Nicole's story - interning in Colombia

Photo: Bhavin Misra

Photo: Bhavin Misra

In June 2016 Nicole decided to leave her job in Guatemala for a trip to Medellín, Colombia, where she would join a small international Yoga studio as an intern, and learn to teach Yoga in Spanish

"I decided to join the program to improve my Spanish for my work - I really wanted to improve my language skills. As a yoga teacher, my words are very important and I wanted a program that could help me develop my teaching in Spanish. I was also interested in gaining more yoga teaching experience in another part of Latin America."

"It is a very unique program. I don’t know of any other program of its kind that specifically was able to help me work with a few of my challenges as an American yoga teacher in a Spanish speaking country"

What was it like to be part of our community?


"I was impressed by the diversity in the community at Flying Tree Yoga. My fellow classmates came from various parts of the world and had a lot of experience in different aspects of yoga: ayurveda, organic farming, work trade experiences around the world and different lineages of yoga. I was also grateful to have the chance to connect and meet so many interesting yoga students, as well."

"The yoga community is very friendly in Medellin. I was able to sit down and share meals with a few of my yoga students to really get to know them. I also look forward to seeing a few of the people from the Flying Tree community here in Guatemala."

How did you like the city of Medellín?
"I fell in love with Medellin. The tall and modern architecture set back with the mountains is lovely. It is considered a very progressive and modern city. I especially liked the artistic and creativity aspects of the city. I spent many afternoons at the Modern Art Museum reading books, sipping coffees and people watching. In Laureles, I met a lot of local artists, designers, and entrepreneurs in clothing boutiques, stationary stores, and the co-ops. This recent resurgence of the creative class in an aesthetically beautiful city brings a lot of energy and inspiration to me as an artist and as a yogi."

"I enjoyed the supportive space and feedback that I was given by my fellow classmates and trainers Sierra and Andrew. When you are first starting out as a yoga teacher, you need a safe container to experiment and development your own style as an educator. The feedback I was given was always from a place of kindness and patience"

What have you been doing since you finished?
"I have continued developing my career as an international yoga and art teacher. I am teaching and assisting powerful flow classes at Pure Yoga to local Guatemalans, and I teach private classes tothe American expat community in Cayala.

Three new things: First, I’ve recently started leading yoga and art classes to children at an inner-city school called Esperanza Juvenil. I have never seen children so eager to learn how to do bakasana “crow pose” before and how focused young people can be with the simple tools of breathing and focus. Children are also very courageous and resilient. So they are not afraid to fall over and get back up and try a new pose over.

Second, I have recently started working with a fair trade, organic market called El Mercadito de Lola in Zona 15. They believe in the ethical treatment and promote conscious living for all living beings. I’ve been given the opportunity to teach yoga and art classes and healthy living workshops at their market. It is nice to be able to work with local Guatemalans who want to provide healthy and organic foods and products at a fair wage for their farmers. In turn, I enjoy teaching mindfulness and conscious movement to their community.

Third, to stay connected with people who are not in Guatemala, I have launched an online Book Club on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist Way.” It’s a 12 week program that I coach online which helps people develop their creativity and incorporate more creative living in their lives."

Did the course help you in any way achieve these things?
Yes, I was thankful for the space and support to really development my Spanish, be creative in the various ways I like to teach yoga and art, and to simply have time to be in a different environment than what I have been used to. When I step away, refine and focus, I gain more insights on who I am as a yoga practitioner and as a yoga teacher. I’m grateful for the special opportunity to learn and develop my skills in Medellin.

Thanks Nicole!

Check out Nicole's wonderful blog and instagram!

If you've enjoyed this article and are interested in joining our community for an internship program, why not check out our course!

Interning as a Yoga teacher in Colombia

By Chantal Houde

It’s been just over a month since I returned home from Colombia, and in that time I’ve been able to see some major changes taking place in my life. Many of these changes are things I’ve been working towards for months or even years, and others are changes I’ve more recently resolved to make, in large part due to the time I spend in Medellin, with Yoga Internships Colombia.

I’m now teaching yoga at my favourite Ottawa studio, Prana Shanti. I’ve taught two well-received Hatha classes this past week, and am teaching eight classes through the month of July. I’ve also cemented my involvement with Laughing Falcon Yoga and Wellness Center, a studio opening soon in the picturesque Ontario town of Barry’s Bay.  I’ve taken on a role as a support for their marketing efforts and am organizing a three-day Autumn retreat. I’ll also be teaching the Yoga Nidra workshop I developed in Colombia.

The dynamics of my social life have also shifted as well. I’m making new friends and have readjusted relationships with some of my existing friends and family members. I’m leaning less on unhealthy habits and tending more towards peace and ease in all areas of my life. And it feels so good; so authentic.

The role that Yoga Internships Colombia had in all these changes is, in my mind, in large part thanks to the container for growth it provided. I was already on a path to change in my own life, and the space, support, practice and clarity the program provided was an extra push in the right direction.

As I’ve written, finding space to do what I know is right in my life can be a challenge for me. At home it’s easy to get bogged down by my 9-5 job, relationships, and unhealthy tendencies. By travelling and taking myself out of my day-to-day repetitive thoughts and routines, I always feel a sense of opening of possibilities that allows me to reconnect again and again to what’s really important to me: yoga, building relationships with like-minded and loving people, my health, creating peace in my mind, nature, learning, and sharing my experiences through teaching and writing.

In Colombia, the balance of structured and free time at the internship at Flying Tree Yoga gave me the space to write new articles, begin to plan the yoga retreat, apply for other yoga positions, and to connect with new contacts and friends both in Colombia and in Ontario (not to mention teaching yoga in a foreign country, which had long been a dream of mine).

I also became much clearer on how I wanted to move forward, given my current reality. The support offered by Andrew and Sierra, the program facilitators, as well as other yoga teachers involved in the program, the other interns, and even the students who attended my classes and workshops was invaluable.  The workshops kept us thinking about yoga-related topics (the Yamas and Niyamas, use of hands-on support and the use of language in yoga, to name a few) and how we could apply them in our own teachings. They provided us with resources and ideas to advance our teaching and our personal yoga practice and encouraged us to share our own ideas. No topic, idea or style of yoga was pushed on us; instead we were invited to explore and to establish our own style of teaching.

The same was true of our opportunities to teach classes. We had the option to teach as much or as little as we liked, and the group of interns worked collaboratively to fill the schedule of the studio. It was clearly laid out at the beginning of the program that there would be a chance for us to teach workshops, private classes and/or to provide other healing services as we would like, and then we were left to take the initiative to plan them ourselves. As yoga teachers, I think this was so important, as it can be quite hard and take time and creativity to find a space to teach. Initiative is so important in the sometimes saturated yoga scene. Making new contacts, charting our own path, and creating opportunities for ourselves is just as important as actually having the skills to teach. The internship really reflected this, while providing support when we needed it.

In the end I think this experience, as with most in life, was what I made it. I went to Medellin with the intention to teach as much as I could, to write, to refocus on my health, and to gain some clarity on my next steps. I also wanted, of course, to explore the city and if possible, other parts of Colombia. I was glad to be given the chance to plan and create my own promotional materials for my workshop, to communicate with and schedule private clients, and to participate in the yoga community in Medellin. These are all skills that are so useful to me now that I’m back in Ottawa. I even got a chance to visit Guatape, a beautiful little town in the countryside. I knew very well going into this that it would not be like a teacher training- that I was there to make my own opportunities- and it was the perfect way to do so.

This article originally appeared on Travels With Celery

Are you interested in joining us for an internship program? Click here to find out more about our course!

Chantal is a yoga teacher, reiki practitioner and a current intern with Yoga Internships Colombia. She is passionate about helping people find and maintain a sense of well-being through Yoga and healthy lifestyle. She loves nature, travel and nourishing food. Follow her wanderings on her wellness travel blog, and onInstagram and Twitter.

How to innovate abroad with your Yoga!

With articles such as ‘Why I went broke as a Yoga teacher’ and ‘You’re never going to make a living as a Yoga teacher’ appearing regularly in newsfeeds, it’s fair to say that teachers have it tough in their hometown. There’s a surplus of talented professionals; getting a class at a studio can be difficult, and even if you have a wide range of teaching engagements, the income can be unsteady. Nevertheless, if you are an innovative and gutsy person, have you ever considered taking your Yoga abroad?

It can be an exciting and rewarding experience to move somewhere totally new and start building Yoga projects from scratch. I had come from Spain, a popular Yoga destination that boasts some of the best teachers in the world - it was difficult to see how I, a newly qualified teacher, was going to make ends meet. But some of my Colombian friends took me aside - had I ever heard of Medellín? It sounded like the perfect place to start - apart from the marvellous weather, Yoga is relatively new and there is not so much competition from other teachers. Living costs are low, and it’s minimal risk to start a new project. I could build my CV while seeing if any interesting opportunities arose. A plane ticket and a year and a half later, I can say it was an excellent decision. Here is what I’ve learned along the way!

Offer donation classes:

From hostels and hotels, to parks and co-working spaces (the latter are so important here!), there are ample opportunities for you to teach outside of a studio and grow your network of students. Putting up flyers and using social media (Facebook and Instagram) are great ways to spread the word.

Offer Yoga in English to expats:

You may well find that you are the only teacher in town who speaks fluent English, which can be a huge advantage. You can cater both to travellers and to long term ex-pat residents in your new city, which will prove very attractive to studios who might want to offer an English class. 

Speak the language:

Having a basic grasp of the local language is essential. Not only can you communicate with studio owners and newcomers to Yoga from the local population, but you can start teaching and subbing in for native teachers when needed. You might like to consider our language course on how to teach Yoga in Spanish if you are thinking of a Latin American country!

Train in local studios:

Not only will attending regular classes in the local language help your progress and keep your Yoga fresh, but you will soon start to meet all kinds of interesting people. Whether they are studio owners who might be interested in what you have to offer, or students who might feel drawn to your practice, it is a great way to build your base of contacts.

Work with a further skill:

Offering other services can be vital in helping you build financial independence. English teachers and digital nomads can be found aplenty here and you can develop your Yoga projects on the side. Working with wellbeing - reiki, massage, ayurveda etc - can be particularly useful, as your clients and Yoga students will overlap. They may come to you for one service and end up joining you in the other.

Network with expats:

In any developing economy you will likely find people innovating in all kinds of interesting ways. They can share knowledge about visas, or the process to start a business, and introduce you to the people that can help further your goals. Their ideas can inspire and they can help you flesh out your own personal vision. There have been certain ‘angels’ here who have worked unbelievably hard on my behalf to help me on my way; I try to do the same when I can.

Needless to say, it’s important to be patient with these kinds of undertaking and not expect success to appear overnight. A bit of grit is essential - the ability to make it through those times when nobody is showing up and it seems as though things aren’t working out. Your next break might be just around the corner! It’s fair to say that the times when I feel most stressed are when I feel like I’m going nowhere; when I relax the opportunities seem to come of their own accord! 

Did you enjoy this article? You might consider reading ‘How to make it as a new Yoga teacher’ and ‘The Journey To Teaching Yoga In A Second Language: Why It Could Be So Important To Your Career’. Or join us for an internship program here in Medellín and teach, learn and live in a thriving Yoga community!

“Liberate yourself from the prison of your mat!” How to improve as a new Yoga teacher

Have you ever compared yourself to your favourite Yoga teacher (perhaps with a little envy) and asked what makes them so great at what they do? Perhaps you have wondered about your own teaching journey, and how you can become the best teacher you can. Here are some tips to get you thinking about your teaching style and bring a better quality of experience to your students:

Liberate yourself from the prison of your mat! Ranked at #5 on the list of things Americans fear most, public speaking can be daunting. I’ve seen many new teachers deal with their fears by remaining trapped within the space of their own mat - not daring to step, or even look outside their safe haven. My advice? Take small steps. Begin by walking around the studio during a down dog, when nobody is watching you, and then return to your teaching position. Later try instructing a posture while standing in the middle of the room. Soon you might find yourself confidently walking around the whole space as you guide students through class. What are the benefits? Read on…

Look! One of the main advantages of moving around the room is that it gives you an excellent opportunity to look at your students’ postures. New teachers tend to reel off long lists of commands that they have learned in their teacher trainings, often un-necessarily. What is the point in giving a minute’s worth of instructions on the basic alignments of triangle to a class of intermediate to advanced practitioners? They are likely to need much more specific instructions on alignment. You are only going to know what these are by a careful observation of their postures. By looking at the range of different interpretations of a posture, you will become increasingly aware of the different types of body that human beings have, and of what you are looking for in each posture. You can give individualised instructions to the students that need them, or talk to the whole class if you see a more general need. 

One thing at a time. How many commands do you know for refining down-dog? I have met teachers who can (and do) spend a good minute reeling off a long list of instructions. And what’s the response of a student in this position? They might be confused or overwhelmed by so much information - beginners might be unclear on what it means to ‘open’ the hips or ‘lengthen’ the back, and might not have a deep awareness of their own bodies. Or they might just switch off and stop listening to your voice after a long day of work and information overload. Much better to choose one area of focus for each posture, and explore it thoroughly, perhaps with a preparatory exercise. Choose positioning of the hands for this downdog, look at rotation of the biceps next time. And don’t forget the importance of silence from time to time. Although it’s tempting to fill that space with noise we must give people time to connect with their own minds.

Dare to use your hands (with permission of course!) Many of us are afraid to touch complete strangers, not knowing what the effects might be. Will we injure our students, or irritate them? Of course it is very important to proceed with caution when touching others, and always to ask permission before we do so. But helping adjust or assist a student in a posture, or simply placing your hands on another’s body for consolation or release of energy can be remarkably powerful. Give it a go with friends or family first; practice with other yoga teachers and explore how you would like to bring touch into your class. Start with simple things like gently laying your hands on someone’s back in child’s pose, and work towards more complex movements.

Do your personal practice separately. It might be tempting to do all of the yoga postures along with your students, but the likelihood is that you won’t be able to give them the personal attention that might benefit their practice. Speaking from wheel or shoulder stand is difficult to hear; so why not do your personal practice before students arrive? That way you will be warmed up and centred, ready to lead your class!

Get inspired with class planning. It is easy to get stuck in the same few routines taught in teacher training, and we can become stale and uninspired. Why not attend a whole range of different classes in your area and take notes afterwards? Think about the postures and variations that were particularly effective, good cues, and how the tone and atmosphere of the class were managed. You could try planning with more experienced teachers, who can suggest interesting variations and modifications, and help you ask why you are including each posture in your sequence. 

Did you enjoy this article? You might consider pursuing an internship opportunity with us where you can refine your technique, share, experiment and explore under the guidance of experienced teachers - contact us for more information! Check out our articles on3 things they didn’t tell you in your teacher training, and making it as a new teacher for further advice!

3 Things They Don’t Teach You at Yoga Teacher Training

By Chantal Houde

Yoga teacher training covers a LOT of ground. During my 200-hour intensive, we covered everything from ancient mythology to asana, assisting, philosophy, anatomy, business principles, pranayama, the environment, and everything in between. I felt prepared and excited to get out there and share all my new skills and knowledge with my future students. There were a few things, though, that still surprised me once I actually started teaching. These three big ones stick out in my mind.

1. Be prepared for the silence.

This was mentioned in passing at my training, mainly in a brief discussion on how to balance silence and noise in class and during meditations. I’m sure most aspiring yoga teachers (having taken numerous yoga classes themselves) would be aware of the fact that silence is often a big part of practice. But I still think it warrants a mention. A big mention, in fact—because there is such a big, big silence in some of the moments between instruction.

 

I became slightly overwhelmed.

 

I have always loved quiet, and I often seek it out, so I thought this would be a non-issue for me. But I found that the first few times I taught a class and the inevitable silent moments arose (whether planned or unplanned), I felt my presence being drawn away. I became slightly overwhelmed.

I learned that when you’re at the front of the class, you are the one holding the silence, so you had better be comfortable with it. It’s quite different from the silence you seek out, or the silence you sometimes find yourself in with your loved ones. It’s something you will grow used to over time as you teach more classes. I did, and I now enjoy those moments, but I also wish I had been better mentally prepared.

2. Preparing for classes is So. Much. Fun.

When I started my yoga teacher training, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to teach at all. I had been practicing yoga for about ten years and had never really had a burning desire to teach. I really just took the course to further my own practice and for personal development, which is a common motive for many trainees.

Looking back, I think it was inevitable that I was going to fall in love with teaching yoga. A big contributor to that inevitability was the fact that I found I really love preparing my classes. I heard the same from many of my equally surprised and delighted peers as we developed our very first yoga classes at the training, and it continues to be a major source of fun and growth for me. I love to plan my playlist, to work on balancing all of the elements of a class, to learn new asanas and assists in my own practice, and then to think about ways to bring those into the flow. Discovering and developing this outlet for creative energy brings pleasure, and satisfaction is, for many of us, an unexpected benefit of teaching. 

3. Be flexible in your teachings and be open to unconventional invitations.

As you start out in your teaching career, you may find some unconventional offers to teach coming your way. On the day we covered the business aspect of teaching in my training, we talked about the importance of creating our own opportunities by offering classes however and wherever we could—whether that meant leading outdoor classes at a local park, becoming a traveling yogi, or transforming our living rooms into tiny private studios. But what about when you are invited to teach in a style you’re not 100% familiar with? Or to teach a private meditation class to a student who has a specific, favorite type of meditation? I’d say go for it.

I had the opportunity to teach yoga to patients with limited physical and mental abilities in a hospital setting. They were to remain seated the whole time. I’d certainly heard of chair yoga, but had never even taken a class, let alone taught it in my three short months as a teacher. What did I do? I jumped at the chance. I watched all the online chair yoga videos I could, got a book from the library, practiced chair yoga at work, and did a mini-practice session with a friend. In short, I learned as much as possible and then created my own class, which was very well-received.

 

Don’t shy away from what you don’t know. If you have the time and motivation to learn it, you’ll most likely do well.

 

As you begin to teach, be as adaptable as you can. If you enjoy planning for classes as much as I do you’ll find these types of challenges to be great and expansive opportunities. You’ll also be more marketable as a yoga teacher because you’ll have a wider variety of teachable styles and will be able to cater to more students’ needs. Don’t shy away from what you don’t know. If you have the time and motivation to learn it, you’ll most likely do well.

Yoga teacher trainings are indispensable in the ways they prepare us to teach. But remember to keep looking out for new lessons after you’ve graduated. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from being a new yoga teacher, and I love that my practice and the sharing of it continue to bring so much growth and positivity into my life.

The article originally appeared at YogaInternational.com

 

Chantal is a yoga teacher, reiki practitioner and a current intern with Yoga Internships Colombia. She is passionate about helping people find and maintain a sense of well-being through Yoga and healthy lifestyle. She loves nature, travel and nourishing food. Follow her wanderings on her wellness travel blog, and on Instagram and Twitter.

How we can fail as Yoga teachers, and how to do better in 5 simple steps

It’s a familiar opening line in a yoga class - “I now invite you all to set an intention for today’s practice”, followed 60 to 90 minutes later with “now, return to your intention”. What came between? Perhaps for some disciplined and experienced practitioners it was the embodiment and deep exploration of their intention throughout the practice. Oh how wonderful if it were that easy to be a teacher! To somehow make our students’ practice something more than physical exercise with those magic words. As teachers we can get lazy with our classes. We miss opportunities to guide students through the subtleties and complexities of Yoga, to use the asana practice as a gateway to deeper teachings. We might choose to make our class theme ‘confidence’, ‘empowerment’ or ‘letting go’ - but do we really explore these themes as thoroughly as we could?

Let’s take the parallel of a language class. If I were to simply speak a phrase to you in a foreign language at the outset of class - how much are you likely to understand? Perhaps you recognise some of the words if you have some experience with that language. Perhaps if you are new, you understand absolutely nothing. Maybe I explain the meaning of the phrase to you, but if I then abandon the new words until the end of class (“and now let’s return to our phrase”) - how much will you have likely gained? Will you have assimilated the language? Will you have practiced it and understood it from a number of angles? In my experience as a language teacher, it is challenging to help students pick up new language. We have to be creative! Invent exercises, games, ways of exploring, playing with an idea, reflecting on it and then remembering it. Creativity is essential. 

So how can we apply this to a yoga class? It can be useful to ask yourself a number of questions:

  1. How can the concept or theme of the class be introduced?
  2. How can it be demonstrated thoroughly?
  3. How can it be explored / practiced the first time?
  4. How can it be integrated multiple times?
  5. How can it be reflected on or understood afterwards?

It is up to you to be creative with each concept you choose and find multiple opportunities for your students to explore and experiment. Different people will learn differently. Let’s take the example of introducing the ujjayi breath to students for the first time. When beginners come to this practice it is unrealistic to expect that they will learn the technique, understand it deeply, and then employ it throughout the whole class. Instead, I would approach the concept like this:

  1. Introducing the concept: Bring students attention to their breath. Why do we follow the breath as we practice? Perhaps ask for their ideas and give your own feedback. Introduce the word ‘ujjayi’, explain briefly its meaning and why we use this technique.
  2. How can it be demonstrated thoroughly? Get students to practice breathing out against their hand, as if fogging up a mirror. See if they can repeat the technique with the inhalation. Then, practice with the mouth closed. Explain that it should be loud enough so that each person can hear their own breathing, but not the breathing of others. Check if everyone has understood the technique and is able to perform it, allowing a moment for questions.
  3. How can it be explored / practiced the first time? Sitting cross legged, get students to close their eyes and while using the ujjayi breath, inhale their arms upwards, joining palms above their head before bringing the palms back to heart centre. Repeat the practice slowly for one minute, each student following their own rhythm. Then, get students to continue the movement of the arms with regular noiseless breathing for 30 seconds. Finally, return to moving with the ujjjayi breath again. Get students to open their eyes and ask for their reflection on how it felt to move with each style of breathing.
  4. How can it be integrated multiple times? Choose two or three simple flowing sequences where the movement is matched to the breath. Once the students have thoroughly learned each step in the sequence, get them to practice with the ujjayi breath. I have found it particularly useful to practice the sun salutations this way. Instead of giving instructions about the movements, simply say ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’. You can also get students to see what it’s like to use this technique in a static posture.
  5. How can it be reflected on or understood afterwards? By far the most effective way to teach a lesson is to get students to realise it for themselves. This is why it’s so useful to give time for reflection, and ask a series of guiding questions. Students don’t necessarily need to give answers, but simply reflect on their own experience. While in a meditative posture or shavasana, ask them how it felt to move with their breath. Ask them how ujjayi made a difference. Invite them to explore it further in their personal practice. 

This series of steps can be applied to any concept you want to integrate into your teaching. At our studio I have had the pleasure to work on some really amazing ideas with our intern teachers, which I have seen woven creatively into all stages of the practice. I remember a great class on the image of the lotus and the mantra ‘om mani padme hum’ - on compassion, love, wisdom and indivisibility. How can you be creative with your teaching?

If you have enjoyed this article, consider signing up to our monthly newsletter below, filled with tips for teaching, information about our internship program and useful articles for teachers. Or you might like to come and join us in Medellín, Colombia, to explore, experiment and share your teaching skills. Check out details of our course for more!

The journey to teaching Yoga in a second language: why it could be so important to your career.

I remember attending my first yoga class in a foreign language in Spain around 2011. At the back of a group of sweating students I followed a second or two behind, trying to cover the fact that I had absolutely no idea of what was going on. In shavasana I let the sounds of an alien tongue wash over me - an unexpectedly soothing experience where I paid attention to rhythms and melodies instead of worrying about the content. By the beginning of 2015 I was comfortably leading my own yoga classes in the very same language, guiding breathing exercises and talking about introspection and meditation. I would say that Spanish has been essential to my career as a yoga teacher and has taught me things about my practice that i would not have expected. Here's a little about my journey, and why I would absolutely recommend it to you as a yoga professional. 

Learning the language: perseverance

The best method to learn how to teach yoga in a foreign language is not to pick up a teach-yourself book, where you will probably find out how to buy a kilo of tomatoes, or complain about your broken bathroom sink - neither of which have helped me in a class so far. Better to find, if you can, a class in that language and follow it regularly. There are tons of materials both free and paid online, and it should not be difficult for you to find what you need. You will soon start to identify parts of the body, actions and movements and the particular way that language has of expressing certain ideas. It's important to understand that many things cannot be translated directly from one language to another. I remember a particularly confused group of Spanish students who were instructed by a well meaning American teacher to 'melt from the heart centre' - I'm sure they had literal visions of their chests dissolving in the middle of the posture. You may not understand half of the instructions in your first class, but keep going and it will all start to become more familiar. Eventually you will be comfortable with the most technical instructions, identifying easily such words as 'isquiones' (sit bones), 'isquiotibiales' (hamstrings) and 'empeines' (insteps). 

Teaching in a foreign language: keep it simple

After my Yoga teacher training, I was equally familiar with both English and Spanish, but I discovered that it was very challenging to lead class in a language that was not my own. Thinking of your asana sequence while you are trying to think of the correct phrasing is not easy. It's best to start with very familiar sequences and keep your instructions to a minimum. Leaving students sweating it out in revolved triangle while you recite a long list of commands is uncomfortable for everyone! And this is an important lesson for all yoga teachers even in their native language. Do we really need to talk as much as we do? Are we giving instructions because we really need to, or are we just reciting a list of commands because they are familiar? Are our students really listening to and understanding what we are saying? Could we simplify our instructions for better understanding? If necessary, demonstrate the asana physically with a couple of key commands - you won't have any difficulty. Use the pattern of verb + noun for simplicity: 'subimos brazos' - let's lift our arms. Demonstrate corrections wile standing by the side of the student instead of tying yourself up linguistically. 

So why has teaching yoga in Spanish been so important? Opportunities! 

It is estimated that over 400 million people in the world speak Spanish as a native language, putting it second behind Mandarin and ahead of English in the rankings. It can be a huge competitive advantage to be able to work bilingually. Not only can you cater to the Spanish speaking population in your own country, but you can travel and work in Latin America, where yoga is just beginning to explode, or in Spain - a wildly popular yoga-tourism destination, with many well-established studios. After my teacher training I travelled to Colombia, and found it easy to start teaching both to the Spanish and English speaking communities there. Yoga is still relatively new in South America, and you might find it far easier to create opportunities for yourself there than back home where there are already so many established teachers. Who doesn't like the idea of travelling to beautiful and exotic locations to share their craft? 

Has this article been useful to you? You might like to consider our 'teaching Yoga in Spanish' language course in Colombia, where we cover everything from simple commands to more complex sequences in a two - week period. Click here for more information about our next course. Or sign up to our newsletter below to receive more articles for yoga teachers:

Yoga Internship Program, Medellín, Colombia, South America - teach and work in a yoga studio - Spanish language

Why you should be doing more to reach Yoga students online and how to do it!

It's no secret that there has been a huge shift to providing services electronically: everything from medical advice and meditation to guitar practice and language lessons seem to have their own app. Yoga has often had an uncomfortable relationship with new technology, with many fearing that  there is a hidden commercial interest, or that only the most superficial elements tend to get attention. It's true that sensationalist articles tend to grab surfers' ever more limited span of attention. But it doesn't need to be that way. 

Why should I reach out to students online?

Let's start by asking ourselves a question: how much do you really manage to communicate to your students during a 60-90 minutes yoga class? No doubt you can cover a short piece of yoga philosophy, a pranayama practice or two, and a range of yoga asanas. Perhaps students switch off for a brief moment, and leave content that they have achieved a little relaxation. Could you be doing more? Is there an alternative medium that works better?

Many students don't have the opportunity to attend class more than once or twice a week because of time constraints or limited finances. They may have a home practice, and here is where you can reach them online. You have much more opportunity to spread a complete message of yoga that encapsulates your own particular vision of the practice. Through video and music, writing and photography you can inspire, inform and educate, building a strong following who will use your online material to complement their practice in the studio. 

So how can I get started?

  1. Record some yoga sequences: get your camera / GoPro or phone out and record a few 10-30 minute classes for different purposes: waking up / evening relaxation / lower back pain etc. Record the audio separately on your computer or phone and add it to the video. You can edit easily in Windows... And compress the file with Handbrake. Facebook greatly rewards video at the moment and you are guaranteed to reach a large number of people. YouTube is an obvious and easy place to host your video; put a link on your website or blog. I have been amazed by the number of people who have followed my video classes at home ("you'll never guess who i did yoga with last night "). It is especially helpful to beginner students who are not confident enough to design their own sequences yet.
  2. Write informative articles: you might consider anatomy and protecting the body, yoga therapy, philosophy and lifestyle, poses, sequencing, travel and links to helpful resources. It might be the opportunity you need to get beyond the superficial elements of practice and explore yogic ideas in more depth. For instance, you could introduce the yamas and niyamas and  look at how students could apply them in their own lives off the mat. All too often yoga magazines focus on the superficial: puff pieces with yoga celebrities, how to reduce body fat and the latest trends in "yoga fashion". This is your chance to provide something refreshingly different. 
  3. Attract and inspire with photography: this works particularly well with tasty food. I've often caught myself watching sped up videos of food preparation and ogling the inventive creative inventions of my yoga friends. It's all to easy to get trapped into eating the same thing over and over, so your photo/video could be what is needed to inspire a healthier lifestyle. Instagram and Pinterest are obvious places to share your own material and the creations of others. Photos of yoga poses can be great for inspiring and communicating some of the beauty of the human form in movement. But beware of intimidating beginners with pictures of very advanced asanas. A regular comment I get (especially from men) is "I could never do yoga, I'm not flexible enough". Ask yourself what your intention is with the photo and what its effect is likely to be.
  4. Apps, podcasts and more: I am a huge fan of some of the high quality material that others have put  online, and use it for guidance on my own path. If you haven't already done so, I recommend taking a look at the Headspace meditation app and consider recommending it to beginner students and more experience meditators alike. Some of us just need a little encouragement to sit down and  do our practice regularly. The dharma talks from the Insight Meditation Centre in California are an excellent source of inspiration and information about mindfulness practice in the modern world. They also have regular guided mindfulness meditations. See their Audiodharma podcast for more. 

In the end your online presence is limited only by your creativity. From mood-boards and infographics to Instagram gifs and vines, you only need to think about who you can reach and how it will help you communicate your particular message. If you have enjoyed this article you might consider signing up to our newsletter below, or even thinking about one of our internships, where we cover everything from online presence to class sequencing, vision and philosophy. Contact us for more information

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5 ways to use Facebook as a yoga teacher to generate community, followers and work

Ever noticed how Facebook is becoming ever more versatile? From video, apps, games and mailing lists to geographically targeted events and promotion, it can offer you a lot of tools as a yoga teacher. But how can you use it in a meaningful way that both grows and inspires your community and creates work opportunities? Here are 5 areas you should think about to get you started.

Teach. You can reach a huge number of students, both in your hometown and internationally by putting your teachings online. Video is massively popular on Facebook at the moment, and is guaranteed to reach a large number of people. Why don't you record some free classes and share them with your students on your fanpage? You could also include meditations, guided relaxation and healthy recipes in the mix. 

Engage. Gone are the days when Facebook was simply a way to publish your own status updates. The key now is to get people interacting. How can you encourage your own students to engage on your page? Discussions about topics from previous or future classes, yogic diet, asanas and philosophy? Or perhaps encourage them to publish their own content, such as pictures and inspirational stories.

Inspire: I don't know about you, but my Facebook feed is full of inspirational messages from yoga teachers, who want to share both their own wisdom and the wisdom of renowned teachers. A hopeful message can really change someone's day and provides relief from the violent headlines, celebrity gossip and commercial promotions that can often fill people's feeds. Plus, publish photos with care. Inspire with healthy food and pictures of positive group gatherings. The yoga selfie can be aspirational to some students, but intimidating or off putting to others.

Share: Why not publish useful articles and beautiful photos from other teachers on your wall? Help them share their events and perhaps they will help you do the same. You can start building a wider network of relationships with teachers and studios across the country and world. 

Promote: often the only thing we do as teachers is share the information about our classes and workshops. This is fine, as long as it's not the sole focus of your page, as people are unlikely to visit it regularly if they feel it's only to do with promotion. There are some powerful advertising tools now that can share your events on the walls of all of your followers and their friends, or target a specific geographical location. It shouldn't be too costly either. 

Were these tips helpful? Why not sign up to our mailing list to receive a monthly newsletter, with collections of articles for yoga teachers? Or consider our Yoga Internship course, where we give you time and space to teach, experiment, explore and share. The course includes further education modules where we look at online yoga in detail. Contact us here for more information!

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What they don't tell you about yoga teacher trainings and finding work afterwards

It's a romantic dream that has made its way into numerous books and movies - to leave the weary world of commuting, office work and the daily grind - and dedicate yourself to your passion, preferably coupled with adventure, self discovery and exotic locations. Many undoubtedly have this vision in mind when they sign up to do their first yoga teacher training - I know that I had images of myself in my own luxury yoga studio in a tropical landscape. And let me say that I would absolutely encourage you to go ahead and carefully pick a teacher training that will help you discover a great deal about yourself and the rich diversity and history of yoga. It's a good thing to take time out for self development and connect with the world on a deeper level. But will you be ready to teach at the end? Hmmmm...

There are some things that they don't tell you about the 200-hour trainings that you should really know. First, let's look at the time frame: you will have 4 weeks to cover and  absorb philosophy, anatomy, asana workshops, Kriya practices, study of the ancient texts, class sequencing and management and whatever else the organizers decide to include. This means that relatively little time is dedicated to each component and even less is given for exploration and experimentation. I would argue that it is only by playing with an idea yourself that you really internalize it. 

Take teaching practice as an example. In some trainings you spend as little as 5-10 hours actually teaching another person. Let's take a look at the Yoga Alliance's requirements for the 'practicum' element of training:

10 hours

- Practice teaching as the lead instructor (does not include assisting, observing or giving feedback)*

-Receiving and giving feedback

-Observing others teaching

-Assisting students while someone else is teaching

*Each trainee must spend a minimum of 5 Contact Hours of practice teaching as the lead instructor. These hours may include the time during which the trainee is receiving feedback on his/her teaching. Time spent assisting, observing others teaching, or giving feedback to others is excluded from these hours.

(See here for the original document.)

Ask yourself a quick question - how much confidence are you likely to gain after a whole 5 hours teaching? What's more is that you will probably be teaching one on one with another trainee who is familiar with yoga practices. This does not translate to being in front of a class of 20 beginners - a situation in which you might find yourself in real life. 

According to one trainee, only 5 people out of the 30 in her teacher training are actually teaching six months later. Some have taken up to 4 separate trainings and still do not have the confidence to lead a class. 

So what's the answer? It's important to recognize that yoga teacher trainings are a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the rich history and philosophy of yoga, and to develop your personal practice. But don't expect to come out ready to teach. You will need to look for other opportunities to get out there and lead classes - take a look at our article on how to get started as a new yoga teacher. 

Or, if you are interested in an internship that gives you plenty of space to explore, experiment and share under the guidance of experienced teachers, why not check out out internship program. We provide a month living and working in two yoga studios, coupled with further education. It could be the chance you need to find your confidence teaching. 

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