Open Up! Yoga Teacher Training comes down to this one thing.

Hello!

Welcome to your yoga teacher training!  My name is Danielle Day and I will be guiding your journey.  Thank you for this sincere privilege.  I look forward to every step of the way with you.  I think that the very first thing that I should teach you before we begin is actually the most important thing I can teach you.

Open Up! Yoga Teacher Training comes down to this one thing.  It’s so simple, but do not be fooled.  It is the most important part of the Open Up YTT system.  This one thing I am about to share with you, unlocks all the pure potential inside of YOU.  

Are you ready?  Ok, here it is:

 

Learn what YOU know.

That is it.  Yoga Teacher Training, in the tradition of Open Up! Yoga Teacher Training with Danielle Day, Yoga Alliance RYS #117218, comes down to this one central tattva 

(sanskrit for rule).  "Learn what YOU know."  That is it.

How do you do this?  What is the process?  What is your part of this  “agreement”?  

We use no Names.

In this program, we will never say out loud, the name of any yoga teachers, while in session.  When we are in Mandala (Sanskrit for sacred space) in lecture and discussion, we only speak of techniques and practices.  Not people.

Let's be clear.  I honor the teachers that have taught me throughout my journey, and will remember them for the rest of my life.  I especially honor my very favorite teacher, with whom I plan to grow very very old.  However, in your YTT, we aren’t here to make him a bigger deal.  

**We are here to make you a great teacher!**

Friends, my job is to show you the great teacher that you already are.  

You need to meet the teacher inside of you, in order to hold space for the healing and transformation of others.  That’s the job.

To teach yoga is to hold space for the healing and transformation of others.

So here it is: the Agreement we make, entering into this yoga teacher training system. 

We avoid saying the names of other teachers.  While we are in session, or while you are teaching the group, and while you are asking questions for clarification in your learning, we speak of practices, ideas and techniques.  We speak of things we have learned and have found to be helpful, as well as topics, practices and ideas that inspire us. 

It is from this timeless, essential place that you learn what you know.  

I know you love your teachers.  I love mine.  I know there are a million apps and lots of great internet yogis on Instagram and on You Tube.  I have a ton of books, and I like to share what the yogis in the books say.  I love to brag about my own teacher,'s instruction too,  because I love him.  And I especially love to brag about people who’ve taken this program.  But it’s cheap.  It’s name-dropping.  

One thing I know for sure, is that in order to help YOU to become the teacher you already are, YTT is for you to discover and celebrate YOU today, and not others.

For you to be able to see the teacher you already are, you must first understand what wisdom lies inside you now.  Here is an example:  There is a quote that says “You do not have a soul, You are a soul.  You have a body.”  That’s awesome, huh?  I use that quote a lot, in order to illustrate the difference between Prakriti and Purusha. (The fabrics of Form and Formless).

By utilizing the idea behind the quote, rather than the name of the person who said it, we get to the timeless essence of what the quote means, rather than the basic practice of name-dropping.

Another example:  You go to a workshop and you learn a trick about how to do handstand.  Hooray! You now know something profound that you learned.  This idea helps you, and now you can use this trick to help other people.  This is you being a teacher!  You have a tip, you share it as you know it, and voila! You're teaching yoga!

BUT, if you say, “ (Name) Big Deal Fancy Yoga Teacher named so and so taught me this technique/I saw this on Instagram…” then you are making Ms. Fancy Teacher a big deal, thus squashing and marginalizing the teacher inside you.

When you say instead, “I have found this trick helpful for me.  It goes like this….”  Then YOU ARE BEING THE TEACHER.  (Quite fancy, and a big deal, in your own right!!!) YAY!

I want you to OWN it.  You are a yoga teacher, already.  I'll prove it to you.  And even if (and especially if) you are still learning handstand (like I am) then you embody the central message of yoga: “THAT YOU ARE ENOUGH AS YOU ARE TODAY; NOTHING DIFFERENT and so let’s begin…)

Please be prepared to share and showcase all the pearls of wisdom you have right now, in our yoga teacher training, fearlessly!  Own the tricks, tips and techniques as your own.

BUT DANIELLE, ISN’T THIS STEALING?  OMG!  MY SCHOOL TEACHERS ALWAYS HAD A RULE ABOUT PLAGIARISM.  ISN’T IT WRONG FOR ME TO PASS OFF A FANCY IDEA AS MY OWN?  SHOULDN’T I CITE MY SOURCE?  

So glad you asked.

Yoga Instruction, meditation, prAnayama and Ayurveda have all been practiced and taught for 6 millenia.  Guess what?  There is nothing new under the sun.  Yoga is a cosmic game of telephone.  Ever play telephone?  Sit in a circle, whisper something to the person next to you, then go around and take turns with each person whispering to the next the idea, and then enjoy the result.  That which was said originally is now made different by the last person who spoke.  

So too, Yoga has been passed around for all of human history.  The ideas that comprise the tradition and practice of yoga and meditation are all impacted profoundly by the last person who spoke.  Everyone is passing on what they learned too!

As a Yoga Teacher Trainer, I have to say that my favorite thing to witness is when an idea I have presented in session is then taught to the whole group by a TT (teacher trainee).  It’s always a little different, as the TT puts her or his own spin on things.  It’s sweet.  It’s so beautiful.  Something they heard in training, or read, or learned from their favorite teacher, has resonated inside them so much that they took it in and then fashioned their own unique pearl of wisdom.

I’m most definitely the same way.  I love Yogic ideas, and ways of looking at life, the Universe and the (proverbial) everything ;), and I have a saying: “There is nothing original in this head of mine”.  Everything I know, is all just re-purposed input from my own teachers, looking though my own lens.  My favorite quotes, my favorite stories, movies, and books all get mashed up into  my offering as a teacher.  And in the end, it’s me.  Mine.

Please do feel free to quote published authors when you are closing a class.  Here is an example:  “From Thich Nhat Hanh - To love is first to accept yourself as you actually are.”  Yes, I dropped a name, but the context warranted it.  I was closing a class, and invoking copyrighted work.

But please avoid doing this: 

“Danielle, I like my favorite teacher Greg. I love how Greg teaches, he does this, and says this, and plays this kind of music.  But now you’re suggesting that as new teachers we stick to non-lyrical music initially, and mostly use verbal and energetic adjustments until we practice hands-on more.  I like Greg's way better”  

Please instead say something like:  “What I find effective in a yoga class is when the teacher adjusts me, assists my inversions, and creates interesting sequences set to beautiful music.  Can we learn that too?”  See?  Now we have something to work with.  

YES.  We will cover physical adjustments within your current scope of practice as a new teacher.  We will learn how to choreograph to a lyrical song when you’re able to hear the music while teaching, etc.  We are learning now, and not just celebrating this guy named Greg and his amazing class.

Here is a published quote that comes to mind:

From Eleanor Roosevelt — ”Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about things.  Small minds talk about other people.”  I think the same goes for yoga and meditation.  Great Yogis talk about the practices conducive to Samadhi.  Average yogis talk about poses.  BASIC yogis talk about Yoga on social media. Period.

Please! Feel free to enjoy the conversations you like, on breaks, at lunch and in your life together as a community.  

But in session, when we are in Mandala – Sacred Space, it’s my job to get you from your practice to your calling. 

This is my greatest gift to you:  The Freedom from comparing yourself to others.

I want you to meet the teacher inside YOU that is really in there.  You bring her or him to the surface so much faster if you share what YOU like, what YOU stand for, what YOU know, rather than celebrating what our favorite teachers say and do.  

When you are curious or surprised by something you’re learning in YTT, simply say, “How come I hear this cue? or have been told/ taught this idea?”

I welcome the opportunity to explain why I’m taking a stand for this idea or that.  And if I can’t explain it in plain English, and back it up with Science, then I’m failing you.  

Challenge me until you understand why I’m taking a position for or against something.  Don’t believe it until you understand it.  And feel free to disregard my position and find the truth that resonates with you.  Never accept something because I endorse it.  Bring an open mind and only put things that resonate with you in it.

Bottom line: If you say: “Well, so and so does this or that” then YOU move farther away from the glorious yoga teacher that’s inside you!!!!  I care way too much about you to let you get into your own way.  When it comes to this, I don’t judge; and I won’t budge.

Yoga is a state of living in which you enjoy a blissful zone untouched by time and space.  You get out of your head, and into the beautiful realm of your body.  Your breathing and meditative state thus free you from any notions of performance; of success or of failure.  Of good or of bad.  

Make friends with the breath you are on right now, and you make friends with the real You.  This is the journey of Yoga towards Samadhi (liberation).

So let’s not just “teach a class” .  Let's facilitate the practice of Yoga, towards Samadhi (Liberation).  To get to this zone of meditation, untouched by time and space… we attach not to names, but to experiences, practices and teaching methods.

I submit to you humbly that, as a Yoga teacher, when we say the names of our yoga  students out loud while teaching, then we pull students out of this meditative state.  You push them farther away from this peaceful, blissful “zone”.  They enter into their thinking minds, and start to judge their efforts as good or bad…start to decide, plan, stress, worry, etc.  That's the opposite of awesome.

Yes, we want to correct alignment, and to celebrate effort.  We want to motivate and inspire! But we push Samadhi (liberation, freedom from suffering) farther away by saying people’s names out loud in class.

Remember school? When you sat at a desk in school as a kid, and heard “Becky’s” name praised?  Friends, it was a way for the teacher to get you to fall in line.   It was a way of suggesting to you that she was better, and you were lesser.  It was a way to tell the class that you should all be more like her, and less like yourself.  A lot of our culture tells you that you should be better than you are right now.  It suggests you have not yet earned the right to be happy as you are.

Yoga tells you that it is okay to be you, and that you are enough as you are now.  We call this freedom from suffering Samadhi.  We call it being Enough.  Yoga is for freedom from suffering and dissatisfaction.  It is liberation and freedom from trying to be good enough.  Skinnier, stronger, prettier, fancier, younger, sexier, better, with more money, fame and followers. 

What does this cost?

Satisfaction with the present moment, in which your life is currently taking place.  In its place: Yoga becomes just another thing you’re trying to be “good at”.

A lot of people avoid yoga because they don’t want to play a game they can’t win.  So sad.  Done right, Yoga and meditation instruction can take you to a place of peace and ease, while in the midst of great challenge.  This is a toolbox for life. That you could be in the thick of suffering, and still feel okay.  You could still be okay. Always.

A good teacher wants to facilitate your Samadhi.  Not to hold you in a contest with the other students for performance.  A good teacher calls out the poses instead of the student names.  Example of such cues: “Inversions!  Looking good.  You’ve got time!  I’m coming around to spot.”  “Chin-stands, Beautiful!!! Take your time!” Or cues like,  “Toe-stands, meet Trees, Trees bring your hands to heart center…  Release.”  

Or:

“Inhale, lift your right leg high, exhale, Chaturanga!, or Friends, take your flight!  Eka pada kundinyasana 2 (Hook and Fly).”  

See?  The overall vibration is high, and the class is challenging, but it’s not a competition.

It is awesome to take a class where the vibration is  high, the music is helpful, and the messaging is personal, positive and actionable.  How do we do this?  I have some tricks for you. We call it The 5 Facets of a Brilliant Class.  We’ll get there.  Please visit our Resources page to see videos of classes I taught and recorded for your learning.  

You know you are doing it right as a yoga teacher, when the students tell you after class, that they felt you were speaking directly to them.  I will teach you how to do it.

You know you are doing it right when the students report that they had a challenging class that was tough, but they feel amazing afterwards….”and “it didn’t feel like an hour, hour and a half…”.  That it "felt awesome and fun and it went by quickly," but somehow they were really able to be in the moment, be absorbed in the flow, and feeling strong, awesome and happy.  Regardless of the day’s cares or troubles, they feel amazing now.

Team, forget how you look in the pose.  But ask yourself, who do you want to be in this moment?  Yoga can be such a good time, as we learn new postures and discover new abilities we never knew we had.  Yoga can make us feel so strong and powerful and these things are great! The energy, agility and peace help us through life!  With mindful nutrition and lifestyle, we can balance fun and fuel to unlock the pure potential of our physical forms.  With inspiring teachers, we are guided to discover strength, stamina and courage we never knew we had.  Yes, this is true.

But, at the end of the day, at the end of your life, all you really have is prAna.  This is who you really are.  Your beautiful breath flowing in and out.  Please, let’s concentrate on in; let’s meditate on it.  We can be okay no matter what.  Through all of life’s ups and downs, we can be okay.  Don’t you want that?  For you?  For the world?

I know I do.  So please, let’s start on the path.  Step One is this:  Learn what YOU know.  

The goal is not to copy your favorite teachers.  

Let’s instead seek what they sought.

Danielle ZissouComment