by Caitlin Rose Kenney, CSOY Alumni & Yoga Teacher in Boulder & Denver, CO
I am a young yoga teacher. Both in terms of my age, 28, and my five years of yoga teaching experience. I used to want to be older because I thought it would give me some sort of street credit when it comes to being a “teacher”. There was some truth to this belief. Wisdom is something you glean from having a wide range of experiences and a practice dedicated to deep listening, both of which take time to cultivate. There was also a big fat lie at the heart of my desire be an older, wiser teacher: that I couldn't be a great yoga teacher until I was older.
Instead, I found this story was fiction, if I sought ways to deepen my practice and hone my teaching skills.
The Power of Studying After 200-hour Teacher Training
Like most yoga teachers, I took a 200-hour Teacher Training that was pivotal in defining who I am today. It was the apex of my relationship with yoga when I was romantically in love with the practice. Every aspect of yoga was exciting. Nearly every yoga teacher I took class from was revolutionary. I felt happier every day that I spent with yoga. I was in young love with yoga.
It wasn’t until my 300-hour Teacher Training with Gina Caputo that my relationship with yoga matured into an adult relationship. Gina asked me to do something no other mentor of mine had: ask why.
Why do you say namaste at the end of class?
Why do you put pigeon pose in every sequence?
Why did you put that song on your playlist?
Why do you cue relax your butt?
Gina’s voice rings through my head like a mantra, “Nothing is arbitrary.”
When Gina first said that nothing in her classes was arbitrary, I flinched. How is that possible? That takes so much effort. Most teachers reuse the same sequence or part of a sequence every class. Arbitrariness comes with being human!
Then a wider truth emerged.
If yoga really is a mightily special force that changed my life for the better and I want to share that with other people, then everything I say and do in a yoga class should be with reason, intention, and backed by knowledge.
This revelation opened me up to the possibility that I could be a good yoga teacher before my years on this planet earned me the status of being a sage and senior teacher. Who knows if I will even get to be an elder?
Going from Instructor to Teacher
I do my best to teach yoga classes where nothing is random or without reason.
This process of questioning my own words and intentions freaks me out and it turns me on. Asking myself “why?” is uncomfortable. I’ve begun to acknowledge all the bullshit I parrot and all of the popularity contests I compete in. Asking “why?” motivates me to fill in the gaps in my yoga education such as anatomy, sequencing, and tuning into subtle energy.
For the first couple of years I instructed yoga classes, I tried to be as innocuous as possible. I wanted people to like me, so I erred on the side of being accommodating to their requests (can you turn the heat up?) and conservative with my cues and themes. I would take popular yoga teachers classes and both consciously and unconsciously imitate what they were doing. I think we all do this...we find people who are successful and we try to learn from them. It’s not a bad thing and I could argue it was a necessary step in my journey to being a good yoga teacher. But I lacked the confidence to act on my intuition and express my true personality. There was a moment in my 300-hour training with Gina where a light bulb turned on. She told me and my peers that each of us had something unique to offer and that our teachings were essential to the journey of others. This was another bold statement that scared the shit out of me. Luckily, Gina’s words harmonized in my mind with a quote I had long cherished by Marianne Williamson.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.*
*I apply my own definition of God to this quote and encourage you to do the same.
Since my 300-hour training I’ve seen significant changes in the quality of my teaching. I am a more confident and honest teacher. I spend hours writing and practicing sequences. I see that my hours studying translates into better classes for my students where I witness their attention sharpen and their embodiment leap to the next level. I know myself better than I used to and I no longer teach sequences that were developed by others. I feel empowered and resourced to teach in diverse environments and to people who don’t identify as yogis.
Meeting People Where They Are
I am now a good teacher, and on some days, a really good teacher. Yes, time is a necessary part of the process. I have to manage my time in such a way that I can practice with my teachers, continue my self-study, and gain that coveted gem called experience through teaching often. I still have plenty of refinements to make and areas I want to learn more about including meditation, Chinese meridian theory, and how to soften my heart and my presence.
I have changed so much as yoga teacher in five years that it is beyond my imagination where I can go if I keep studying. I made the greatest leap of improvement after my 300-hour teacher training. Before my 300-hour, I had taught yoga almost exclusively to athletically inclined students who could afford a yoga membership in the town where I grew up. Since my 300-hour training I’ve taught yoga in public schools, public libraries, breweries, workplaces, in New York City (yes, I’m proud of that!) and I’ve created a podcast that has been downloaded in 82 cities internationally. I am not rattling off these accomplishments to brag but rather to demonstrate a point: upping my yoga education has empowered me to meet more people where they are.
The greatest gift that my 300-hour training with Gina Caputo gave me is the ability to make yoga accessible to more people. When I look at the alumni from Colorado School of Yoga I see people who live all over the world, with delightfully varied personalities and unique offerings. What this diverse group has in common is the desire to make yoga more accessible and, thanks to the time they have dedicated to studying, they are doing just that.
I will close with this: what to study, where, and with whom is a deeply personal choice, but if you are a teacher of any kind, I hope that you actively pursue the continuation of your education-- because the more you fill your knowledge bank the more you have to give to others.
As an RYT-500, Caitlin Rose is a self-proclaimed yoga mutt who crafts unique yoga sequences. She teaches Integrated Vinyasa woven with aspects of Iyengar, Forrest and Yin Yoga. Whether she is teaching an energetic flow or a lunar class, you can expect her sequencing to be both creative and grounded in smart anatomical progressions. She has studied with and been significantly impacted by Gina Caputo, Kathryn Budig, Rachel Hull, Laura Allard and Kate Mulheron. Caitlin Rose is also a stewardess of the honeybees and founded Boulder Bee Yards, an apiary dedicated to offering experiential workshops on backyard beekeeping. Learn more about Caitlin Rose at www.caitlinrosekenney.com.