An apprenticeship is a valuable part of yoga teacher training and is a requirement in some certification programs. Here's how it usually works:
-The trainee instructor attends a series of classes taught by his or her mentor instructor.
-The trainee begins by leading the class in the first few minutes of warming-up poses, and then the regular instructor teaches most of the class.
-Over a period of several classes, the trainee gradually teaches more and more of the class until he or she finally teaches an entire class.
This process allows the fledgling instructor to learn how it feels to direct a class and helps them to modify their technique. The regular instructor observes the apprentice while he or she is leading the class and observes whether the class understands the directions and follows the apprentice's guidance. The instructor then gives the apprentice feedback, such as whether they need to speak louder, or slower, or whether they asked the class to hold a pose too long, or not long enough.
Remember that once you are certified as a yoga instructor, you need not stop with a single certification for yoga instruction. You can expand your qualifications and become certified to teach several specific areas, such as prenatal yoga.
Some yoga poses are invigorating and some are calming. The invigorating moves, including standing poses such as the warrior series, and balancing poses such as the standing big toe pose and half moon pose, are done earlier in the class, while seated poses and twists are done towards the end of a class.
The right yoga instruction will train instructors to teach poses in an appropriate order to prevent injury and maximize the benefits from each pose.
The warrior series (virabhadrasana) is an example of how poses follow a progressive order according to difficulty.
The warrior series works all the major muscle groups: legs, back, shoulders, and arms, but it is especially good for opening the hips. Even beginner classes will likely introduce warrior I, and advanced classes will include warrior II and warrior III.
Keep these points in mind when warriors are part of your yoga teaching:
Warrior I: Square the hips forward and try to keep them even. It helps to think of your hip bones as the headlights on a car.
Warrior II: When you open out sideways into warrior II, concentrate on keeping the hips level and centered. Don't lean too far forward or too far back.
Warrior III: Focus on the external rotation of the hip of the raised leg, keeping both of the arms raised and the standing legs as straight as possible.
Whether you attend yoga class in a yoga studio or in a gym, respect these basic points of yoga etiquette to make the class more pleasant for everyone:
-Respect the yoga space. Place your shoes, socks, bags, and other clothing in lockers if possible, or off to the side on the edges of the class space. Keeping your personal things away from the class space not only cuts down on the things you have to distract you, but it reduces the risk that someone will trip over an errant shoe or purse strap while jumping or stepping back into a pose.
-Follow directions. It almost goes without saying, but each instructor is different. Follow your instructors' preferences for how he or she wants to align the mats or stagger them so participants won't bump into each other.
-Don't chat. Once the yoga class begins, don't chat with your neighbors. There will be time to socialize when the class is over.
-Turn off your personal electronics. That means turn off your cell phone, pager, or any other device that may make noise and cause a distraction during your class.
-Be sensible about scents. Be kind to your classmates and avoid wearing heavy fragrances such as perfumes or aftershaves to a yoga class.
Even in the age of the Internet, don't underestimate the value of yoga books. Yoga books provide a background for beginners and more information for advanced yoga students and instructors. Whether you practice yoga at home or attend a class, or both, looking at photos and reading descriptions in a book can help improve your understanding of a pose when your instructor explains it. And you can keep the book open on the floor while honing your at-home practice. You can find a wide selection of yoga books that cover general yoga basics or specific types of yoga, such as yoga for pregnancy or yoga for kids.
There are also yoga videos or yoga DVDs to match any medical issue or special interest.
You can find an instructional yoga book, yoga video, or yoga DVD that focuses on specific health or medical issues, including yoga for asthma, yoga for arthritis, yoga for back pain, and even yoga for fertility.
Of course, you can find many choices for yoga videos yoga DVDs for a basic yoga practice to suit any ability level, too. Check out Gaiam's featured instructors, such as Seane Corn, whose Vinyasa Flow Yoga 2-DVD set includes both beginner and advanced moves. Review the choices, try a few, and you'll find the ones that work for you.
Many Pilates exercises may be enhanced by using props such as bolsters, balls, or large, stretchy pilates bands.
A pilates move using a stretchy band that resembles yoga's reclining big toe pose is the single leg circle. In pilates, using the exercise band serves a similar purpose as the belt or strap in yoga. To do the one leg circle with a band, lie on your back with your legs in front of you. Wrap the stretchy band around the ball of the left leg and hold one end of the band in each hand. Pull on the band just enough to provide some resistance, and start by making small circles with the foot, pressing into the band as you do so.
As with many pilates poses, the benefits are similar to the yoga pose it resembles (reclining big toe pose). You will stretch and strengthen the hips and hamstrings.
The bottom line is, whether you choose yoga or pilates, you can find props to help you get the most out of each movement.
Given the similarities between yoga and pilates, combination “yoga pilates” classes are cropping up at many gyms. Pilates has a slightly greater emphasis on core strength, and some people may find that they can build strength in Pilates that translates to an ability to reach more advances poses in yoga. Like yoga, Pilates is gentle enough on the joints to do every day if you wish, but be sure you vary the specific exercises so you don't suffer an overuse injury. As in yoga, it is possible to injure yourself while doing Pilates if you push yourself beyond your limits.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|