Becoming a yoga teacher blog 2 – by Jakki Magowan
Yoga Teacher Training at Falmouth Yoga School
“Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics”.
Yogasanas, Hints and Cautions for the Practice of Asanas, Light on Yoga, B.K.S Iyengar
So, hands up. This was me. Loving being upside down in yoga classes, cracking out drunken yoga poses in the garden at parties (not recommended), and being seething jealous of anyone able to do scorpion pose in a cropped yoga top.
Did these shallow needs drive me to apply for the Level 1 Teacher Training course at Falmouth Yoga School (FYS)? I’d like to say they weren’t but, back then, I’m afraid I think they were. If Alexandra Potter wrote a novel about a forty-something yogini, I’d be the prime protagonist.
I am self-deprecating, insecure, driven by my ego at times, and scared of what other people think so how the hell was I going to succeed at being a yoga teacher? Little did I know this course would help me unearth the truth about why I turned up and began a teacher’s journey.
The Yamas (moral restraints) and Niyamas (personal observances) are taught at length in the FYS course along with the other six limbs of Ashtanga yoga. Unlike some courses I’ve seen advertised online, the FYS course also covers (as much as it can) the history of yoga and its philosophy. This is an immense and important topic as it provides contexts that underpin every part of your learning and, as a graduate, I use this knowledge daily to inform and theme my classes.
Through experience, I’ve discovered that students really connect with this area of yogic practice using themes. Before this course, I’d been to very few classes (and I’ve been to a lot) that included them or self-guidance using ancient texts which is a great shame, as this is what helps bring your soul to the mat. It offers students the opportunity to tap into their consciousness and link their minds to their bodies, the people in the room and the world beyond.
You may have had a different experience from me and be familiar with themes. Either way, the FYS course is great at introducing this skill and helping you build your ideas and confidence. I now know how it can help transform your teaching by connecting the physical to the ethereal or to everyday problems and solutions. There is something magical about this. To give space and time to a room full of students for myriad explorations.
Yoga Texts & Tuition
Sanskrit is an integral (but not major) part of the teacher training course which, it turns out, is not that scary. In fact, learning parts of this new language has opened new doors for me. The course congruously features project work on ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ which is made brilliantly accessible (in my purchased version of the texts) by Sri Swami Satchidananda through his translation and commentary.
You might have more experience and knowledge of yoga than I had at the start of the course but if the ancient texts are also something new to you, this book is a guiding light. I loved studying it, and since then I have re-read it over and over. As a practicing yoga teacher, I now use it for class themes and to rebalance my thought processes and actions in everyday life.
This is direct thanks to the quality of teacher training at the Falmouth Yoga School. If you take part, you can expect a rich and deep mix of teaching styles and reading materials that are worth studying way beyond the timeline of the course from numerous classic and cultural texts to excellent book recommendations on anatomy (and more).
The brilliant teaching team has profound, and readily accessible knowledge about yoga yet they’re not expecting academic essay submissions. Essay writing is required but it’s your approach, depth of research, understanding and application of the subject that matters most. The course is intense, fun, all-consuming, exhausting yet exhilarating. Be prepared to face yourself and find it challenging.
Yoga Asanas and sequencing arcs
Having decided to teach yoga you will likely know that Asanas play only a small part in the magnificence of yoga; however, in the West, much significance is placed on the physical aspects of yogic practice.
As a key component, the FYS course covers yoga’s fundamental poses including sun salutations, alignment and sequencing and, I’m not going to lie, this is a tough part of the course. The physical exam is nerve-wracking. However, the support and tuition you receive to get you where you need to be is super encouraging while remaining meticulous.
Sequencing can be a toughie as you attempt to pour all you have learned into a one-hour class, which is no mean feat. However, the teaching team rolls this out in stages so you’re not too overwhelmed.
It’s a bit like learning to drive; using your mirrors (theme) for reflection and focusing your vision, mastering your gears to move safely toward your destination (asana alignment), familiarising yourself with the clutch (breath) to allow the space needed for thought and manoeuvres, and steering, as you navigate through your sequence. You fold the narrative you chose at the start using intentional language right through into Savasana. There’s a lot going on!
This is an over-simplistic analogy, but hopefully it gives some indication of the many intricacies and considerations required to run a class. As a graduate, you will have bossed this thanks to the teaching team’s guidance, patience and tenacity. They are bright north stars.
Personally, I love anatomy as a subject. But I think you either love the way our bodies are put together and to discover more about how they work or you don’t. Compared with philosophy, you may view this as a drier and perhaps more difficult topic. It’s perhaps a Marmite thing. Either way, it’s a vital part of the course not only in terms of ensuring you teach yoga safely but also providing you with a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection. Pranayama (breath work) and alignment are covered here along with fascinating topics including energy (chi), cueing, all the major body systems, restorative practice and so much more.
Amanda Brown teaches this part of the course and runs a brilliant biodynamic yoga class that features the knowledge you need to pass the final exam. I mention this because it’s a great way to understand perhaps more abstract concepts, such as Sthira (steadiness) and Sukha (ease), in an experiential setting. I’d never attended a biodynamic class before and found them creative, contemplative, revelatory and fun. You discover movement through a whole new lens.
People are amazing, I have an undying fascination with them. They are the lifeblood of yoga, and the amazing thing about teaching is you get to connect with people on a deeper level. This includes your fellow teacher-training students who will highly likely be an amazing bunch of people. Supportive, empathetic, curious and fun-loving, some become lifelong friends, thanks to the safe and inclusive space created by Keren and the team at FYS.
I loved this sense of community on the course and, upon graduating, it felt super special to go out into the world and create a community of my own – it isn’t ‘mine’ of course, but the sense of bringing people together with shared interests can bring about some pretty magical moments.
Mantra and Meditation
Before undertaking this training I’d dabbled with meditation. However, I knew nothing about mantras, which are sound affirmations that can be used as an introduction to meditation. Mantra is covered in the YFS course and, honestly, it’s not for everyone. I think it either speaks directly to you or you find no connection. Everyone is different, and that is fine.
Essentially, mantras can be a tool for self-reflection and an effective aid toward changing bad or creating good habits, or challenging false beliefs that do not serve you. Their purpose is by your design.
Personally, this part of the course was life-changing and I will practice mantras for the rest of my life. I found they gave me a backbone in situations that previously felt overwhelming, they kept my ego in check and helped dissipate fear or rejection. In life, I grasped nettles I may have previously avoided. I found my divinity, in glimpses, but now know how to continue the pursuit.
This introduction, to a deeper level of introspection through mantra helped me feel connected in a new way which was a fantastic part of the course. To move this forward in my personal life and introduce it professionally to students in a studio setting has been nothing short of wonderful. I now feel truly privileged to have the tools to help guide others exploring their own yogic path towards a more balanced and perhaps therefore, peaceful life.
Shut the Front Door
So it turns out, there were many more reasons why I joined the FYS course than I realised. It wasn’t to do cool backbends in Lycra. It wasn’t only to learn how to teach either. It was about taking on a challenge that would serve me for the rest of my life and it was to build self-belief but, more importantly, it was to be a part of something bigger than myself and to start paying forward the kindness and compassion that is abundant in yoga.
Without a doubt, I am a stronger, more confident, knowledgeable graduate thanks to the extraordinary experience while teacher training at FYS amongst extraordinary people, both teachers and fellow students.
There is a ton of other stuff you get to learn on this course that I’ve not touched upon in this article, I’ve focused on the areas that made an indelible impression on me. For this reason, and so many others, I wholeheartedly recommend you find out more about the course if you’re interested in starting your yoga teacher training journey with Keren and the team.
Your life, practice, teaching ability and understanding of yoga will exponentially flourish. You’ll meet and befriend some incredible souls. You will meet your true self.