[NOTE: This is the second in an ongoing series of articles exploring the rich culture of Yoga Tree, and highlighting the work of some great yoga teachers. This piece focuses on the strength of the Yoga Tree YTT, and in particular why it is of such benefit to international yoga teaching trainees. – Richard Power]
“Should I take Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)? Where should I take it? When should I take it? Should I take it in six months or thirty days?” These are momentous decisions, especially for someone traveling from half way across the planet, which is something an increasing number of yoga teacher trainees are doing. As a recent graduate of Yoga Tree’s 200 Hour YTT program, currently working toward my 500 Hour YTT certification, I want to offer you four big reasons why journeying to Yoga Tree should be a factor in how you answer these questions for yourself.
Big Reason #1: Transformative
At the beginning of your YTT, you will no doubt hear the same overarching reasons for why your fellow trainees have taken the plunge; it will either be something like “I am hoping to teach yoga professionally” or some variation or another of “I just want to deepen my personal practice.”
But by the end of your YTT, you will no doubt hear some of those who thought they were simply getting a certification to help them in the job market, talking about how profoundly the training has influenced their personal relationship to yoga; and you will also hear some of those who initially said they were doing it just to do deepen their personal practice, saying something like “I really love this, and I can embody this, and I do want to pursue a career in yoga.”
Bottom line? Just as the practice of yoga itself is transformative, taking the plunge into the Yoga Tree YTT is also transformative. Your relationship to all of your bodies (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), will change in meaningful ways, and you might well find that, by extension, your relationships and your circumstances also change in meaningful ways.
Big Reason #2: Richness of Experience, Diversity of Styles
Two of the four big reasons I encourage you to take the plunge into the YTT program here with Yoga Tree (especially if you are journeying from afar) relate to Yoga Tree’s unique culture. The first of these two cultural reasons has to do with the richness of experience and diversity of styles embodied in Yoga Tree’s YTT faculty. This is perhaps the most powerful selling point of this program.
You aren’t simply going to learn Anatomy or Alignment or Assists or Sequencing, you are going to learn each from a different teacher, and each one of them is going teach from their own extensive experience, and offer their own invaluable insights in their own inimitable style; e.g., during the 200 Hour YTT that I participated in we learned Anatomy from Harvey Deutch, Alignment from Dina Amsterdam, Sequencing from Pete Guinoso, Assists from Chrisandra Fox Walker, the Business of Yoga from Darren Main, etc. The richness of such diversity offers you the opportunity to pocket some rare gems from that aggregated wealth of experience, and also take away a taste of each one of those inimitable styles, but perhaps most important of all, it forces you to find your own voice and develop your own style, rather than to simply learn and parrot some system by rote.
There is a profound difference between learning Anatomy and learning Anatomy from a teacher like Harvey Deutch, a world-class Physical Therapist (P.T.) with four of his own clinics in the Bay Area. Deutch’s extensive background in Anatomy is further informed by a deep inside-out knowledge of yoga, both from his own mat, and from leading his own yoga classes. It’s not “tuck your tail bone in,” according to Harvey, it’s “imprint your sacrum.” Likewise, there is a difference between simply learning Assists and learning Assists from a teacher like Chrisandra Fox Walker. With Chrisandra, we not only learned multiple assists (hands-on) for each asana across a broad spectrum, we were also ushered into the inner sanctum of the temple, to learn the energetic principles that separate a mechanical assist from a magical assist. “You’ve got to become an alchemist,” Chrisandra explained.
To be exposed to one such teacher, or two such teachers, for the course of a few weeks or a few months is a wonderful opportunity, but to be exposed to five or six such teachers over the course of a few weeks or a few months, as you are in the Yoga Tree YTT, offers you a definitive edge as you enter your yoga career.
Big Reason #3: Beauteous, Sacred Spaces
The second reason that relates to the culture of Yoga Tree has to do with space; yes, the space in which you unroll your yoga mat, the space in which you unwrap your being. There are Yoga Tree studios throughout San Francisco, from the Mission to the Castro, from Hayes Valley to the Sunset, and there is also a Yoga Tree in the East Bay (Berkeley) and in Marin (Corte Madre). This translates into a tangible edge in your pursuit of certification. It means that wherever you are in your demanding day, or your demanding life, you can practice with worthy instructors morning, noon and night.
But the Yoga Tree space also offers you another edge, one that is just as unmistakable although somewhat intangible. It offers you an atmosphere of beauty, and sacredness; and this sacred, beauteous atmosphere is consistently delivered throughout the network of the studios. Whether you are practicing in candlelight before the Ganesha mural in the Valencia Street studio, or the Krishna mural in the Hayes Street studio, or the Taoist cloud mountain range mural in the Collingsworth St. studio, or in any of the other studios within the Yoga Tree realm, there is an ineffable, but sustained atmosphere of sacredness and beauty. And this beauteous, sacred atmosphere will not only serve you in the deepening of your own practice, but empower you in your journey to certification as a yoga teacher.
Big Reason #4: The Cauldron’s Brew
Those who travel from other regions of the U.S.A., or from other regions of the world to take their YTT at Yoga Tree, have the opportunity to spend some memorable time in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The San Francisco Bay Area, in particular, and Northern California, in general, contribute significantly to the shaping of arts, technology and finance on a planetary scale. Not only is Northern California at the frontiers of human expression and enterprise, it is also offers the greatness of Gaia herself, from Yosemite to Big Sur, from Mendocino to Death Valley, and more, all within a few hours drive.
But there is another dimension to taking your YTT here in San Francisco, and that is an historical one. From time to time across the millennia, there have been certain places that served as the crossroads of many traditions, and a cauldron from which new evolutionary impulses are poured forth. For example, centuries ago, Kashmir was such a place, and the medicine that flowed from that cauldron infused and enriched all of the traditions it touched. For the last fifty years, in Northern California, the great currents of Yoga, Buddha Dharma, Sufism, Taoism, western psychology, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and more, have been flowing into this cauldron, and dynamic new brews are being poured forth.
And in no realm is the seething potency of this cauldron more evident than in Yoga, which is evolving into a global movement, offering numerous richly diverse systems, and a clear path of physical, psychological and spiritual growth. If you come here for your YTT, you have the opportunity to participate consciously, and directly, in the shaping of powerful visions of the future, rooted in the realities of practice in the present.
In the June-July 2012 YTT, there were numerous participants, among us, who had travelled from afar, to get their certification there certification at Yoga Tree. Here are personal perspectives from just two of them.
“For me, it was a great opportunity to participate in a month long intensive YTT far away from my everyday routine. Being away from home allowed me to approach the training with a lot of open-mindedness and curiosity, just as we approach everything else when travelling,” said Amanda Schou-Lorentzen who came from Denmark to study with us.
“Of course the challenge then was to reintegrate everything I learned into my life back home,” Amanda continued, “But I was kind of lucky; I did not have an old routine to go back to. I stayed on in San Francisco for a couple of months and I didn’t have a job or a home to go back to. So, in many ways, the teacher training became the starting point of something new. Now I work in a small coffee shop that I love, and I teach between 5 and 10 hours a week. Getting back to Copenhagen and starting to teach here I also realized what a great thing it is to be really comfortable teaching in English. It feels good to be able to offer students to teach in whatever language works better for them.”
“My YTT was such an intensive experience, four weeks of rebooting my brain and soul,” said another European friend from the June-July 2012 YTT, who chooses to remain anonymous, “Amazing, wonderful people, the pleasure of working and learning, a beautiful spirit in the city, and the vibes of an easy, blissful life.”
Summing it up magnificently, this trainee added, “Do it, feel it, enjoy it.”
Yes, do it, feel it, enjoy it. Create your own future, and in the process, co-create our collective future.
“Be the change,” Gandhi declared, “that you want to see in the world.”
Richard Power is the author of eight books, including Humanifesto: A Guide to Primal Reality in An Age of Global Peril, and blogs on 21st Century spirituality at http://primalwordsofpower.blogspot.com. He is also a graduate of the Yoga Tree 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, and currently studying in the Advanced 500 Hour Certification program.