Before signing up for Pranakriya’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program I attended a practice and information session taught by Yoganand at my local studio. Even though my hip flexors ached from holding side boat pose, the post-practice question and answer period proved quite illuminating.
I didn’t know it at the time, but every question and subsequent answer from Yoganand was an exercise in Satya, or truthfulness. Yoganand didn’t sugarcoat his words or give easy answers. The lack of flowery or vague actually answers made me more-interested in enrolling in the YTT.
Something that’s stuck with me is Yoganand stressed that once you finish the YTT program if you want to teach, you’ll have to hustle. Studios and schools are cranking out 200-hour certified teachers faster than Apple updates its operating system. If your desire is to teach yoga, Yoganand recommended go wherever you can and get on as many sub lists as possible.
Taking that advice to heart, I’ve subbed countless hours of classes since January 2019 — here, there and everywhere. (Confession: these hours have indeed been tracked on a spreadsheet and Yoga Alliance.)
The question I always asked myself before subbing a class came on this simple spectrum: do I pull every trick out of my yoga bag in an attempt to leave students wowed or do I keep it to the simple meat and potatoes?
Early on, my thought process leaned toward the yoga magician, trying to impress new faces with elements they’ve potentially never seen before. Perhaps this was ego driven. I wanted to make an impression on students with the idea that “harder” = better.
Lately I’ve leaned a little toward the more “basic” approach. Initially worried if I kept it too “simple” students would get bored or antsy. As I’ve grown in confidence I’ve realized there’s a good reason why poses like Side Warrior are so popular — they work!
On a more practical level, it makes more sense to keep it simple when you’re in a room full of people who you probably know nothing about, least of all their individual body awarenesses or medical history. Subbing a class and throwing all sorts of challenging inversions on a group of people you’ve only met makes little, if any, sense. The trade off to appeal to 1-2 more advanced-looking students while alienating the rest isn’t worth it.
The Pranakriya 200-hour YTT program is it prides itself on training teachers to lead poses at various levels and or modifications. This is so important and something that seems lacking in the greater Western yoga world. If a student wants more, give them room to explore their edge and vice versa. This allows for a personal touch that doesn’t leave students behind or upset that they’re not balancing on their head like the person next to them.
Something to avoid at all costs whether subbing or not, is try not to allow yourself to switch on autopilot. After a while most teachers develop “their” class. It’s certainly great to have the ability to fall back on a class that can apply to anyone, but if you feel like you’re going through the motions it will translate to the to the students.
Above all, my best tips for subbing — whether in a class of two or 200 — is bring your own energy and enthusiasm. Looking out at a sea of faces — many of them nervous because of a sub — can be intimidating, but remember it’s yoga not international nuclear diplomacy.
And chances are, if you leave room for a decent shavasana everyone’s going to be pleased when they walk out the door and back into their lives.
Mike Cardillo, RYT-200, lives and teaches yoga in Connecticut. He believes yoga is more than simply making shapes with your body.
He can be reached at yogawithmikeCT@gmail.com or found at Facebook.com/yogawithmikeCT