Your Inner Resource

Each of our yoga teacher training sessions is audio recorded. These recordings are invaluable to our students both for review, and for self-enrichment for years to come. The recording below, excerpted from a recent weekend, is a 15 minute yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is a guided style of meditation designed to help us access our body-mind’s innate capacity for deep healing and rest. If you’d like to engage with this practice, find a quiet place to sit or lie down where you won’t be disturbed. Know that you may fall asleep, and that’s ok! You will still receive the benefits of the practice, even while sleeping. Enjoy!

Question the Questions – Choosing a Yoga Program

IMG_6123(View from the studio windows, January 2018)

“There was neither non-existence nor existence then…There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. Who really knows?…The gods came afterwards with the creation of the universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen? Whence this creation has arisen–perhaps it formed itself–or perhaps it did not–the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows–or perhaps he does not know.”

-Rig-Veda

When I decided to pursue a 200 hour certification, I did a google search and called the first local program that popped up in the results. I like to think that the Universe led me to my teacher, but you could also say I just flat out got lucky. Now, I spend a lot of time asking questions about yoga teacher training programs–what conditions create supportive learning environments?; how does our content align with our mission and philosophy?; how can we learn from what other programs are doing? These questions help to guide us through some of the practicalities of teaching and administration, but for the rest, we lean into practice, into self-inquiry. We rely on the questioning, and the mystery of practice itself.

Today, there are many more options for yoga teacher training here in Central Kentucky. So rather than relying just on the Universe (or google), here are some questions you might ask as a beginning.

– Time Commitment – Does the program fit my scheduling needs? How much out of class time is required/expected? Is there homework? Are there tests? How much of the stated hours (200, 300, etc) does the program offer in the classroom with a lead trainer, and how much is spent outside or in personal/unstructured study? Is the schedule structured in such a way that I will leave the sessions feeling depleted? Or rejuvenated?

– Cost and Value – Does the program cost fit my budget? Are there additional costs for props, books, etc? Do they offer an installment option, and if so, is it interest free? Value is going to be hard to determine, but one thing to check is whether the program is an “RYS” (Registered Yoga School) with Yoga Alliance. Take a look at RYS-200 guidelines and requirements, here. However, keep in mind that the RYS standard is not monitored or regulated in any way. So once a program is registered, they can teach whatever and however they want.

– Goals – What are my goals in taking a yoga program? To become a teacher? To deepen my personal practice and my relationship with myself? Is there a particular style of yoga I want to teach, or a target population I’d like to reach? How do the stated goals or mission of the program align with my goals? How will the program support me in attaining my goals?                                                                                                                               

– Special Considerations – Do I have special considerations as a student, such as injury or illness? Does the faculty have the skills and experience to support me in my learning journey?

– Location and Campus – Is the location convenient to me? (And if not convenient, then is the value of the program worth the journey?) What is the campus like as a learning environment? Is the campus a supportive environment for self-inquiry and self-care? A lot of healing and transformation can take place in the course of these programs. I believe beauty and nature are an important part of those processes.

– Overall Program Style and Philosophy – Is this program teaching a particular style or doctrine? Or do they draw from the breadth and depth of yogic traditions (or other movement/philosophy traditions, for that matter)? There is absolutely nothing wrong with offering just one approach, but be clear about what you want, and about what you’re getting from a program.

– Lead Trainer – What is the background of the lead trainer(s) for the program? What is their experience? What is their teaching style? Do they continue to study? Who are their teachers? This is probably the most important question, in my opinion. Take classes from, or at the very least meet with the lead trainer for any programs under consideration.

These questions are important, but they’re not everything. As an administrator, I also spend a lot of time talking to people who are experts in fields about which I am far from expert (accountants, IT professionals, and physicians, just to name a few), and I always ask them this: What question or questions have I left out? What should I be asking you that I haven’t already? These questions help to connect me to beginners-mind, but they also represent that stepping back into the mystery of faith. They allow me to loosen my grip on the moment enough to question the questions, to lean back into the supportive open arms of the Universe and allow the moment to unfold.

In The Inner Tradition of Yoga (2008), Michael Stone writes: “How flexible…to allow the central axiom of your metaphysical system and worldview to be nothing other than the questioning of your basic questions. This is not pluralism but rather a very deep insight into the psychology of belief, the basis of our faith. Since what we believe determines the kind of world we perceive and the kinds of actions we take, if we multiply our belief systems by zero…we arrive in an open field of perception.” So ask questions. And then question the questions themselves. Lean back. Let go.

– Cara Sparkman

Questions for Clarity and Intention

Winter streamThe short, cold, dark days of winter are ripe with opportunity for the self-care practices I treasure: I huddle and cuddle inside the house with my two- and four-legged loved ones; I take long soaks in steamy baths; I get on my mat and practice yoga nidra to my heart’s content; I walk next to the dog until we find a place where the quiet cold of the winter sunshine rimes the tree limbs with beauty to cover their bareness. And from the fertile ground of all this being, I find the space to reflect.

The frenzy of the last few months–all of the hurdles and hiccups attendant to the official opening of the school, and a busy, albeit joyful, time in my personal life–left little time to take stock, to allow pure awareness to transform the bareness of experience into useful beauty. I stumbled upon this article at onbeing.org from the lovely Courtney Martin, and I’ve spent the afternoon considering my answers to the questions she poses, and considering what questions I would add or adapt to ask of myself as a yogi. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. What have I held on to this year? Where have I been resistant to the flow of life? How has this affected my body-mind?
  2. What have I let go of? How have I surrendered? How has this affected my body-mind?
  3. What have I learned through practice this year? About my body? About my spirit? About my mind? What would I like to learn in the new year?
  4. Which relationships have enriched my life in 2017? What teachers have informed my practice, and my life? Is there a teacher I would like to learn more from in 2018?
  5. When did I feel most balanced and whole this year? What conditions, actions and/or self-care practices led to that feeling? How can I continue to cultivate those conditions in the new year?
  6. When was I most physically joyful in 2017? How can I get there more in 2018? (I just couldn’t improve on this question…it is too good.)
  7. What is my deepest longing, my heart’s desire, my sankalpa? Can I be brave enough to live that desire as true in the coming year?

I’ve scribbled my first answers in my journal. I say first answers, because my wish for myself, and for us all, is that we keep asking, that we keep reflecting, that we keep transforming through this practice we love.

To that end, the partners of The Essence of Yoga Center have been working on setting the dates for our 2018-2019 200 and 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Programs. If your sankalpa leads you to take the next step in your yoga journey, we humbly hope you’ll journey with us.

In gratitude for this year, and in hope for the next,

Cara Sparkman