Training in a residential setting
I have had the good opportunity to teach yoga teacher trainings for students since 1999, leading over 46 courses. In that time I have also seen the explosion of courses being offered. There are several reasons for this, which I will not address, but only the point that the teacher leading it must be ready, well practiced, immersed in it, and in a way be called to teach others in deepening their practice and, for some, to go and teach others. On some occasions I have seen fresh teachers, with maybe a year of experience, start to lead trainings. There is no substitution for time, something I grow more appreciative and respectful of as time goes by, where the depth of practice, learning and understanding matures within. At the same time who a student chooses to study with is quite a personal endeavor and one which the student needs to explore. It may be due to a connection with their home teacher or research based on an informed search into who has knowledge and experience in the field. It can also be influenced by the style of asana teaching as well as such practical things like time availability, economics, and travel or not. Whatever it is I think it is one of the most important questions when considering a training – who will I be studying with and learning from for this time period? At the same time an initial training, considered under the category of “200 hour yoga teacher training”, is merely a first step in the route of teaching and to help deepen practice. Though some teachers might be able to help more than others in your journey, whether that is merely to get more out of asana or join in the inner quest, it is still down to you, the student, to strive in that direction and put in the effort.
My experience teaching has convinced me of the value of the residential setting. When I first led a program in New York City it had to be broken up into time segments spread out over a few months. Our current urban lifestyles do not allow for many other options. However, historically and traditionally, one left the home place (village) and found the teacher, stayed there, practiced and learned. This was often a process of years but even then it may have been broken up with times in and out of the residential setting. Today we live in a diverse and dynamic world, with hyper-connections, speed of transport, and information being made so cheap it is literally at our fingertips. In the past one would have had to take a steamship, or wander over thousands of miles, then seek out the teacher, probably learn the language of Sanskrit, to have access to both the oral tradition of teachings, meaning the practices, and the actual texts themselves. We have advanced so much in less than 100 years that most of that drudgery has been removed. This allows so many to get into yoga and progress. One thing must be understood, however, that the process to doing so still remains the same. That cannot be cut short. Just as the process of conception requires a sperm to travel the reproductive passageways of both the male and then female body in order to be mature and ready to meet with and fertilize an egg, a process that cannot be reduced, similarly our learning requires an immersion, a focus, a transmission with teacher, and the passage of time to allow for ups and downs, insights and mundane daily repetition of the practice, to allow for growth, learning, and understanding to occur, for practice to develop, for a shift or transformation within. Such progress leaves one with the skills to teach and pass on to others while personally growing.
When students immerse in a yoga retreat and training residential setting, even if it is only a month (to begin with), there comes the opportunity for many of these changes to occur. Ideally the environment itself is a dedicated space, as opposed to a rented out facility, where the energy over time is devoted to growth and yoga practice. The environment, the setting, is a large part of the process. Even such daily practical elements such as the food, fellow guests, the location all play a part in this process. You, the student, are removed from typical daily habits and distractions and instead can channel all personal energy into practice, learning the material, and growing on many levels. On one level it is an absolute gift to be able to take such time and focus purely on this while at the same time it is intense and highlights the point that true growth and learning is not cheap or quick and requires the immersion and input of the student. But to come out the other side is something difficult to describe and more for the realm of experience. Naturally people respond differently to different situations but my experience all these years has shown me that students are able to grow and learn at a much more profound level than when broken up in a home or urban environment.
I encourage you to consider many of these factors if considering yoga teacher training. Ultimately I am a huge proponent of the residential approach for training, growing in practice, and proper learning as so many things can be well grounded and established in such a time and setting that cannot be in a domestic environment. This is what lies at the heart of yoga. I have seen this personally with over 1200 students to date (2015). Some like it more than others but all are challenged and grow. The challenge continues then back home but with that comes an acknowledgement, when one is drawn to yoga proper, that more time in practice and immersion is needed. It goes on. This is where continuing the education and practice comes in.
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