As with many decisions in life, our decision-making and preparation starts long before we make that a final commitment to embark on a new journey or course of study. Things are aligning and small steps toward the goal or decision are often happening, some conscious and some not so conscious. There may be a drive from a very inner place that propels us forward in our study of yoga.
How do you prepare to enter a yoga teacher training program? This is a common question that I hear from interested students. I have a few tips to offer based on my years as a practitioner, teacher who was once in training and mentor to teachers.
Try to Establish or Refresh Your Personal Practice
Your personal practice forms the foundation for your studies. It’s a learning laboratory for establishing a relationship to your breath, body and mind. It’s a place to understand how your spine and major joints move in postures. It’s a platform for understanding how different practices feel in terms of your body, mind, mood and nervous system.
Even a short practice of 10 – 15 minutes can yield fruitful results in terms of understanding the effect of a home practice. Often a short practice done consistently is more important than sporadic longer practices.
I recommend using Yoga for Wellness by Gary Kraftsow or Yoga for Transformation by Gary Kraftsow as a guide in personal practice and to familiarize yourself with a range of practices. In addition, Gary Kraftsow’s DVDs are also excellent guides for studying Viniyoga, including: Viniyoga Therapy for Low Back, Sacrum and Hips; Viniyoga Therapy for Upper Back, Neck and Shoulders; Viniyoga Therapy for Anxiety (also great for stress reduction!) and Viniyoga Therapy for Depression (also great for the winter blues!).
Attend a Weekly Class or Participate In a Workshop
You can enrich your home practice through a weekly class or by gaining new knowledge in a workshop. It’s preferable if you can attend a class with a teacher or faculty member who will be teaching in the program you are considering. That gives you more experience in the lineage teachings and supplements studies you might be doing at home.
Good teachers inspire us to keep practicing at home. They don’t form dependencies but want us to be independent in our ability to practice and adapt for ourselves.
Pick Up a Translation/Commentary on the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali
The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali are the foundational yoga philosophy text for most yoga teacher training programs. These short phrase-like threads of wisdom teach us about the mind and our relationship to ourselves, others and the journey of life. Here are a few recommendations for possible translation/commentaries:
- Liberating Isolation by Frans Moors (available at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness)
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri S. Satchidananda
- Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: With Great Respect and Love by Mukunda Stiles
- The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman
- The Yoga Sutras: An Essential Guide to the Heart of Yoga Philosophy by Nicolai Bachman, spiral bound
- Inside the Yoga Sutras by Reverend Jaganath Carrera.
Familiarize Yourself with Anatomy Applied to Yoga Practice
It’s helpful to begin to learn the major bones, muscles and joints impacted by yoga postures or asanas. I find that one of the most helpful references is Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews. It covers the most important and foundational yoga asanas with life-like illustrations, tables and commentary. The authors excel in presenting breathing anatomy, anatomical terms and concepts, and the joint action and major muscle action in common yoga postures.
Learn the Sanskrit Words for Common Yoga Postures
Gary Kraftsow’s Yoga for Wellness has excellent reference tables for beginning to understand the Sanskrit prefixes that make up the names of yoga asanas. One of the hardest things for new teachers in training is understanding which posture the teacher may be talking about. Rest assured that lead teachers and faculty members are aware of this difficulty and will help with translation until you get more comfortable with the terms!
If you are planning to enroll in a teacher training program, talk to the lead teacher about recommended resources to begin your studies. Happy practicing and studying!