I listened to an interview with Seth Godin today. Seth is one of my favourite authors and thinkers. If you haven’t come across any of his work, I highly recommend him.
One of the things that Seth often says is that a question indicative that we are a product of the modern school system is, “Is this on the test?” I saw this in our recent Brisbane 200 hour Yoga teacher training. Trainees were freaked out by homework. Not only was there apprehension simply around the fact of having homework, trainees came back asking, albeit in slightly different and round-about terms, “will this be on the test?”
This was homework that we had carefully constructed to provide processes of inquiry which would take students deeper into the study of Yoga and themselves, not the sort of homework that would be marked with red pen and big crosses. While there were important learnings in there for the teacher in training (indeed, for any Yoga practitioner), what we were seeking to create wasn’t students who could memorise and recite the correct answers, but something different altogether. We sought to open doors onto a journey of lifelong, passionate, engaged learning. To me, this is what Yoga is. Yoga isn’t mastering techniques or learning information until we ‘arrive’. Sure, much of the Yoga tradition does hold that there is a definite place we can arrive at and journey no more (samadhi, or nirvana in the Buddhist traditions). There are two things I would say to this:
1) What if there isn’t?
2) Even if there is, until I arrive there, I plan to stay open. Ceaselessly, boldly, gloriously open to transcending old understandings and embracing new, more effective ones. Douglas Brooks’ teacher, Dr. Gopala Aiyar Sundaramoorthy, said, “Yoga is virtuosity in being yourself”. Not only is the target changing, as the self seems to be ever in flux, the self is complex enough that no amount of work could perfect us.
Training to become a Yoga teacher is a big deal, with a quite unfathomable amount one has to learn. But what do you do to improve at a thing, to become proficient and to understand it more deeply and more fully? You do it. Engage in it wholeheartedly and learn by doing and course correcting, without the expectation of perfection.
Back to Seth Godin. Seth relates that many people, when meeting successful creative people, will ask, “Where do you get your good ideas?” This, he says, is a bad question. Bad, because what we would ideally ask is, “Where do you get your bad ideas from?” If we create enough, he says, we’ll have a bunch of bad ideas, but we’ll also have some great ones, so we should create enough, practice enough, do enough that we give ourselves that opportunity.
Seth believes in this so much that in his online training program, he has students create multiple significant projects within the space of a month. It’s the same approach that we’ve taken. Our Yoga teacher trainees have their first experience of teaching on the first day of the course. This is simple at first, and highly manageable. As the course progresses, students continue to learn and to layer more, teaching more and more as they go along, building in confidence, knowledge and proficiency.
The next step along this journey is when teacher trainees begin to create their own classes and receive feedback as they go, leading up to their final assessment of teaching a full class to their peers.
This isn’t easy. We know it’s not. We saw trainees grapple with the awkwardness of getting all of this right. We saw them come face to face with their own ‘bad ideas’ (In this case, words that came out less than smooth, lefts and rights mixed up, cues that weren’t the best in the pose and class plans that didn’t have as much clarity and direction as they could have). In and through it all, though, they were held. And remarkably, this audacious plan of ours to have students in the practice of teaching as they were learning and as a tool to learning paid off. The teachers that we saw teach their assessment classes were ones that we couldn’t have imagined as we started out. They were confident and competent. Knowledgeable and well able to teach a wonderful Yoga class.
Most of all, and perhaps most excitingly, they were entirely themselves. In and through this process, they had peeled back the layers to uncover their own expression as a Yoga teacher. It was one of our main aims, and remains so; that each individual dives deeper into what Yoga means to them, embodies its truths and expresses them in their teaching. Not only this, we hope to facilitate that process in such a way, sharing our experiences with Yoga and passions for Yoga, that each teacher trainee is invited to become the sort of teacher and practitioner who is ever opening to expanding the possibilities of who they are as a human, as a teacher and as a Yogin or Yogini.
"Marty (Martin Collyer), along with studio founder and owner Amy Wilkinson and partner Riss Carlyon, is one of the three creators and facilitators of our Brisbane 200 hour Yoga teacher training. Our goal was to bring to the Brisbane market a Yoga teacher training which combined the best of Vinyasa and alignment based postural Yoga, a balanced approach to the history and philosophy of Yoga and a true journey of the transformation so important to becoming a Yoga teacher. Yoga is our gift and passion, and we feel so blessed to share it with people in this unique course.
You can keep an eye out for graduates of our first Brisbane Yoga teacher training in studio, where they are teaching across our three locations. If you’re interested in becoming a Yoga teacher yourself and are based in Brisbane, come along to a class and say hi to Amy, Riss or Marty. We’d love to see you and will endeavour to answer any questions you have about the suitability of the 2017 intake of our 200 hour teacher training.