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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

THE YTT COLLECTIVE: Yoga Studios Team Up to Offer Greater Reach & More Choices

Aug 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By Diane Eaton
In 2006, Kim Saunders, one of the Atlanta area’s most well-respected yoga teacher trainers, spoke briefly with Deepak Chopra at a wellness retreat she was attending and told him about her vision to combine a yoga and counseling center in one. “You’re going to do it!” he told her. She was blown away by his unflinching vote of confidence.

Kim Saunders 

(Photo: Allen Cooley Photography)

Since then, Saunders has earned advanced yoga certificates, founded and ran the successful Lift Yoga studio for many years, created yoga programs for the cities of Milton, Alpharetta, Newtown Park and Johns Creek, and has taught scores of students in her yoga teacher training courses over the last 20 years.

She Had a Dream

In late May, just a few short weeks ago, Saunders woke up from a dream about yoga studios collaborating for the greater good. 

“I literally had a dream about bringing together multiple studios—where both the studios and the yoga students benefit from the diversity of their choices,” says Saunders. She jumped into action and reached out to several well-established studios and instructors in the area. “When I contacted them, they were super excited to be part of this kind of collective, this collaborative effort.” At a pace that surprised everyone, the YTT Collective was born.

Eight studios and thirteen instructors have agreed to partner with Saunders and combine their YTT offerings into one large program, including Crossroads Yoga, LiveURYoga, Oya Yoga Studio, GruvnYOGA Soul Center, A Mindful Movement Wellness & Yoga, Alpharetta Wellness Collective and Plum Tree Yoga. More are expected to join in the future.

Instructors will present modules that draw from their experience and expertise. For example, Gina Minyard, E-RYT 500 and YACEP, will teach a Yoga History and Philosophy module; Tracy Jennings-Hill will teach Sanskrit and Himalayan Kriyas; Terri O’Connor, E-RYT 500 and YACEP, will offer a module on Chakras and Energy Balancing; and Leila Taylor, E-RYT 500 and YACEP, will guide students through Yoga Sculpt, which is yoga for building strength. The Collective now offers 200-hour certifications and is planning to offer 300-hour certification in 2023.

The first 11-weekend YTT Collective program begins September 23. “Students will be able to learn to teach in a variety of studios, and they’ll get unlimited membership at all partnering studios during their training,” says Saunders. The diversity gives them more choice about what hours to participate, what teachers to work with and what classes to attend than in a single YTT studio. It also gives them the opportunity to experience the unique cultures of several studios around the Atlanta area. 

Like other YTT programs, the YTT Collective is founded on the traditional eight limbs of yoga, which include poses, or asanas, breathwork, or pranayama, chanting, mantra and meditation. Special focus is also given to anatomy, yogic philosophy, teaching styles, hands-on assists and the business aspects of teaching yoga.

Studios Win, Too

Heather Peace 

(Photo : Gaki Media)

The co-op model of the YTT Collective can be advantageous to studios as well as offer benefits to its students. “It’s a fantastic model. From a business perspective, it’s very smart,” says Heather Peace, owner of gruvnYOGA Soul Center, a boutique studio in Marietta GruvnYOGA won Cobb Life Magazine's 2022 Best of Cobb reader-vote award in the Yoga/Pilates/Barr Studios category.

“I’m just a small business in the community, so I don’t have the support of a huge franchise behind me,” says Peace. Studios share income from student memberships in the YTT Collective, so all can thrive. “The YTT Collective is a great fit for me, then. Plus, I feel honored to be included among many of Atlanta’s well-established studios.” 

Tracy Jennings-Hill 

(Photo: J King Images)

Another partner in the YTT Collective, Tracy Jennings-Hill, owner of LiveURYoga in Roswell, has taught YTT for YogaFit for 15 years and is now transitioning to offer her own YTT program. She’s happy that her contract with the collective allows her to teach YTT through other channels without conflict. Jennings-Hill believes the YTT Collective makes it easy for students to discover the environments and teachers that resonate with them. “There’s goodness in the variety,” she says. “It comes across very authentic when you're teaching people on their yogic path.”

Not Just for Teacher Wannabes

Saunders feels strongly about offering and allowing diversity in the YTT Collective. Students don’t need to want to teach after they’re certified; they can focus on embodying the lifestyle of yoga and allowing that to transform them from within. Some students might choose to come for spiritual growth and exploration, and others might want to learn the skills of yoga. “Some people go through teacher training just to deepen their yoga practice,” says Peace. That is reason enough.

Saunders elaborates. “This training isn’t just for people who want to learn how to accurately teach the poses and sequence classes; it's much more for people who want to dive deep. It’s for people that want to evolve. If they come in with an open mind, they’ll leave with an open heart.”

“In YTT, people come away with a much deeper sense of self,” says Peace. “They learn so much as they’re learning yoga philosophies and learning how to guide others. It’s an awakening.” 

Saunders is a trauma-informed counselor, trauma-informed yoga teacher, and licensed professional counselor, as well as a 500-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) and an 800-hour certified Yoga Therapist. She’s made a career of creating both safety and community in her groups. And true to the vision she shared with Chopra, she now maintains a private practice, Kim Saunders Yoga + Counseling, where she combines yoga sessions, yoga classes and private counseling. ❧

For more information about the YTT Collective, visit
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