Take Care of Yourself
By David Berson, Sunset Yoga Center Teacher
For the past several years I have flown cross country to attend a yoga Teacher Training Intensive taught by Dean and Rebecca Lerner. In keeping with Iyengar principles of teaching, the class title is both an efficient and accurate description. It is training specifically for yoga teachers, and it is intense. From a Thursday afternoon through a Sunday morning there are 20 hours of training on teaching techniques, philosophy of yoga, refinement of asanas (poses), and pranayama (breath work).
It is wonderful experience to spend time in such an immersive environment focused on yoga and the Iyengar method of teaching. There are breaks for lunch and “breathers” between sessions. Naturally when a bunch of teachers from all around the country come together in such an environment, there is a lot of informal teacher exchange during the breaks. We share various prop setups, alternative approaches to teaching challenging poses, and generally how to help our students back home.
In the course of the long weekend each teacher teaches several poses to students while being observed by Dean and Rebecca, and about two dozen fellow teachers. Dean and Rebecca give constructive criticism to each teacher on the pose they taught. This feedback is a well balanced combination of recognition of what worked well and pointers on where to improve the experience given to the students. The stress of teaching in front of so many other teachers is certainly one of the more intense experiences of the training.
In addition to the 20 hours of training the studio is available both before the day’s classes begin and after they end for teachers to practice. These open times are a combination of yet more opportunities for informal teacher exchange and trying to manage the stress of anticipation of being observed while teaching. Many of the teachers take advantage of these times to practice the poses we are assigned to teach in the classes.
On my last visit a session had ended and we were cleaning up before heading out for lunch. Rebecca reminded us that the studio was open extended hours for our use. There was a clear note of motherly care in her voice as she pointed out that we were all away from our homes and daily routines. She emphasized the need for us to take care of ourselves by not neglecting our personal practice. Up until that point I had been thinking of the open times as a chance to get ready for the next poses I was teaching. Even when we were not in an official training session, she was still teaching us yoga.
Becoming a teacher does not excuse us from still being students. On the contrary, teachers must rededicate themselves to being students. In keeping with my teacher’s instructions I changed my perspective and took time to practice some poses just for myself. I used some standing poses to stretch out my legs from the periods of sitting. I did a few twists to workout out the nervous tension I had accumulated in my back. And I did Sirsasana and
Sarvanghasana (head stand and shoulder stand) to bring balance back to my emotional state. I left the studio that day having learned much, and feeling more prepared for the next day of training than if I had just practiced teaching my next poses.
Whatever else you do, practice yoga to take care of yourself.