Jennifer Musick has completed Kula Collective’s 200hr Yoga Teacher Training at Seven Springs in Tennessee and has fulfilled 200 hours of coursework in the history, anatomy, philosophy, methodology, asana and discipline of Yoga as set forth by Yoga Alliance for a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT).
This moment will be one Jen remembers for the rest of her life, as she joined a quickly growing group of RYTs all over the world.
The discussion of how we assess the quality of the experience is rarely explored in depth by yoga schools. While schools must follow the Yoga Alliance requirement that 20 hours be spent learning anatomy and physiology, what their student will know and be able to do upon graduation remains the responsibility of each school to determine. In many schools, there is little formal assessment before graduation of whether or not a student has achieved their learning goals. In fact, there is no consensus and very little understanding as to what these learning goals might be. This lack of clarity has meant that many schools never clearly express what knowledge and skills they expect their students to achieve.
While the openness of the yoga certification allows for a great deal of diversity in offerings, it can also lead to a watering down of the essence of Yoga, as evidenced by the proliferation of 17 day immersion programs that barely meet YA’s minimum required contact hours. As you can imagine, this model is considerably more financially advantageous both for the school and the students. While it may be a viable model for efficiently producing quality yoga teachers, without rigorous assessments or even clear standards it’s impossible to measure the quality of the RYTs who graduate from the program.
All this is why we at Kula Collective place a great deal of emphasis on establishing and effectively measuring a robust set of learning goals that adequately describe the kind of Yoga teachers we seek to graduate from our programs. When Jen found our training online, she was able to read through a detailed description of what we expect from our students in order to graduate. Then, when she arrived at the training she was given an extensive manual, including very clear indications of what she would be learning, and how her learning would be assessed. What follows is a summary of these indications, which we hope will inspire reflection and adaptation by other schools so that we may collectively support the improvement of our programs and the quality of Yoga Teachers going out into the world.
Leading Asana is a critical aspect of being a Yoga teacher. Although we have many other learning goals, this is one we spend a great deal of time and care to make sure it is done in a safe and authentic way. For most Yoga teachers, this is their opportunity to inspire others, and we’ve created a concise set of expectations which are clearly laid out in our manual:
- Creating Sacred Space: Using appropriate tools to inspire students toward inward reflection.
- Theme Weaving: Introducing and returning to an appropriate theme that can serve as a tool for individual reflection throughout the class.
- Personal connection to students: Using creative methods to build respectful and trusting relationships.
- Language, Vocal Projection, Inflection: Using the voice as a tool to clearly instruct, adjust, inspire and calm students.
- Verbal Cueing: Asana, Pranayama & Meditation: Using clear and simple language to safely guide students through these practices.
- Variations / Modifications: Suggesting appropriate ways for students to adjust and adapt Asana to their own personal practice.
- Fluid Recovery: Gracefully recovering from misspoken cues modeling creative adaptation and self love.
- Transitions: Safely and clearly guiding students from one Asana to the next.
- Movement on & off mat: Moving around calmly and openly to engage students throughout the room.
- Adjustments: Safely and respectfully using appropriate verbal, energetic, and physical cues to improve alignment and potentially deepen a pose.
During the entire training, these aspects are consistently modeled by our facilitation teams. Students also have multiple opportunities to practice leading Asana, and they receive extensive peer and facilitator FeedForward based on these same criteria. Because we are clear on what we want them to learn and how we’re going to assess their progress, we are able to design a curriculum that consciously and creatively moves the group toward these goals while ensuring plenty of flexibility in the implementation to inspire creativity in the facilitators while accommodating individual student’s needs.
Anatomy and Physiology is another important body of knowledge required by the YA with no clear expectations of what students should know. At Kula we’ve decided that our graduates will be able to apply basic concepts of anatomy and physiology to safely lead themselves and their students through various Yoga practices. To measure this ability we observe them during our daily asana practice, during their multiple teaching practicums, and with a simple Asana presentation that gives them the opportunity to share in depth knowledge about a pose. This presentation includes the following aspects:
- Sanskrit Name
- Teaching / Breath Cues
- Anatomical Alignment
- Muscular Activity
- Energetic Alignments Chakras, Bandas, & Energetic Lines
- Preparatory Poses
- Health Benefits
- Adjustments / Assists
As you can see, we’re quite serious about the technical aspects of teaching Asana - graduating teachers who are able to safely and confidently lead others through an exploration of their own bodies and their limits is one of our highest priorities.
Yet, all of this knowledge and these skills are useless if the graduate has not attained a clearer understanding of their (big S) Self and a deeper connection to the roots of Yoga. These aspects are harder to measure through assessments, though just as, important. To do this we commit to one-on-one check ins with our students throughout the course to provide mentorship and insight on these topics. We create space for daily group check ins and daily facilitator meetings to be sure we are always current on what student needs may be. We also ask our students at the completion of the course to self reflect and share with us how they feel they’ve developed within these ten categories.
Through analyzing our students’ responses, we’ve been able to improve our curriculum and the flow of our programming to maximize the impact we have on our students, and that which our students have on the world. We have a similar evaluation process for our 300 hour advanced YTT as well as for those interested in joining the Kula Path to become a facilitator of these transformational experiences. As we grow this allows us to ensure the quality of the teachers we’re graduating into the world, and at the same time allows us to improve our own systems to ensure that we’re supporting this level of quality for all.
We are growing our Kula Collective family the way a crystal expands: each successive layer depends upon the structural integrity of the layer beneath to maintain its beauty. This is why we evaluate. This is why we make it clear to students even before they sign up what will be expected of them: so that they are empowered to succeed.