Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I have been a knittin'

I’ve been a Knittin’
Yes, it’s true. I have been a knittin’ and a stitchin’... a knittin’ a stitchin and a cinchin’. For two straight weeks this yogi has been fabricating and corset-ing my body in Stott Pilates Intensive Mat teacher training, using my rectus, obliques and TVA’s (and many more muscles). Pilates is better known for toning and beautifying the body, but the real benefit is the rehabilitating, strengthening, and mobilizing of the spine, pelvis, and shoulders.
It’s tough implementing the five basic principles of Stott Pilates! Most people do not understand what the true “neutral spine” is, so they often over-exaggerate the natural curve of the spine on the mat and place the lumbar spine in a precarious position. Additionally, most people do not understand the “imprint” position of the pelvic tilt- to keep the pubis slightly higher than the ASIS joints. Instead, a student may plant their entire back into the mat instead, which is a counter-productive position. Using core muscles to hold these two pelvic positions is a hardworking foundation; and you haven’t even added an exercise yet!
Although it sounds like this part of the teacher training took my breath away, it was instead the Anatomy requirements that caused the heavy labored sigh. During the six month training program, trainees have an Anatomy component that is 50% of the final exam. The other 50% of the certification is a practical where the trainee does a postural analysis on a ‘student,’ discussing health concerns and goals, then teaches this ‘student’ a class that will address their postural and joint deficiencies; all of this happens right on the spot! You have to pass both the written and the practical exam to become a Stott certified teacher. The depth of Anatomy proficiency in this program falls in line with an ACE personal trainer certification exam and somewhat near the ACSM personal trainer certification. It’s tough stuff! How do I know? I investigated the ACE program and still have the hundreds of study flashcards; I also reviewed one of the ACSM manuals… wow, I mean, wow. As you might guess, the inevitable question arose: how does this Pilates training compare to my 200-RYT program?
 This blog ties into a fabulous blog posted by @Teachasana on July 22, 2011 titled “What should I look for in a teacher training program?” In that article, Yoga Alliance Affiliated RYT programs and Non-Yoga RYT programs were discussed and the point was well made. Even YA certified programs do not provide an equal training experience. Each YTT may ‘present’ the required material, One YTT may give you a few cookies on the particular subject (Chakras, for example), while another YTT hands you an entire cookie jar’s worth of Chakra study- asking you to create a 30 minute guided mediation using the Chakras as your focus in order to complete that module of study. I have witnessed these inequalities when taking advanced teacher training workshops. While completing a Yin Yoga teacher training last winter, the learning curves from approximately 10 different YTT’s were reflected in the kinds of asana and anatomy questions that were asked...and the expressions on some of the participant’s faces. There is no judging whatsoever going on here because I have sat on that mat before and I remember the feeling, I’m just expressing my understanding that there are swings in the content of teacher training programs. It would be quite difficult for a YTT program to be able to give trainees all that they desire, given other variable such as  price, geographic location, and duration of class time. That being said, I’m old school and I feel that trainees should not come out of their programs feeling disadvantaged or unprepared, especially in the areas of asana or anatomy, you are working with people’s bodies!
You are correct if you conclude that I am of the opinion that my YTT did not meet the ‘inquiring minds want to know’ disposition of my own brain!  Disappointed? A little, but seriously, no hard feelings exist- remember this is my opinion. I have a sleuthing, CSI type of mind and have already received additional anatomy training through the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas, where I received a group fitness leadership certification. Every yoga teacher or potential yoga teacher is different and so is their intention and focus. You have to be honest with your intent so you can find a welcoming home in your teacher training program. Me? I want to bring students to equanimity and, in my mind, knowing the body and the brain on a more intimate level may help me on that path.
While tossing this thought around, a couple of my own teacher training questions came to mind. Will this teacher training:
Assist your students in functional fitness?
Yes, so many of us love Vinyasa, but it isn’t the end all of yoga-and many can’t keep up with the flow.  Who are you planning on teaching? Would an Iyengar or Hatha teacher training be a better fit to the audience you may be teaching, one that focuses more on alignment and deep holds of postures?
Assist your students in an emotional perspective?
If you already know that you may be working with a significant number of students who are in counseling, recovery, or chronically ill, the YTT that enlists therapist and counselors and allows significant focus on meditation, journaling, pranayama and mindfulness may be the YTT for you.
Another idea is to review the required and recommended reading list for your potential YTT. The book list may help you determine if it is a balanced training program.  A fellow teacher acquaintance confided in me that her required reading list was “Light on Yoga” and “The Power of Now”, that’s it...you have to decide if that is enough for you. The education doesn’t stop when you receive that certificate. After you have graduated, you will have to complete continuing education courses to remain in good standing.  Several of my fellow teacher peers have been branching out in their CE studies to enhance their mind/body awareness through classes and workshops like Tai Chi, Qigong, belly dancing, Sanskrit study, Pilates, Ayurveda, and even college Anatomy. They all sound pretty fascinating to me, especially the belly dancing!  
Enjoy the anatomy image, this blog is starting to cut into my study time… back to knittin’ and the books!


  1. Wow I didn't know you were going thru Stott. Go you!

    I agree, not all YTT are created equal. But at the same time, it's up to us teachers to continue to learn from as many different teachers as we can to soak up as much knowledge as we can.

    So, when do I get to take pilates lessons from you?

  2. You are spot on, it is your own responsibility to address deficiencies in training and improve upon them; and like you said, seeking a larger, more experienced base to mentor from, (I think Cora Wen coined the term "Yoga Crone".) Did you work out that studio space deal? If you deal did, I am gonna chat with you about teaching some community classes for my training requirment, ok?