Category Archives: yoga teacher training

Learning from the physical practice

Photo: yogi folds forward over leg
Glenn Buco folds forward at a workshop.

Don’t let anyone tell you that yoga is for wimps, for slackers who don’t want to work up a sweat or for those who are only interested in the spiritual side.

I’ve gone through three weeks of yoga teacher training (YTT) at Thrive Yoga. That translates into a daily 1.5 hour hatha/vinyasa practice, additional work when we’re doing asana labs or practice teaching. Five days a week, plus the first weekend.

It has taken me a full 36 hours to recover this weekend (including celebrating my daughter’s birthday and taking my wife to Frederick for her to pick your exhibit space for Artomatic). My body felt as if it had been put through a wringer while my mind was put through the rinse cycle. My hips and shoulders still ache. Maybe, a 63-year-old guy, overweight by 30 pounds according to my BMI, is not meant to put his body through this kind of regime. I don’t have the recuperative capacity I used to. I’ve been practicing for almost 10 years, so I know the ropes, my muscle know many of the poses instinctively, though that can be detrimental to practicing mindfully — no asana is ever the same each time you do it as your body changes dynamically. I had been trying to get in shape before YTT because I knew it would test my conditioning. Continue reading Learning from the physical practice

Photos of classes on Sanskrit, ayurveda, and pre-natal training

Photo: profile view of Pierre Couvillon
Outside teacher Pierre Couvillon is a long-stranding member of the Thrive Yoga team

This week we passed the midpoint of the yoga teacher training (YYT) at Thrive Yoga. On Wednesday, Pierre Couvillon flew in from Indiana to deliver a double whammy: Sanskrit and ayurveda. With utmost patience he coaxed and prodded us to give up clinging to our tortured pronunciation of asanas and the Yoga Sutras. Who knew that a language class could be as grueling, focused and liberating as our first taste of leading a yoga session, as we did on Monday. Certainly in two days, we were not going to master Sanskrit, but Pierre’s enthusiasm for the lanugage and his understanding of the surprising logic and consistency of Sanskrit let us appreciate the value to digging a little deeper, and he has made available audio files that will allow us to finetune our ears and minds.

Photo: teacher in front on yoga students on floor
Pierre leads the class through the alphabet and its phonetic foundation.


Repeat, repeat, repeat. Connect your vocal chords with the nadis spiraling up the spine.

Continue reading Photos of classes on Sanskrit, ayurveda, and pre-natal training

Photos of an asana lab at Thrive Yoga teacher training

Photo: a yoga teacher adjusts a student's pose
Ugonma Fontaine adjusts Jessica Black during a “teaching beginners” class.

Breaking down yoga asana is a central exercise in yoga teacher training. We’ve spent a lot of time on it since the first day of the YTT intensive. Each teacher has taken a different approach and all the students are encouraged to develop a keen eye for detail in alignment. Students also enjoy bending their alignment so that we can find targets for adjustment. After all, each one of us already has perfect alignment in all asanas (not!).  It’s a delicate balance between allowing yoga students to express their bodies freely, and avoiding alignments or habits that could injure them or prevent them from advancing in their practice. Since this is a 200-hour training, we won’t tackle the more advanced asanas. Continue reading Photos of an asana lab at Thrive Yoga teacher training

I need to embrace my inner yoga teacher

Photo: class in yoga teacher training
With Ugonma Fontaine leading the way (far left), my classmates make suggestions to resolve common problems of beginners.

Yesterday, in the practice session, I realized that I had been handicapping myself by segregating myself as a “non-teacher trainee” in the Thrive Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program. With that status, I was withholding myself from the full spectrum of learning activities.

Over the first two weeks, I’ve been swamped by experiential, sensory and mental overload (asana, pranayama and meditation practice, reading, the pace of the classes, physical fatigue, the limited opportunity to absorb the material and experiences, all crammed in an intensive format). I relieved the pressure by tricking myself into filtering out a lot of “teacher training” part. I could go home and chill without feeling guilty about not accepting the full spectrum of assignments.

But by half-heartedly committing to the YTT program, I was depriving myself of a chance to be an open-hearted participant. Susan Bowen and her team are preparing yoga instructors — that’s their strong suit.

Yesterday, while writing about the teaching practice and my frustration, I stumbled on a way to understand the need for a different attitude: “Taking ownership of my yoga practice” is a shift in perspective. It’s the activation of the “inner teacher” that is often mentioned in the literature. I am not a passive recipient of cues. Becoming the antagonist requires taking on the role of instructor, creating and delivering a coherent sequence of yoga asanas (and other activities and conditions) that will lead to a fulfilling practice.

Where the Wild Things Are — in Yoga Teacher Training

Graphic: cover of Where the Wild Things Are
With apologies to Maurice Sendak for ripping off his title and contorting his plot, I have my own monsters.

I battled monsters on the yoga mat this afternoon when I did my first practice teaching in the Thrive Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). But these monsters were of my own making. I spent the weekend planning and practicing my assigned sequences, but I also created some hairy, over-sized, unruly beings that captured my mind when I needed to be centered and grounded. I acknowledge that I was afraid of them, but I battled “bravely” to get through my demo

So what allowed these creatures to commandeer my head? I lost sight of what I really should have been doing — not practice teaching, but conveying the joy of yoga as authentically as possible. Here’s how it happened: Continue reading Where the Wild Things Are — in Yoga Teacher Training

The dirty little secret of yoga school

Photo: extended hand reach forward


I thought I was going to get a weekend off after 12 straight days of yoga teacher training (YTT) at Thrive Yoga. But we will have mid-term exams and our first 20-minutes of demo teaching on Monday. I am not afraid of the written exam: the test just reminds me how far behind I am with the reading and the homework. The practice teaching is a whole different story.

Remember, I’m the guy who’s taking YTT  for the deep immersion in yoga, the sweat and the me-time, not because I want to get as new career as a yoga instructor. Put me in front of my classmates and teachers, and I become a quivering heap of stuttering, Sanskrit-impaired, body-blind jello. This weekend, I will draft versions of my sequence script, critique my cuing, record my voice, watch myself recite it in front of a mirror, act it out in the living room, recruit my wife and daughter for rehearsal, and probably become so wound up that I naturally unfold into a fakir contortionist. Continue reading The dirty little secret of yoga school

Snaps shots from the first week of training

This past weekend we had a blitz course of human anatomy

Photo: anatomy class at Thrive Yoga
Anatomy instructor Kristin Leal palpates the mysteries of the collarbone

Kristen Leal combined her fascination with the human body, yoga and dance to enliven what could have been dry subject matter. Her demonstration of the chimpanzee walk showed why we humans no longer walk on our knuckles. Continue reading Snaps shots from the first week of training

Daily practice anchors yoga training

Photo: yoga class in Warrior I pose
Virabhadrasana I at Thrive Yoga

One of the perks of yoga teacher training (YTT) is that you do a lot of yoga (duh!), in the case of an intensive program like Thrive Yoga‘s, everyday. We take a class first thing each morning. Right now, I’ve had 10 days in a row of classes (really 13 since I started my consecutive streak on July 5, but I get my first full day off this coming weekend). These can be grueling classes, such as the one Monday when we had a hot vinyasa class with the room’s street door open to the DC area’s humid heat wave. I ended up drenched, my sweat soaking my clothes and yoga towel, and pooling on the mat. Other times, mercy is shown by offering a yin class (long holds of mainly passive poses using props) or a change of pace predominantly focused on the legs (today). But don’t think that even these less intense classes don’t leave their mark on tissues and mind.

The morning class at Thrive has a roster of top-notch teachers (Susan Bowen, the owner herself and two high-energy instructors, contrarian Sarah Winsatt and Jivamukti-trained Kirsta Block) who put together challenging classes. Some sessions may be extensively thought-out while other times the instructor improvises as she reads the class, adjusts to the needs and skills of inexperienced students, or cues modifications for more advanced students. Continue reading Daily practice anchors yoga training

Taking the plunge into yoga teacher training

Photo: hands are placed on the back of a supline yogini
Sometimes another person can help dissipate the stress that seeps into the back

Today, I started my second week of yoga teacher training (YTT) at Thrive Yoga. It’s a small group, five women and me, and we worked through the weekend. We get a half day off on Wednesday, and then we’re free on weekends.

With the loss of my day job at the OAS in April, a window of opportunity (motive, time, energy and money) opened up to take the July intensive course at Thrive. A month-long, 200-hour intensive allows me to drill down in the physical, mental and spiritual realms of my yoga practice. Other YTT formats stretch out over six-nine months (meeting one weekend a month) and would be hard for me to sustain because I can’t see that far into the future. In addition, I believe that it’s essential to feel safe and empowered within the sanctuary of a home studio, like Thrive Yoga, with teachers, mentors and fellow students that support a transformative process.

When I was considering the decision to take YTT, I listed the pros and cons in parallel columns on a legal pad (some of the considerations went into a previous blog entry). At the end of the exercise, I could not determine which way the balance leaned, but I knew that I wanted to take the YTT. It’s not a “career” move or “what’s expected of me” or  therapy for a physical injury. I look at the July intensive as a yoga immersion experience. I don’t necessarily plan to become an active yoga instructor, but I do want to fine-tune my “inner teacher” by diving into the experience and letting yoga work its magic. If I don’t take the training now, when would I be able to take it?
Continue reading Taking the plunge into yoga teacher training