A sign saying Next Steps

I know it’s tempting. You want to assign your yoga trainees to do something fun, like write an essay on how the chakra system developed in India or describe their personal relationship to their dosha. But as diligent yoga teacher trainers we have to ask: do these assignments get them closer to their training goal?

Prioritizing What To Teach

When we first start creating a teacher training, 200 hours sounds like a long time. But once we start factoring in asana labs, practices, practice teaching, cueing techniques and sequencing exercises…suddenly 200 hours is really very little time. 

When you design – or refine – your yoga teacher training, consider: What am I asking students to do at the end of the training to demonstrate that they have learned the necessary skills to teach? What is the primary task that they must perform for me to say, “Ah-ha! by Jove they’ve got it!”

For many yoga teacher trainings, the primary task is teaching part of an asana class. We rarely ask students to lecture on Ayurveda or describe key events from yoga history. So our focus as yoga teacher trainers must first prioritize the learnings, tasks, and activities that will help students to teach asana effectively.

Incorporating the Fun Stuff

This doesn’t mean that we can’t include more theoretical subjects. After all, students come to teacher training to deepen their relationship with themselves and investigate the yoga tradition, not simply learn how to cue asana. Most of us would probably agree that having a healthy respect for the yoga tradition and its many facets fosters essential knowledge, respect and humility in our teachers in their relationship to the practice.

However, if you want your students to have a working and applicable knowledge of these aspects of the tradition, then you can support their learning by making this information immediately relevant to their teaching. We can do this by assigning real tasks.

Real Tasks

A real task is one that practically supports the student’s work as a teacher.  By ensuring that we are assigning real tasks in our training, we help our students transfer theoretical knowledge into real-world skills. For example: 

  • Rather than assigning students to write an essay on the chakras, task them to create a class themed around manipura chakra.
  • Rather than ask a student to describe their relationship to their own dosha, task them to create a sequence for someone who has an excess of vata.
  • Rather than test students on their yoga history knowledge, ask students to teach a meditation practice described by Patanjali, an asana practice rooted in the concept of the Bhagavad Gita’s definition of yoga, “yoga is skill in action,” and a pranayama practice as described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. \

And if you feel that the more theoretical aspects of the yoga practice are essential the style of yoga that you wish your students to teach, then include these elements in their primary task and final assessment. By tweaking your tasks to be “real,” you will help students refine their skills more quickly. Also, students will recognize the practical value of the assignment, which will motivate them to do it well. 🙂 

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