENQUIRIES TO CONTINUE BUILDING OUR DREAM TEAM!
My personal focus on the above key points stems from my journey with yoga, which started in 2006 when I tried my very first Bikram Yoga class. In hindsight - as an ex ballet dancer - I can see that I was mainly drawn to the performative aspect of this particular style of yoga, among other things that I felt it offered me at the time. I spent many hours practicing and sweating and crying (lots of tears in my first few years of practicing) before I was presented with the idea of becoming a Bikram Yoga teacher.
It is important to note that I was encouraged to become a teacher due (in part) to the dedication I showed, but mainly due to my physical abilities. I was deemed as being 'good' at yoga just because I was hypermobile and could perform the poses in a way that was glorified. Can you see how this contributes to the general public's idea that a yoga practice is only for people who are already flexible? This myth is deep seated and really starts from us as teachers and leaders. I wouldn't be surprised if you've heard this statement at least a handful of times; "I can't do yoga because I cannot touch my toes." Again, the perception of most people when it comes to yoga is that you have to already be flexible to practice. But, if we are teaching an intuitive practice that is actually in alignment with each individual person, it shouldn't really matter what their personal abilities are. The more you can understand that the practice of yoga is commonly offered in a very exclusive way for a certain type of body, the more you will be able to utilise the concepts from this course in your teachings.
I attended Teacher Training in 2007 and after 9 gruelling weeks in what is commonly referred to as the 'torture chamber' (despite being in the gorgeous island of Hawaii) I was back at my home studio, teaching as many classes as I could. During this time, I also got involved in the sport of competitive yoga. The world of competitive yoga actually doesn't defer too far from what is commonly done in India where skilled yogi's would show off entertaining feats of breath and mind control through public displays. The difference however, is that those of us in the competitive yoga world, weren't lying on a bed of nails with the weight of an elephant on top of us. Instead, we were judged purely on our 5 yoga poses performed in a 3 minute time frame. From 2007 to 2012, I competed in 3 national competitions between Canada and Australia and 2 international ones in the United States after qualifying. My placement internationally was in the top 10 for two consecutive years while competing against other women from 53 various countries. I was an incredibly proud yogi and dedicated many hours to pushing my physical facility to its limits. However, I was losing a love for my yoga practice and gaining many injuries along the way. I started to think to myself, is this really yoga? Through my exploration of competitive yoga (both within myself and coaching others) I began to question the practice that I was teaching and whether or not it was in alignment with health and wellness.
As I was in this ever evolving journey, I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2014 and this really catapulted me into the notion of practicing for therapy, rather than always trying to achieve new depths. At this time I was running a YTT for 5 students out of the studio I was teaching at. After the birth of my daughter, up until 2016, I continued to run 3 other YTT programs qualifying 12 other students to teach Heated Hatha yoga. In 2016 I took my Vinyasa Teacher Training course in Brisbane and that was the first time I had stepped outside of the Hatha teaching world. I found so many interesting and useful concepts in a Vinyasa practice that I hadn't come across before. I also found many gaps in the Vinyasa practice that I filled with my years of experience teaching Hatha yoga. I had not taken much interest in yoga philosophy up to this point and found myself wondering if I was adequate to be teaching in the world of Vinyasa due to my lack of knowledge in this area. After learning a little bit more about yoga philosophy, I realised that through my 9 years of teaching experience I was unknowingly teaching yoga philosophy, just without all of the terminology and references. I like to use this as a reminder that so much of your teaching development is through experiential learning and doing.
Following my Vinyasa TT, I still mainly taught Hatha yoga, however my interest was piqued even further to expand my offerings. I was unknowingly seeking a teacher/mentor to confirm some of my suspicions surrounding the negative long-term side effects of a heated Hatha yoga practice. I stumbled across YogaSynergy with Simon Borg Olivier and Bianca Machliss. Taking Simon's Anatomy and Physiology course was a HUGE turning point for me where I felt simultaneously excited at the prospect of incorporating this new knowledge AND disheartened at what I had been teaching for so many years. I thoroughly reflected on the damage I had done to both my body and spirit and other people's too! However, I could only move forward and humbly admit that much of what I believed in the past, wasn't actually in alignment with all of the positive health claims that a yoga practice preaches to offer. I was fired up to change what I offered and was lucky enough to teach at a space that was open and accepting of my passions.
I basically told my students that much of the instructions and information I had shared with them in the past wasn't in alignment with a sustainable yoga practice. It wasn't wrong and it wasn't right, it was just an empowered alternative to what they had been doing previously. It's important to remember that this idea of 'right' and 'wrong' only exist within the context of what someone wants to achieve. If someone wants to learn how to do the splits at any and all cost, then it would be 'right' for their intentions to push and force their body to achieve their desired outcome. If someone wanted to just simply free up their hamstrings while simultaneously considering the state of their nervous system and stress levels, then it would be 'wrong' for them to take the same approach as the person who wants to do the splits. Does this help you to see the importance of knowing what each of our students want to achieve within their yoga practice, and how we can help facilitate that?
The most interesting aspect about this part of my journey as a teacher, is that the mentality of my yoga students was what needed to shift more than anything else. They were under the impression that unless they touched their toes, unless they did their pose better than they did last week, unless they felt intense stretching sensations all the time, that they weren't getting the full benefits of a yoga practice. Essentially, they practiced under the notion of 'no pain, no gain'. In many other yoga styles and various forms of physical activity, this is often the mentality that one has! Now let's combine that mentality with the common perception that one has to already be flexible to practice yoga, and you have an incredibly small amount of people who actually feel like they are capable of starting a yoga practice AND you have many people who are practicing in a way that is damaging to their health over the long run. Hence, the need for bringing more awareness to the way you guide your students through their practice.
After a few years of exploring a more sustainable method of teaching and practicing I decided that the only way to fully express and implement these concepts I was passionate about was to go out on my own, and essentially teach a style that was centred around these 5 key points. In 2017 I began the process of creating a business plan to open up New Standard Yoga and Fitness Centre, which later opened up in 2018. Fast forward to now and I am still refining what I find is the most helpful, effective, inspiring and therapeutic way to encourage people to start and sustain a yoga practice that aligns with their intentions and goals.
My overall intention with this course is to help teachers like yourself, explore ways that attract more people into the practice of yoga while also helping them establish methods of maintenance. I cannot wait to explore with you, all the content that this course has to offer, and see how this really elevates what you already know and have within yourself!