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Sitting down on the job

Last weekend, I taught a huge chair yoga therapy workshop at ReFlex. Teacher’s training has become a significant focus for my business. Helping teachers understand & organize material, enhance their communication skills, and get a broader scope of their profession  seems to be my gift. I love the work – love guiding intelligent, passionate adults who expand the envelop and strive to learn new things. I love the subject of yoga and spending a weekend totally immersed in education & movement and laughter. I love the intimate connection and friendships I form with these holistic, warm-hearted people – the jokes, taking tea breaks, the questions and the way everyone offers insight and provoking thought as they share their experiences. Students seem to be extremely happy with my courses and my reputation as a teacher’s teacher is growing. It’s fair to say that this has become my niche in regards to yoga and my role as a director of a dance and yoga studio. I’m working now to add additional programs – in both dance teacher’s training and yoga training. Most importantly, I feel passionate about the subjects, I enjoy the work, and I feel I’m contributing in a major way to others. This is what one calls, “right livelihood.” It feels good on every level.

I’ve taught 3 Registered yoga teacher 200 hour programs so far, and trained over 45 yoga teachers just in this first year. I’ve taught 5 aerial yoga workshops and certified over 100 yoga teachers in this new technique at the same time. And now… I’ve moved on to include chair yoga certification. Last weekend was my first 20 hour course and I had 26 people attend. 

I tend to put come up with ideas for training far in advance. I do the marketing, and get my personal certification, training and experience necessary to be well versed in the subject, but I don’t always have time to plan exactly what I want to do in my course that differs from what I’ve been exposed to. Then, I wake up one day and think – heck, I have a bunch of teachers enrolled for a course in 10 days and don’t have notes or a syllabus or a plan or …..  shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
And I hustle and pour myself into the subject and because I feel inadequately prepared, I over-prepare and before you know it, I’ve covered the subject well beyond what others might bother to do. I always give ten times more than necessary – but that feels right and true to me. It’s kinda my dharma to give wholely as a teacher and to prod and poke a subject to explore the nooks and crannies of the material that others might overlook.  I sit down with coffee and a notepad and write everything I needed to know to become a dynamic,confident and well-versed teacher of the subject. I list everything I felt is/was missing from my training or education to get there. Then I set about figuring out how to fill in the blanks so my students don’t have to struggle to figure it out the hard way or through mistakes, and so they never walk away feeling the course was not worth the investment of time or money. 

In the case of chair yoga, I took a course a year ago in Orlando for certification. I was gravely disappointed because we didn’t really learn anything more than a few obvious poses and easy stretches. I hated that I spent so much and took precious time away from my life to attend a course that gave me nothing more than a piece of paper allowing me to teach chair yoga officially. We never discussed chairs or the common health issues that would cause a person to be chair bound or anything else pertinent to the special population that is drawn to this kind of class. I spent the weekend feeling like the instructor was just trying to fill time with anything to keep us busy – she reviewed basic yoga philosophy and talked about chakras as if we never heard of them, but we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know as trained yoga teachers. I  thought, Man, if I taught this course, I’d add all kinds of anatomy & physiology about sitting, and I’d discuss the mindset of people with limitations. I’d explore chairs and all the different kinds of chairs people might be in when taking a chair yoga class. I’d divide the subject into three levels – level one for the severely impaired or elderly, level two for people who need a chair just because of wrist issues or a knee or hip replacement that makes it hard for them to get to the mat, and I’d spend a brief time on level three using a chair to show what you can do for an advanced practice (and cover Iyengar theory material.) 

A year later, I found myself planning to teach the course – and I chose to do it my way. I started doing research, writing notes and I created a course that included all I wished I had been taught when I took the certification. Two nights before the class I had David meet me at the studio to take last minute pictures of poses I wanted to cover – it was just easier than writing a description of each and every pose. I didn’t have make-up on, my hair wasn’t up, and I wasn’t dressed as I might have been had I planned for pictures , but for all practical purposes, it was just what I needed to finish my notes. We even took pictures in a wheelchair…
(I’ll take better pictures when I turn this into an official book or notes – and I’ll lose 5 pounds first – eeek, I’m getting old!) I came up with an easy to follow set of notes and the session turned out everything I imagined and more. Cool!

(David was like – why do I have to be the old fart in the wheelchair!)

I purchased a wheelchair on craigslist the week before, and had the teachers explore the limitations of that seat. Whoever used the wheelchair in practices could not get up – which was a great stretch for both the student and the teacher’s working in a teaching practium (practicing teaching) as well. I dragged in office chairs and chairs with arms, and had 26 folding chairs, including 8 chairs with the back removed (Iyengar chairs) for the traditional chair yoga practice. I assigned David the anatomy portion of the class, and he did his usual remarkable research to prepare a two hour lecture on ailments and limitations of aging bodies on day on
e, and he gave a very involved pranayama lecture and practice (breathwork) on day two. I had the students watched a video on yoga therapy that I believed would help the teachers consider the body/mind connection and increase awareness of the average chair yoga student’s mental state and the special complications and challenges of teaching yoga to handicapped, elderly, or physically challanged people. We discussed pain management and stress and how to help students handle that as well. All told, it was a hugely successful weekend. I look forward to teaching a chair workshop again next summer, if not before then. 

So, what’s next? I’m going to get pre-natal yoga certified in an 85 hour course in San Francisco this fall. I will carve our 8 days even though that will be hard on many levels, to take a trip to get this accomplished in the most practical way. I will be alone in San Francisco (a place I love) for 8 long days, but I will use my down time to write or draw in my room – to reflect and get some much needed peace and quiet. I will come home with more skills to share with my customers and students. I’ll layer this subject into my upcoming RYT 500 course (Something I’m offering next fall that is taking me a year to prepare for) and as a special 85 hour training course. At the same time, I’m enrolled in a year long ayurveda course in California to become an ayurveda counselor starting this september (and in year two I’ll take the advanced practioner course if I love what I’m learning). I’m jumping into this wholistic medical approach to the mind/body connection because I’m facinated with the subject. Ayureveda includes herbology, energy systems of the body and alternative medicine. I’m figuring, for my purposes, I will use this training as a teacher more than as a practioner. But I would like to add ayureveda services to the school and I intend to make ayureveda approaches to health a huge part of my yoga 500 hour program. And I’m even open to the possibilities of creating and manufacturing products (soap, shampoo etc….) with a certified organic ayurveda base. Or writing about ayurveda processes. Who knows what I’ll do with the education in the end. I just know that everything I learn helps me grow as a person and as a teacher. And it makes me feel alive. Studying health makes you conscientious. You apply the theories and principals to your own world – you become healthier, more grounded and emotionally balanced because everyday you are reading, sharing and discussing these concepts. It is good to feel alive, and to know that there is a new discovery around every corner if you just approach life with an open mind and heart. Keep your eye on what counts – ya know. It is not about how much I can squeeze out of each training or experience for business purposes (that is the side benefit and how I can afford this ongoing discovery process) – It’s more about how this new path fuels me and gives me tools to share what I believe and have learned experimentally about life and balance with others. Life at long last for me is all about sincere connections – connections between people that are intimate and authentc, connections between our history and our future and how it all fits in, and the connection of who we are with what we do – it is living with pure intentions, and assuring your actions are not self serving or filled with justifications, and instead you act in a way that supports a life of integrity and purpose.  At least, that is my motto.
So far, so good.  

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

3 responses »

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