February 7, 2013

Yearning to Serve. ~ Erin Keeley Phillips

While bumping along on a bus from Chidambaram to Chennai, South India a few weeks ago, a friend asked me:

“When you are searching for a yoga teacher training, how do you know which one to choose?”

You’d think that because I’m an author and a director for Boulder’s Yoga Pod Seva Teacher Training 200-hour certification that I’d have a very clear analytical advertisement to run off my tongue—but that’s not exactly what came out.

Instead, I blurted out my most honest thoughts. In one breath I said,“I look at the school and ask myself: ‘Do I want to teach like they do?’”

Translation: Does the situation make me feel so alive that I can’t help but want to give back, too? Because that was the overwhelming feeling I came away with from my time in India.

I feel most alive when I’m in a learning environment that allows me to be curious, expansive, motivated, nurtured and full of potential. Therefore, I want my own students to experience feeling it, too.

But, it’s not necessarily about what is being taught. It’s mostly about how it’s being taught that gets me brimming over.

The “how” defines the what. The” how” says where the teacher’s heart is. The “how” tells me right away whether the teacher actually has the students’ long-term best interests in mind.

It’s true. When you take a yoga teacher training, you’ll probably come out at first trying to mimic how and what your own teacher teaches. It’s a beginning stage of learning. I went through it (many times) and so did the other Yoga Pod Seva Teacher Training directors in their first trainings.

But just like most experienced teachers I know, at some point I reached a point where, God forbid, I wanted to teach something new: I wanted to teach like me.

God forbid? Yes, God forbid.

Here’s the kicker that many of us in America are shocked to find out: yoga in the old ways doesn’t necessarily teach us to evolve into ourselves. Traditionally, yoga schools are structured such that students are taught whatever the “right way” has been deemed by the teacher (or lineage/guru). In fact, this is not just a traditional way to teach, it comes from the actual teachings themselves.

The “how to teach” is usually “do it this way if you want to succeed.” And the “what” is success at climbing some sort of enlightenment ladder of happiness. And if you want to be successful, you have to follow the leader and lineage because they are more “enlightened” than you. Therefore, they have the answers and you do not and you best listen up…. Ugh.

In my last career, I was a public school teacher. Sure, most of how and what I was expected to teach revolved around students finding the “right” answers. I was called the expert and they were the students who were not.

But along with these kinds of lessons, there were always lessons of expansion, where the students got to create from their own experiments, experiences and creativity. They didn’t have to be experts to do so. They just needed to be guided in such a way so that they were empowered.

This type of learning happens from two key techniques: 1) Allowing for multiple “right answers” to exist and 2) Setting up the classroom environment so that the teacher is not all-knowing. This way of teaching is actually not very traditionally “yogic” and pure… and yet, it’s one way we learn in the West and has always been what I’ve wanted in my own yoga schools. Let’s face it—this way of learning is more evolved than the old ways. It takes a strong teacher to allow for the possibility that his or her own students might have better answers than he or she does.

To be able to teach or, rather, guide from a place to allow for students to learn from their own interpretations, visions, and creative impulses, is not an easy trick.

It means that the entire school structure has to look different than a normal yoga school. There will be a lot of open-ended, student led discussion.  There won’t necessarily be “right” answers, only full-spectrum education and answers that offer the probability of high levels of success. There will be no hierarchy of status, but instead, a round table of brilliant minds and hearts all working together.

Each training will be slightly different. Each person will learn differently. Each new teacher will come out as his or her own person.

Boulder has been begging for a unique and empowering yoga immersion and teacher training. The purpose of Yoga Pod’s Seva Teacher Training is to educate you on as many facets of the world of yoga as we can.  Then we’ll offer non-prescriptive, healthy teaching techniques that have a high probability of nurturing souls and hearts. You’ll be a strong leader who can empower your own students to flourish.

This school is designed for students, who are motivated, dedicated and disciplined. And it’s designed for students who are willing to be challenged by the very fact that their school is offering them more by not giving them a clear path with explicit answers. You might be frustrated at times. It might take longer to find your stride. But what you come away with is having the potential to offer something very unique back to the world.

In a nut-shell, if you’re looking for a yoga immersion or teacher training with the result of you having been told exactly how to think and act, having been directed onto a particular path of yoga, or even having been given a script or strict structure on how to teach, then Yoga Pod’s Seva Teacher Training is not for you.

If you want to be told what to do with your life and have it be very, very simple and easy, the Yoga Pod’s Seva Teacher Training is not for you.

But if you want to be challenged, if you want to make changes in your life, if you want “more” from your life and you’d like to learn with the comfort of the company of other seekers, then our Yoga Pod Seva school might just be what your heart has been yearning for.

My highest hope is that if you’re looking for a yoga school, you’ll find one that can give you the experience of boiling over with so much life that you won’t be able to stop yourself from giving back your own gifts to the world. And my personal passion happens to be creating exactly that experience in the school that we offer at the Yoga Pod through our 200-hour Seva immersion and teacher certification.

Please come to our Free Class Open House and meet the Seva Director Team and find out more about our Two Part Teacher Training—Saturday, February 9th at 5:30 p.m. at Yoga Pod Boulder. Free refreshments following.

Yoga Pod | 1750 29th Street #2020 | Boulder, CO 80301 | 303 444 4232 | yogapodcommunity.com

Erin Keeley Phillips, (M.S., ERYT-200, RYT-500) is a teacher, mother, and friend who is passionate about soul feeding. Forever a seeker, she’s been teaching through the body for 22 years, spent 15 years in the hard sciences, and has been practicing Yoga asana and Tantra for 14 years. Her lessons hit home through several tragedies in her life in which she came out on the other side having found more beauty by simply not choosing the easy way out. Feeling more alive, in every moment, is what fuels her. Erin will welcome you to your mat, no matter your story, with warmth and understanding.

Erin is also the author of and a director of the Yoga Pod teacher training. Her asana background ranges from alignment asana to power-yoga to creative vinyasa. She is trained in yoga therapeutics. The flavor of her teaching is influenced by the empowering and secular philosophical teachings of psychology, religious studies and humanistic Rajanaka Tantra, which she weaves into the dance of the physical practice. You can find Erin, her offerings, and her teaching schedule at www.erinkeeleyphillips.com.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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