Why you should do a teacher training — even if you don’t want to teach

One part of the Bikram-Yoga to the People lawsuit story we posted yesterday that caught my eye had zero to do with the lawsuit, the business of yoga or how many swear words Bikram can use in one newspaper article.

It was the tale of Yoga to the People’s Greg Gumucio’s teacher training experience with Bikram.

Here’s the part I’m talking about (and a link to yet another alt weekly running the piece, this time the LA Weekly):

They first met in Los Angeles in 1996. Gumucio had quit his job as a Seattle radio announcer and moved to L.A., somewhat on a whim. He’d taken only three Bikram classes when his sister convinced him to enroll with her in the teacher training program.

That first day, he attempted to stand in the half-moon pose, his feet together, arms pressed tight overhead, torso stretched to the right. Ideally, the body curves into an upside-down L shape, which requires the sides of the body to stretch further than feels humanly possible and leaves one’s abdomen shaking. Yet the novice strained to tilt more than a few inches to the side. As his eyes focused on his posture in the mirror, Gumucio says, Bikram approached him from behind.

“What the hell are you doing here?” the teacher asked quietly.

Gumucio smiled. “Well, I’m here to do your teacher training.”

Their eyes locked in the mirror, Gumucio still struggling to bend his body sideways. “Good luck,” Bikram said, giving him a look of slight disgust before moving on.

Now, aside from the nasty comments from Bikram, this pretty well sums up my week in Tulum with Tim Miller. (Not to mention the two weeks in Mt. Shasta with him during the past two summers.) I still can’t get my heels down in downdog — it’s true — but I’ve taken a teacher training.

I have zero intent to teach. I’d probably be laughed out of any yoga studio where I offered up my services. (Except for a “laughing yoga” studio, which would probably just stare coolly at me.)

Teacher training in Tulum with Tim Miller

But the teacher training was invaluable for the development of my practice. You’ve probably heard some version of that statement. You see it in the descriptions of teacher trainings: “Appropriate for those just wanting to deepen their practice.”

Well, that statement’s true. And here’s precisely why, and why you should consider a teacher training even if, like me, you don’t plan to teach. (Note: This assumes you’ll be doing a good teacher training, such as Richard Freeman’s month-long intensive, which begins Monday.)

You learn what the poses are supposed to be, even if they are beyond the range of your body and flexibility and strength. Even more specifically, and in many cases the best reason to take one of these trainings: You learn what teachers are trying to do to you when they adjust you. You’ll know where they are leading you, what position they are encouraging you towards.

Especially if you’re stiff, like me, or still feel too weak to really get deeply into poses, this couldn’t be more valuable.

Since Tulum, and since the various “Asana Doctor” afternoons I’ve spent around Tim, I know what is expected of me when I get adjusted. I know where, in an ideal world where I have Richard Freeman’s body, my head should be going, my hands should be located, my dristi should be.

I’m able to move properly with the adjustment and thus get the most out of it.

There’s no way I’d know that on my own. And reading about the poses or seeing them on video only can take you so far. At a teacher training, you’re learning about the poses as you get adjusted or watch someone learning an adjustment.

It’s — oh, how I hate to put it this way — literally hands-on learning.

You learn the goal of the poses, and if it’s a good teacher training, you also learn that the goal isn’t the objective, after all.

Posted by Steve

On Saturday, Swenson starts First Series teacher training

This time next week, there is going to be a tired group of Ashtangis wishing they had the strength to make it out to the bars on Austin’s Sixth Street.

But I’m thinking they will be heading to their hotel rooms and barely watching TV.

Despite that, we’ll all be jealous. They will be a few days into teacher training with David Swenson.

Like with Tim Miller’s trainings, Swenson’s seems clearly designated as not being some kind of certification. That’s out of Mysore, of course, with all the politics of that involved.

But it surely doesn’t mean that a week with Swenson wouldn’t deepen one’s practice immensely. Here’s a little description of Swenson’s program from his website:

It is NOT a certification course. Participants will receive a Certificate of Completion at the end of the course but NOT a Teaching Certification. Participants will gain great insights and depth of knowledge as to how to share the practice of Ashtanga Yoga with all levels of students. The information contained in this course is invaluable and will be beneficial to those already teaching as well as to students wishing only to attend to deepen their personal practice.This course will cover the teaching techniques of the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga. The participants will learn safe and effective hands-on adjustment techniques through partner work for all of the asanas, practicalities of conducting a class and yoga theory. This is a deep immersion into the details underlying the practice and teaching of Ashtanga Yoga. One need not be a teacher to attend or even desire to be a teacher. Many students have attended this course to merely enhance their personal practice. Those that do wish to teach however will find a wealth of invaluable tools to share with their students.

When I went to Tulum this past winter with Tim, my intent was “to merely enhance” my practice. It worked — wonders. And I only can imagine a week with Swenson would do the same.

Although, I’d likely be extremely weighed down by all the Mexican food I’d be sneaking. For my money, Texas Mexican food is the best you can find in the U.S. Puts my SoCal version to shame, which is painful — and depressing — to admit. I’m still on a quest to find some here that matches even the basic breakfast burrito you find in restaurants that occupy old Taco Bell buildings.

(That means, I’m open to suggestions for anyone in the greater Los Angeles area.)

A link to Swenson’s training page is here.

Posted by Steve

A taste of Tim Miller’s teacher training

The below video is just a taste of what a teacher training with Tim Miller is like; this one was shot earlier this year at his Maya Tulum one-week course.

Yes, I happened to have gone to this one.


This would have been about mid-week since we’re about midway through the Primary Series. Robert, who recorded this, has a few others up as well.

Posted by Steve