It's been over a month since I left northern Thailand after our three week Namaslay® Yoga Teacher Training and only now have I had a moment to sit down and really put down my thoughts. This was a wild ride, and now that it's all over, I thought I'd share four things I wish I'd known before leading my first yoga teacher training program.
- Doing business overseas can be an absolute nightmare. This is not something new, and to be fair I did know this. I've led my fair share of yoga retreats overseas and therefore I've had my fair share of bad experiences working with companies abroad. I've come to expect a certain level of miscommunication, but when you're bringing in 25 students and 7 teachers, and the scale of the project was bigger than anything you've done before, the miscommunications feel insurmountable and the stress that they caused was out of control. A few months before the training, I received an email while I was in Dubai for work saying the hotel has decided to renovate, and would it be okay to put all the singles into doubles, and turn all the doubles into triples because they'd need to cut about ten rooms for the renovation. Uh, no, that would not be okay. People who have paid for a single cannot be put in a double, and same goes for the doubles turning into triples. Basically, in the middle of dinner one night in Dubai, I got on the phone via Skype and threatened to take my business elsewhere. It was really difficult trying to communicate all of this because of the language barrier and I was really feeling overwhelmed. Finally, they told me they'd hold off on renovations until after our training was complete. Ok, first fire was extinguished. Then, I arrive to the venue two days before the students, only to realize that all our double rooms were set up with one double bed. I spoke with the front desk staff and they shrugged and basically said that's what they do for double occupancy - people share a bed. Once again, hard pass! I was panicking, thinking about all these poor people hours away from arriving off 30+ hour travel days, only to walk into their room and find out they are sharing a bed with a complete stranger! No, no, no. I made it very clear that this would not fly, and they let me know they would look around for some extra beds. #WUT. In the end, they found twin beds for each double room so all doubles had two beds. Crisis averted yet again, but you can imagine how high my stress levels were.
- I knew it was going to be hard for our trainees, but I didn't realize how hard worrying about them would be on me. We're taught, in our culture, not to toot our own horn, but I'm about to toot it, you guys. The Namaslay® Yoga Teacher Training curriculum is exceptionally good. I designed and wrote it based on my own observations about teacher trainings, other teachers, my own teacher training and the majority of my students. I took into consideration the number of DMs I get from newly minted yoga teachers who write me and say: "I'm lost!" No one should be lost when they finish a training! They should feel empowered and prepared to get out there and start. They might feel scared, yes, but they should feel like they have some steps to follow to get out there and make shit happen. I knew the curriculum was rock solid. And I knew that intensive trainings are just that - intensive AF. You are overtired, you are learning #allthethings, and in order to be great teachers, you need to do deep introspective work. This introspection often brings up a lot of our past stuff - trauma, emotions, whatever - and then on top of all of the stuff you're doing on a daily basis at training, you have the emotional stuff to deal with as well. Then, the cherry on top, is dealing with all the people around you because you're in this group dynamic all. day. long. It's a lot. And it's very intense. And I knew people would struggle. I anticipated it. My body was on a weird clock because of it. I was waking up every three hours - literally every night - to check my DMs and our Facebook Group to make sure no one was about to have a nervous breakdown or go AWOL. I was stressed about making sure I was there for them, and that they felt supported. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't been stressed about it because the lack of sleep really did a number on my immune system and overall health.
- There is a difference between hosting a retreat and hosting a training. I am a people pleaser, especially when it comes to my events. I have been working since I was a teenager, and I know the value of a dollar. Regardless of what event I put on - be it a workshop or a retreat or a training, I want people to feel like they got their money's worth. There were two incidents where I knew that specific people were unhappy. This crushed me. Like, absolutely broke my heart. I am also a perfectionist, and am hard on myself. Even though I knew what they were going through was not about me or the actual training itself - it was purely their own "stuff" that was bubbling up - I still asked myself time and again if I messed up, if I didn't do a good enough job. I met with my team of teachers and asked them to be honest with me and give it to me straight - did I screw up here? And one of those teachers looked me in the eyes and said: "You have to realize this is not a retreat. You are not here to worry about people enjoying themselves and having a good time. This is an intensive 200hr training. You literally need to put 200 hours worth of curriculum into three weeks. This is not your call, this is the requirement from the Yoga Alliance - so if people can't handle it, that's not on you. Here's the thing, if I need to be a hard ass in order to make them great teachers, I will. That's my job. My job is to make them great teachers, not to make sure they have fun in Thailand as if it were a retreat." That really spoke to me. I realized that I was used to running retreats, and when I am running a retreat I want them to have a great vacation, enjoy some yoga, good company and yummy food, and then go home feeling well-rested and rejuvenated. While of course I wanted our trainees to be as happy as possible during the training, I also needed to realize that their education was the top priority here. In the future, I will work on that.
- Don't feel guilty about not being able to do it all. With the exception of maybe one or two people, the group of trainees came together because they were longtime #YBCyogis. They'd read the blog for ages, and knew what I was all about. I created the curriculum, tweaked it repeatedly to meet the Yoga Alliance standards, and worked so hard on the logistics and coordination of the whole thing, that by the time I sat down to think about actually teaching everything, I knew I couldn't do it alone. Further, I think it's a great disservice to people to have only one teacher for their training because then you only learn one way from one person. Further, my background is in Ashtanga, and I wanted people to have experiences with other teachers from different backgrounds, so I brought in Jen with a background in Iyengar, Lucy with a strong athletic practice, Kat with a background of Baptiste, Danny with a CrossFit® and strength background, and Dan with a heavy anatomy background. I brought in people who knew more in areas where I knew I fell short. I brought in people like Sjha'ra, a Kundalini teacher, to give them experiences that I couldn't. I recruited this group of teachers for a couple reasons. One, I knew I physically couldn't do it alone. Two, in the real world, you don't get to choose your boss or studio owner, or fellow yoga teachers. You don't get to choose who comes to your class. But you do have to be respectful and tolerant of everyone. I knew that some people wouldn't vibe with all the teachers, because that's just human nature, but I thought it would be a good exercise for them in prepping for the real world when they'd go out and teach and experience different personalities and yoga styles. However, I still felt guilty about not being present and co-teaching every class. I brought this up with my team of teachers, and they shook their heads and said: "Nope. You can't do everything, and a great leader delegates. A great leader knows their shortcomings, brings in people who can fill those gaps, and keeps it moving."
By the end of the training, I was ready for it to be over. My body was shot from the lack of sleep and overall low level stress I was under. My mind was spinning with changes we needed to make for the next training (which was about a month away), and I was just done. I was cooked. Fried. Ready to pack up and ship out.
I was also supremely happy. I know that this curriculum is extremely thorough and unlike anything else out there. I know that us teachers did our absolute best to prepare our graduates, and I am confident that we graduated knowledgable, passionate, kick-ass instructors. Further, soon after they graduated, I saw on Instagram that so many of them were hired right away, and started leading privates and workshops right off the bat, started their blogs and websites, and I could not have been more proud. They've got hearts of gold and I know they're going to go out into the world and do so much good. And the idea that I had just a small part in making that happen makes my heart feel so full it feels like it could burst.