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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Yoga Teacher Training

More than a New Career

Local yoga studios are preparing for a new round of teacher training programs, and while many individuals participate to take their personal yoga experience to the next level, a major objective of these courses is to develop future yoga instructors in a career that has become increasingly popular for a multitude of reasons. With job scarcity in many markets, the yoga industry has shown consistent growth. Approximately 15 million Americans practice yoga, spending $27 billion annually on yoga products and services. Researchers say this number represents an 87 percent increase over the last five years.

John Merideth, owner and director of OnlYoga, in Midtown, says, “Yoga teacher training is an incredible experience of transformation. Students are encouraged to unplug from the demands and habits of their daily lives and delve into open-minded self-exploration.”

The Yoga Alliance international professional organization requires five key areas to be taught in any registered yoga teacher training course. Techniques, Training and Practice covers asana (poses), pranayama, kriyas, chanting, mantra, meditation and other yoga techniques. Teaching Methodology includes principles of demonstration, observation, assisting/correcting, instruction, teaching styles, qualities of a teacher, the student’s process of learning and business aspects of teaching yoga. Anatomy and Physiology explores the bodily systems and organs, as well as energy anatomy and physiology. Yoga Philosophy, Lifestyle and Ethics for Yoga Teachers is a key element to address values and goals, as well as to study yoga philosophies. Practicum is the final step, and includes assisting students while someone else is teaching, practicing teaching, receiving feedback, observing others teaching and hearing and/or giving feedback.

Yoga teacher training courses are certified by the Yoga Alliance, and those that complete the course are eligible to register as RYT yoga teachers. The Yoga Alliance was formed in 1999 to create standards for yoga teachers and ensure quality and consistency of instruction. The base level of certification is RYT; advanced teachers with significant teaching experience and training can register as E-RYT. The number refers to training hours completed.

Atlanta has several studios that offer yoga teacher training, each with their own style and focus. Their shared techniques immerse students in a yoga lifestyle, provide a history and exploration of the many branches of yoga and create a life-enhancing experience. In addition to required topics, courses may each have their own unique classes, experiences and requirements.

Merideth’s program, taught at Ember Yoga, stresses critical thinking skills and is designed to immerse students in the philosophy, history and practical method of ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. Students are given the opportunity to teach more than 25 yoga classes throughout their training, resulting in professional, confident teachers at the end of the course.

Merideth is certified E-RYT 500, the highest level yoga certification, and has been leading teacher training for more than a decade. He encourages students to deconstruct the practice of yoga from Western (physical) and non-Western (spiritual) perspectives, and requires they demonstrate a strong and practical understanding of the ashtanga primary series.

At Core Bodyworks, the backbone of their teacher training program is a combination of ayurvedic yoga philosophy and anatomy. Founder Lisa Browning, a massage therapist and personal trainer who is E-RYT 500 certified, puts an emphasis on providing students with an in-depth understanding of the body. The Core Bodyworks course also delves into the history of yoga. Their line-up of diverse teachers includes Jaya Ramamurthy, a clinical ayurvedic specialist; Doug Swenson, a master yoga practitioner, philosopher and poet; and Sue Hopkins, E-RYT 500, who is influenced by Iyengar and specializes in yoga therapy and yoga nidra.

Leigh Ann Neal, at Nirvana Yoga, enables her students to experience the rich and vast healing potential of developing a personal practice. Neal’s course includes a meditation retreat, a strong focus on alignment and anatomy as they apply to yoga, and classes on the business side of yoga.

Neal suggests yoga teacher training as a way to learn an incredible amount of information in a well-developed format about all the aspects of yoga. For those that wish to teach yoga, she recommends trying out many styles and studios first, to find the perfect fit.

The Center for Yoga (TCFY) offers a course led by Othene Munson, E-RTY 500, that highlights an individual’s personal growth and self-discovery, while focusing on seva, or service. Munson believes that, “When you teach, you are looking directly into the mirrors of your own self through the faces of your students.” She places a particular emphasis on the journey of self-exploration to find one’s belief systems, ethics and truth.

The TCFY course requires a minimum of one year of prior asana practice, as well as participation in a weekly yoga class at the center. Topics include teaching specialty populations such as children and pregnant women, handling the business side of a yoga practice, speaking skills, marketing and self-care to avoid burnout.

Sarah Berkowitz is a freelance writer and editor for Natural Awakenings of Atlanta.

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