It seems like at most every studio in Atlanta, there is a Peachtree Yoga Center graduate teaching classes. Having been the first studio in Atlanta to graduate teachers to now offering advanced education as deep as it comes, Peachtree has been the trusted training ground for yoga teachers in Atlanta and beyond. Now, they’re even offering multiple advanced teacher training courses too!
I sat down with Ursula Nix, the co-director of the Teacher Training program to get the scoop. I had to know: What makes this program so special?
Leah: Thanks so much for sitting down with me. Tell me a little about how the teacher training got it’s start.
Ursula: The program started in 1996 and was actually the first teacher training course in the Southeast registered with the Yoga Alliance. It was very new, and the draw to the program was that we were the only ones who had it.
We had only one class a year up until 2003, when we added a spring course. That was partly due to the fact that we had a lot of interest from students. We had a ton of people interested but we really wanted to keep the class numbers down to maintain a really good relationship with the students, and to make sure the students had good relationships with each other. The spring course also came about to accommodate people’s busy holiday schedules. Now the spring course has become equally as attended and successful as the fall course.
Leah: So when you’re evaluating applications from yogis, what is it that you’re really looking for in a teacher? I’ve heard that you don’t limit your classes to people who want to teach, but also to people who want to deepen their practice. How do you choose people?
Ursula: Passion for yoga is essential. We’ve seen successful teachers graduate with all levels of experience, from people who have done yoga for one year to those who have done it for thirty years. What’s the most important is that you are so passionate about yoga that you have a deep desire to share it with the world.
It doesn’t matter to us if you want to teach or not, but that you are excited to be in this kind of learning environment. We find that students who come into the practice just for personal reasons are eventually inspired to share that practice.
Leah: Can you walk me through what your program is like? An overview of the program, the structure of the course, and the day-to-day training?
Ursula: We structure the course so that teachers in training come in on non-consecutive weekends for about five months (depending on holidays and such). The whole course teaches the physical practice, meditation, and self-development. All parts are equally important to us!
The framework of the class is around the chakra system, so each week is a study of how a particular chakra influences our yoga practice.
As for the day-to-day, we have a physical practice, asana study, pranayama study, student presentations, and, most importantly, teaching! We have our teachers start teaching from day one. It is so important to us to cultivate in them the confidence to speak in front of groups and to articulate themselves in yogic terms.
Leah: What about things like anatomy and nutrition?
Ursula: We definitely study functional anatomy, and its effect on yoga modifications and alignment. We take a very self-reflective stance on nutrition. We mostly encourage students in a ‘practice of wholeness.’ Which allows them to make the best decisions for themselves on every part of their life, from what they each, to how much sleep they get and what their relationship is with technology. It’s a balance on and off the mat that we encourage students to determine what’s best for themselves.
Leah: What are the relationships like between students in teacher training?
Ursula: Oh, this is so funny. People come in on the first day and are all quiet and reserved, but by the end of the first weekend, they are all friends, and as the course goes on, they become family. We also bring in teachers to the mix and have our resident teachers as mentors and friends to the students.
After the course, some of our teachers stay friends for life. We actually have TT graduate-run events, the ‘Yoga Socials’ where students will come to the studio, have a class together, talk about what they’re up to and just hang out. I think it’s wonderful!
Leah: So, I know you have graduates everywhere, but how do you prepare them to become teachers?
Ursula: Towards the end of the course we have a brainstorming session on how they can take their class to the world. Everyone is on a different path, so we encourage them to think about health clubs, studios, churches, and private students they can teach.
Leah: What is your overall advice to people who want to be teachers, from someone who has graduated hundreds of them?
Ursula: My favorite teacher, Rodney Yee taught a weekend teacher course once that I attended. There, someone asked him “What is the most important thing about being a yoga teacher?” He gave the best response when he replied, “to inspire the love of yoga in others.” I still carry that with me to this day!
If you’re interested in learning more visit Peachtree Yoga Center’s website!