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Episode 37: Q&A W/ Jason: On Teaching, Self-Care, and Forgiveness

Jason takes on questions that surround yoga teaching this week including:

– To use Sanskrit while teaching or not?
– How to care for yourself during an injury?
– How do you help individuals find their unique pose in the midst of a group class?

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RECOMMENDED & RELATED LINKS
In Praise of Moving More Slowly
In Praise of the Quiet Class
When Students Behave Badly, Part I
When Students Behave Badly, Part II
5 Tips for New Yoga Teachers
5 Ways to Reinspire Your Practice
A Clear Approach for Dealing with the Stresses of Teaching Yoga
10 Yoga Teachers Share Their Real Life, Post-Teacher Training Tips

MUSIC
David Szesztay — Lucky Day
David Szesztay — Traveller

WRITE A REVIEW
If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! I’m learning that it really does help others find it and it helps me to know which episodes resonate with you! You can also follow me on Twitter @yogalandpodcast.

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Episode 18: Jason Crandell – How to Select a Teacher Training Program

Hi everyone!

We’ve gotten many questions recently about teacher training that we decided to do an episode that answers common questions. Doing a yoga teacher training is a huge investment — both financially and in terms of your time. It can be a wonderfully transformative experience, but it’s worth doing your research and thinking about what is going to best meet your needs.

Jason and I talk about:
* Whether you should stick with a local teacher or travel to do a training with a well-known teacher (his answer might surprise you).
* Considerations in terms of format — monthlong intensive? two week modules? six months of weekends?
* How vital it is to continue your education even after completing a foundational 200-hour training
* Are there different things to consider if you just want to deepen your practice vs. wanting to teach?
* Plus, we talk about what types of information and skills an advanced 300-hour training can provide.

Last thing: We are in the midst of content development and would love to know what you’d like to see more of, so we created a super quick 6-question survey. We’d love it if you’d spend a minute of your time offering us feedback! Take the survey here.

Subscribe via: iTunes | Acast | RSS

RECOMMENDED & RELATED LINKS
Jason’s 2017 Teacher Training in San Francisco
Jason’s Art of Yoga Sequencing E-Course
Jason’s Essential Anatomy E-Course

MUSIC
Jahzzar — Siesta
Cory Gray — House Arrest
The Polish Ambassador — Wonder Continental ft. Beatbeat Whisper

WRITE A REVIEW
If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! I’m learning that it really does help others find it and it helps me to know which episodes resonate with you! You can also follow me on Twitter @yogalandpodcast.

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When Students Behave Badly, Part II

Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. I also have three separate online teacher trainings, focusing on arm balances & inversions, sequencing, or anatomy.

Jason Crandell teaching yoga | yoga teacher etiquette | Jason Crandell Yoga Method

For teachers, yoga classrooms are where we work. It’s where we share our passion for the practice, where we earn our livelihood, and where we help students learn skillful ways to manage the human condition. Of course, the studio is also where students come to learn and practice. Students have the reasonable expectation that they can be themselves and experience a safe and supportive environment. And, they can –if they’re reasonable. And, students are reasonable — usually.

Like all group environments — especially where the general ethos is “do whatever makes you feel good,” and where the stated fire-code allotment for number of humans that can safely fit into a room is regularly ignored — the social etiquette of YogaLand can be open to interpretation. From time-to-time, students go off the rails and it can be challenging to know how to respond. In Part One, I talked about students who “do their own thaaang” and students who are so physically satisfied with their practice that they serenade class with moans and groans that are better suited for more intimate environments.

As teachers, we need to ask ourselves two related questions when we encounter questionable behavior in a class: First, is the behavior truly a problem for the group? And second, do we need to take control of the situation to protect the overall group experience, or do we need to let it ride?

Now, let me paint a few scenes.

See also When Students Behave Badly, Part I

SHIRTLESS, SWEATY, AND PROXIMATE

The first time I taught at Power Yoga Germany in Hamburg, Dirk, the co-owner of the studio, made an announcement before my workshop. After the announcement, he told me in English what he just said to German-speaking students. He said, bluntly, that the studio has two rules and they’re both for men. Number one, he said, “We have two bathrooms and they’re both co-ed, so men need to sit down when they piss because men can never hit the target and women don’t need to put up with such inaccuracies.” Second, he said, “Men, when you get hot and start to sweat, you might want to take your shirt off. But, guess what? This isn’t allowed because the woman next to you doesn’t want to shower in the sweat that will be pouring off your body.”

Just when you thought chivalry was dead, right? I’m not going to expound on the first rule, but as a married man I can assure my male readers that hygiene in a shared bathroom is appreciated. So, take this consideration to heart if you’re a man using shared facilities. When it comes to the “Yoga: men gone wild, edition,” I don’t personally have a problem with men going topless in class. But, heavy-sweaters (men or women), please grab a towel and wipe down the region during and after class. And, teachers, you’ve got to get on your students to mop up their scene. It’s not just basic social etiquette. Students that are sweat on by their neighbor — or slip and slide on someone else’s sweat while walking to the restroom — are much likely to reconsider coming to another public class. So, teachers, if the need arises, simply grab a towel (nearly every studio has them), hand it to sweaty john or sweaty betty, give a quick glance toward their puddle and nicely say, “If you don’t mind.”

SAVASANA? NO THANKS!

I’m going to be honest, I don’t mind when people leave before Savasana. Yes, it’s important. Yes, it’s part of the practice. Yes, we live in a vata-deranged culture and everyone needs Savasana. I’m not going to argue against those points. But, some people have children to pick up at an exact time, or they have an incredibly brief window between jobs. Or, they simply can’t handle laying on the ground for 6-10 minutes in a room full of other adults. I genuinely have empathy for all of these situations.

But, I’ve got to tell you, it takes every single second of patience that I’ve accrued in 20 years of practicing yoga, to keep my blood pressure from spiking when someone leaves in the middle of Savasana — or, worse, 10 seconds before Savasana is over! There’s a natural settling-in phase when students are transitioning to Savasana. I don’t think students are disturbed when others leave during the onset of savasana because there’s already plenty of sound and rustling while everyone prepares for their 10-minute rest. When someone leaves in the middle of Savasana it’s a much more significant disturbance. And, it’s almost always made worse by the student leaving because they’re trying to be quiet, which translates to 45 seconds of hearing a mat sloooooowly peeling off the ground, 45 seconds of floor boards creaking while the student walks to the back of the room to collect their belongings, 90 seconds of the belongings shifting around until the student is able to put their handmade eye-bag away, and another 30 seconds of the squeaky studio door being closed.

As teachers, there’s almost no way to guarantee that someone doesn’t occasionally bail half-way through Savasana. And, hey, maybe someone just remembered that they’re needed on a conference call or whatever. We’re all human and this is going to happen. But, there are two things you can do to minimize these incidents. First of all, end your [email protected]#$%^% classes on time!!! Don’t expect that everyone in your class can go over by 5 minutes or more because you took too long to get to your peak pose! We’ve all gone over — I’ve gone over — but I think it’s incredibly important to end class when the schedule says that class is over.

The second thing you can do is make periodic announcements in your class that you’ll be ending on time, that you’d prefer students to stay for Savasana, but if anyone needs to leave early, do so before Savasana begins or when class is over. Namaste.

SHOWER, SOAP, AND DEODORANT? NOPE, I’D RATHER NOT!

We’ve all forgotten to wear deodorant. And, sometimes, the deodorant that we’re wearing is having a bad day and is not up to the task of masking our wild side. Perhaps you believe that deodorant is evil and that it masks your natural pheromones. Fine. All those things are fine. But, attempting to have a body odor that won’t knock a pigeon out of mid-air while it’s cruising past the window of the yoga studio is, I believe, part of the modern social contract.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve never approached someone about their odor. As a studio manager, I have. Fortunately, it’s very rare that someone’s odor rises to level of a necessary conversation. But, it does happen. I can think of three occasions over a 5-year period where, as a yoga director, I had enough complaints from the community about people’s odor that I needed to intervene. It was a high-end fitness facility and the problem was that each of the individuals involved were doing intensive training before coming to class. They’d come to class directly after their training and arrive in a remarkably funky state. This wasn’t once or twice. This was a few classes every week for months. Eventually, in each of the scenarios, I had to address the individuals. It was difficult, but managers have difficult jobs sometimes.

So, if you have a student whose odor is compromising the group experience, take it to your manager and ask them to have a conversation with them. If you prefer to handle it yourself, go for it. Be nice. Of course.

RING-A-DING-DING! ANYBODY THERE????

Cell phones are going to ring, buzz, ding, quack, play questionable ring tones, like “Oops I didn’t again, I played with your heart…” during class. Yes, one Saturday morning during Savasana my class was serenaded with a Britney Spears ringtone. And, yes, I’ve taught yoga for a long time.

I ignore 999 out of 1,000 notifications that I hear during class. This is yoga, so let’s focus even if someone’s bag is chirping. But, on occasion, teachers will realize that either A) the person that’s calling the phone nestled in someone’s purse is not going to give up, or B) it’s not a ringtone making that noise, it’s an alarm. Here’s what I’ll say during class in these situations: “Hey, I know everyone has phones and we all forget to turn them to airplane mode on occasion. But, if this phone is still going off during Savasana, everyone is doing pushups for 10-minutes, okay? So, even if you are 100% sure that it’s not your phone that is making this racket, please go check.”

That gets the job done.

I want to conclude with a reminder that this two-part series is written with love. Seriously. I wouldn’t have a fraction of the life that I have without my students and I know that most teachers feel the same way. At the same time, this is our workplace and it’s important that we have the tools to manage some of challenges that happen while we’re teaching. Be loving, be clear, and have boundaries.

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The Expert’s Guide to Chaturanga, Part V

Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. I also have three separate online teacher trainings, focusing on arm balances & inversions, sequencing, or anatomy.

Teaching Chaturanga: Why Chaturanga is Tough to Teach — and What to Do About It

Chaturanga Dandasana Jason Crandell

Doing Chaturanga is no picnic. But neither is teaching it. In fact, most of us don’t actually try to teach Chaturanga. We just say “Chaturanga” when it’s time for students to do the pose and hope for the best. In the first four parts of The Expert’s Guide To Practicing and Teaching Chaturanga, we looked at the challenges and solutions that occur while practicing Chaturanga. Now, it’s time to turn the tables. As teachers, we need to look at why this pose is so [email protected]#$ hard to teach and what we can do to become more effective at teaching this pose. And, by the way, if you haven’t checked out the first four parts of this series, it’s time to do so.

The links are here:
Part I, A Shoulder Surgeon’s Guide to Keeping Your Shoulders Safe
Part II, How to Strengthen Your Body for a More Effective Chaturanga
Part III, The Best (and Worst) Chaturanga Modifications and Alternatives
Part IV, The Best Ways To Transition Into Chaturanga

Challenge #1: Detail vs. Flow in Teaching Chaturanga

As a technique-oriented vinyasa instructor, I have my work cut out for me—and so do you if you’re providing detailed instructions while teaching flow yoga. The heart of vinyasa yoga is the rhythmic connection between breath and movement. And, honestly, it’s tough to keep things moving—and your students breathing—when you’re laying down nuanced verbal cues. But, the verbal cues are important because they provide key details that build depth, clarity, and safety in the postures. Teaching Chaturanga epitomizes the difficulty of incorporating detailed verbal cues into a vinyasa flow.

Solution
You can’t teach everyone everything about every pose in every class. Please read that sentence again and get it tattooed in Sanskrit next to your Om symbol. If you’re anything like me, it will relieve a lot of anxiety and help you edit your inventory of verbal cues. You can’t teach everything about Chaturanga to everyone in every class. But, you can teach one thing about Chaturanga in each class. Especially if you reinforce your teaching by repeating it many times over throughout class. I always pick one component of Chaturanga for every class and repeat (nearly) every Chaturanga. This might be, “hug your elbows in,” “lower only half-way to the floor,” or “keep the front of your shoulders up.” This way, students will learn the important aspects of the posture over time.

Challenge #2, Detail vs. Duration in Teaching Chaturanga

It’s hard to teach the details of Chaturanga because very few students can stay in the pose long enough to learn them. Even brand new, sparkling green yogis can stay in most standing postures long enough to hear your cues and do their best to respond. Neophytes can stay in seated postures, reclined postures and, even, Down Dog long enough to engage, lift, lengthen, and open according to your cues. But, reader, drop down into Chaturanga and see how many new insights you can hear from your teacher while maintaining the pose.

Solution
Pretty much every discipline on the planet—from sports, to martial arts, to gymnastics, to performance arts—has figured out that “drills” are a necessary aspect of subject mastery. Except, I think, flow yoga. In flow yoga, we rarely break things down into specific drills that are designed to teach people how to do hard things in a step-by-step manner. Instead, we expect everyone to just catch on while cranking out the flow and sweating to the play list. Sometimes this works. When it comes to Chaturanga, it usually doesn’t. So, from time-to-time, I do drills. Sometimes, I have students do Chaturanga with a block under their chest; sometimes, I have students do Chaturanga with a belt around their arms; and, sometimes, I have students do Chaturanga with their knees on the floor. I do all of these OUTSIDE of the flow. Either before we really establish the flow of class, or, later in class as if Chaturanga is the peak pose of the class.

Challenge #3, Identifying and Undoing Bad Habits in Chaturanga

In my experience, Chaturanga is not a beginner’s pose. Unfortunately, it’s frequently included in beginner’s classes. Even with adequate instructions and thoughtful preparation, I believe it’s too difficult to do well until you’re a more seasoned practitioner. When new students are asked to do Chaturanga in a beginner’s class, or new students wander into a mixed-level class, they do their best to keep up with the flow. When they try to keep up the flow and are ill-equipped for the strength and technique that is required, they develop bad habits that can take years to correct.

Solution
If you’re teaching Chaturanga to new students, please reconsider. Instead, teach them the strengthening postures and alternatives that I included in The Expert’s Guide to Chaturanga, Part II. Also, teach them Plank, Cobra, and how to lower to the floor. Even more, reinforce the idea with all of your students that the best way to learn things is slowly and progressively. If you’re teaching mixed-level classes, don’t immediately default to Chaturanga. Instead, include the motion of Plank, Cobra and other strengthening postures prior to teaching Chaturanga in your flow. Then, continue to give these postures as recommendations to “the newer students” in the room. I regularly say, “If you’re in the first year or two of practice, please continue to work on coming to the floor and doing Cobra.” Does everyone listen to me? No. Do I always listen to myself? No. But, offering appropriate guidance is important.

Challenge #4, Teaching Chaturanga vs. A Quick Pace

The pace of an asana practice should never preclude attention to detail, precision, or absorption of the postures. Unfortunately, modern vinyasa yoga is often taught at such a quick pace that the breath is rushed—ironically making people quicker, shorter breathers—and details are inaccessible. So, I’m going to say something right here and repeat it in the “solution” paragraph below: If your students can’t do something slowly, they can’t do it quickly. If your students need to move through Chaturanga quickly, they probably aren’t doing Chaturanga. They’re doing a drive-by. And, hey, we’ve all been there. But, doing postures so quickly that they don’t register or become fully formed isn’t worth it. Even more, it increases the risk of injury.

Solution
As promised: If you students can’t do something slowly, they can’t do it quickly. So, here’s my solution: Focus on helping your students slow down, pause, and establish Chaturanga fully before letting them glide into up dog. Have them land in the pose. Have them register it. Encourage them to stabilize it. It’s OK if they can’t do these things. It just means that they will be better served with more strengthening preparations instead of countless Chaturangas.

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5 Ways to (Re)Inspire Your Yoga Practice

Inspiration for Yoga Teachers | Parsva Bakasana | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. I also have three separate online teacher trainings, focusing on arm balances & inversions, sequencing, or anatomy.

We all get stuck in a rut from time to time—even yoga teachers. In fact, the question that comes up most frequently in the group of teachers that I mentor is, “How do I keep my practice and teaching fresh?” After all, it’s hard to inspire and connect with your students when you’re feeling stale. The first thing to remember is this: All relationships, vocations, and passions go through different phases. If things feel a little lackluster from time to time it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or your relationship to yoga. Try not to go crazy if your practice and teaching feel stagnant. Acknowledge and allow the feelings. And when you feel ready try these simple tips for getting back to what matters most.

Inspiration for Yoga Teachers: Try These 5 Tips

1. Change Your Practice Pace

Most of us feel compelled to practice at more or less the same pace all of the time. If you prefer a slow, quiet practice, you probably always do a slow, quiet practice. If you like a nice strong flow, you probably always do a nice strong flow. If you’re feeling stale, changing up the pace of your practice is one of the best ways to find new inspiration. When you change the pace, the rhythm of your breathing and the overall feeling of your experience also shift.

See also Mastering the Art of the Well-Paced Class

2. Take a Break From Your Staples

There are days when I’d rather stab myself in the eye than do Chaturanga and Upward-Facing Dog. As a vinyasa-based instructor this can be difficult. Fortunately, I’m completely averse to losing an eye so I take a break from these postures—my staples—from time to time. I change my routine to exclude these postures and include different things like longer-held Planks, Locust variations and Cobra. I’m always a little fearful to drop my staples, but leaving these poses off the menu for a few days varies my sequencing and always leads to something interesting that I haven’t explored in a while. It also tends to re-engage my students who are just as happy to have the occasional change of pace.

3. Get Messy, Get Lost

To me, modern yoga can feel very precious and produced at times. Flow classes are perfectly choreographed to the perfect playlist and everyone feels like they have to wear the newest leggings and take photos that they post at just the right time. I’m not being a hater here. I get it. But, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and it’s important to let it go sometimes. If this sounds like you, let go of the pressure to perform and work on a handful of poses that feel sloppy, dirty, and ugly. Seriously. Pick up your worn and torn copy of Light on Yoga (wow, I just dated myself), flip around until you find a pose or two that you haven’t tried in a few years (if ever), and experiment with it. Play around with poses that feel out of your reach, make a mess, and have good time.

4. Explore a Different Physical Discipline

Aside from my family, my first priority is tending to my yoga practice. My passion for practicing has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it’s been the most consistent thread in my life for 20 years. I can’t imagine my life without it. And, I also explore other physical modalities these days. Like me, you may find that doing other physical practices—from running or spinning, to Pilates or martial arts—rekindles your love for yoga. I’m not suggesting that you need to incorporate a different physical discipline to be well and feel whole. But, I’ve found that including other physical disciplines in my life makes me crave my yoga practice even more.

5. Reconnect to the Heart of Your Practice

Perhaps my most obvious yet essential suggestion is to reconnect with your practice by getting back on your mat. If your practice is lackluster—or you’ve been disinclined to practice at all—you need to reconnect to the heart of your practice by making peace with the fact that your passion may ebb and flow. Then, make the permanent decision that your practice is your practice. It’s your free time to do what you want, and enjoy yourself. Maybe this means taking a different class, doing a different home practice at a different time, or exploring meditation and pranayama. Maybe it is as easy as this: Your practice is right there waiting for you. Go enjoy it.

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