Let’s Talk Shop: Collaborative Learning for Yoga Teachers

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Ever since my 200 hour YTT ended, I’ve been squeaking away about wanting another opportunity to learn in relationship with others, in community.

I remember how awesome it was to move, observe and discuss the intricacies of anatomy, philosophy and politics with a diverse group of people, and I miss that. I’ve kept on learning on my own, and while self inquiry and practice is important, it’s just not the same thing, watching videos on my laptop and farting around on my mat at home.

Good news: with the announcement of the Queen Street Yoga Teacher’s Immersion, Leena and Emma have just greased up this squeaky wheel big time, and now I’m swirling like a merry-go-round! I know what it’s like to learn at QSY because I did my initial 200-hour training there, and what I experienced was excellent pedagogy, diverse and forward-looking perspectives, and outside experts brought in with intentionality and purpose. Beyond that, Leena and Emma are masterful at holding space, nurturing community and guiding both individual and group learning with consistent and clear support and care. The way they lead trainings with both wisdom and curiosity, experience and reflection is inspiring and makes for a true learning community.

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Why we’re jealous of yoga teachers in KW

Emma from Queen Street Yoga here. And if you are a yoga teacher in KW, I’m jealous of you.  😉

When I did my teacher training, I had to travel. Not to glamourous locations like Costa Rica or India, but to small studios in freezing Winnipeg and land-locked Cincinnati. I travelled because I am picky – I knew who I wanted to study with, and I was willing to go the distance. I slept on couches, spent hours on Greyhound buses. One time I even got turned away from the US border (that is a story for another day). It was exciting to see new places and learn new things, but it was also a slog.

I experienced wonderful bonds and community with the people in my trainings (200hr and beyond), but it was hard to sustain the excitement and conversation once I returned homeLeena was the only other yoga teacher in KW that was studying the same type of yoga as me. So for a long time, it was just her and I, talking about teaching and practicing together.

Leena and I took over the leadership of Queen Street Yoga in 2012 and since then, have created the kind of yoga teacher trainings that we wish we could have taken. Leena also travelled a lot for training, and while it was cool for her to study with Ram Dass in Maui (just a little name-dropping for ya), it lacked the continuity and growth that comes with ongoing community. Our teacher trainings in the last few years have aimed to connect individuals to a lively and regular sense of community – that “thing” that most of us are seeking in our lives. With the practice of yoga and mindfulness at the centre, our trainings have evolved to become transformative communities.

Here’s where my jealousy comes in. This year, Leena and I have curated a Continuing Education program for yoga and movement teachers with some of the top teachers in Canada. All of them are leaders in their fields, and they are doing wonderful things for the world of movement education.

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We can’t believe what people are saying about us: a heartfelt letter from a QSY student

A Message from Leena & Emma

A few weeks ago we received the following email from a student named Melissa who has become a regular at QSY since January. Her email really struck a chord with us. Melissa shared what a difference the atmosphere at the studio has made to her yoga practice, how it has helped her shift her relationship to pain, to internal competitiveness, to what she needs to cultivate a happy life. It was so wonderful to hear how the attitude of kindness that we cultivate at Queen Street Yoga resonated with her, and allowed her to be kinder to herself.

It is beyond wonderful when students share with us what a difference yoga has made in their lives. Because often as teachers, we don’t know! Folks might say “thanks, that was great!” after class, but since yoga is really an internal conversation that each person has with themselves, we as teachers don’t often know what the impact is.

Writing realizations down, or verbalizing them can be powerful. This is why we are working harder to share more of our story in our newsletter and our blog. Just like Melissa showed us who she is and what she’s learning from yoga, we want to show you who we are, get more of a window into why we teach yoga, what it means to us.

For now, we want to share Melissa’s words with you. This is why we teach yoga: because time and time again we have seen how it opens people up to their relationship with themselves, brings them into conscious conversation with their lives, their bodies and the world. Continue reading

To Give or Not To Give Hands-On Adjustments? — Emma’s Reflections

 

img_2198“My adjustment card is always turned to green but I rarely get hands-on adjustments from the teacher. I am starting to take it kind of personally. Why aren’t I getting more hands-on adjustments?”

Queen Street Yoga had this question posed to us by a student and we want to respond to it. There is a big conversation about hands-on adjustments going on in the yoga community that includes conversation about teaching styles and qualifications, consent, and trauma awareness. Emma is one of the Co-Directors of Queen Street Yoga, and this is her current thinking/reflecting around common assumptions about hands-on adjustments. We welcome your comments, feedback, and conversation around this topic.

Assumption #1 – Yoga teachers are fully qualified and trained to give manual/therapeutic* adjustments.

*Manual means “with the hands” and therapeutic means “related to healing.” Example: a chiropractor might give a therapeutic adjustment to someone to help relieve pain or heal an injury. Continue reading

Emma’s Teaching Break

2014-09-07_1410113541This summer I am taking a four-month break from teaching, and I’ll be getting on a train and going out to the west coast of Canada. I’m intending to spend some time on the beautiful island of Haida Gwaii, and also visit some friends in Alberta, B.C. and Oregon.

I am excited to take a break from teaching, as there are many things that I am currently learning and churning about human movement, and I want to give myself some time to digest and practice outside of the space of teaching. Continue reading

Yoga and Race: Why Representation Matters

Queen Street Yoga teacher and creative director Emma Dines shares an important personal experience about race and representation as it relates to yoga teaching and representation in the yoga studio community.

B&W yoga photo

During our March Yoga Teacher Training weekend, QSY hosted two presenters from Toronto who shared their experiences and best practices of merging anti-oppression work with the teaching of yoga/hosting of yoga studio communities. Jamilah Malika and Christi-an Slomka led the group in considering the experiences of those who are underrepresented in yoga studios and yoga media/imagery, and understanding how and why yoga studios remain mostly white and mostly cis-gendered spaces, and how and why we might work to shift this.

During our closing circle, where we shared our insights, reflections and challenges with one another, I shared the following personal story, which touches on themes of race and representation. It was a story that I had forgotten about, but it bubbled up to the surface during the circle.

A bit of background before the story. I grew up in Toronto in a mostly white neighbourhood, going to a mostly white school. I am mixed race – my mom is third-generation Japanese Canadian, and my dad is second-generation Scottish Canadian. I remember being pretty aware of my race as a child – I was one of two or three Asian or half-Asian kids in my class. When I blew the candles out on the cake at my eighth birthday, my wish was to wake up the next day with white skin and blond hair. My mother experienced what I now understand to be micro-aggressions from many of the other parents in the area. The racism that my mother, my siblings and I experienced was subtle, sometimes internalized, but definitely present. Continue reading

Leena’s Learning Break

This post is from QSY Director, Leena Miller Cressman about her plans to take a 6-week break from teaching. Leena will be back to teaching January 12. In the meantime, all her classes will still be on the schedule, and will be taught by our other excellent teachers. You can check out the live schedule here.

I love teaching. I love guiding folks through these embodiment explorations we call yoga. I love watching a student take a deeper breath, or release tension from their jaw. I love seeing the exhilaration on someone’s face when they kick up to their first handstand. I love the peaceful, resonant sound of a whole group singing the sound of Aum at the end of class.

Getting to teach yoga as a profession, and lead our community at QSY is an enormous privilege.

When you love something deeply, it can be easy to forget that you still need breaks and healthy boundaries. You still need time to refresh and explore things from a new perspective.

I recently had a great conversation with a university professor friend of mine. I shared with her that it felt challenging to juggle the administrative work of running the studio, teaching public classes, workshops and yoga teacher training, and also make space for research and development and learning. Without much time for my own learning, it was feeling difficult to be as refreshed and innovative as I’d like to be when I teach. She pointed out that this is the precise reason for sabbaticals in the academic world. Every three years or so, tenured academics get a period where they are free from their teaching load, they lessen their administrative duties, and they get to pour themselves wholeheartedly into their research and learning. Since I don’t have a PhD I’ll just call what I need a “learning break.” Continue reading