Ashram Yoga Teacher Training - Mentoring

In the first of a series of blog posts Mukti Mani explores the role of mentoring in the Ashram Yoga Teacher Training Course. Getting the right balance of support in the early part of your career in yoga can be vital for becoming a confident and successful teacher. The next YTTC is accepting applications now and starts in September 2019. For more information see here.

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The yoga teacher training course at the Ashram is designed for people with experience of yoga, and a keen interest to develop themselves and the ability to be good teachers. The personal and professional side of development go very much hand in hand in the approach here. To feel comfortable to explore this territory the role of a mentor is essential.

Back in 2012 I did a short teacher training programme in India which was a profound and beautiful time in my life but when I came back to the UK I had a bit of a bumpy ride getting my yoga teaching up and going. Whilst I had learnt some solid basic skills for teaching the class, the practicalities of everything from insurance to marketing was lacking. With my teachers and many of my fellow students the other side of the world, I had limited support in trying to work this out for myself.

What I saw with the students on the yoga teacher training programme at Mandala which I was a part of in 2015-2017 was that didn’t seem to happen. The difference (apart from not being in quite such an exotic location) was the mentoring part of the training here. The way the programme is set up everyone is assigned a personal tutor. This teacher checks in with you on a regular basis all the way through the course, when you’re attending training retreats here and when you’re away via emails. They are there to give you a supportive encouragement when that is needed, as well as a firm nudge if you fall behind. The mentoring was also crucial as we moved into the second year where there is an expectation that we will be running a public yoga class. At this stage there is support for all the practical questions, as well as the personal doubts or worries.

When Mandala Yoga Ashram did a survey last year to ask what people thought about the Ashram, one of the most common terms used to describe this place was “authentic”. The approach on the teacher training programme is unless you have deeply engaged with the practices of yoga, how is it possible to be an effective teacher? So initially there is a lot of handholding and quite set practices which you discuss with your mentor regularly. But as time moves on through the course, there is a growing freedom and encouragement to explore. As you approach the point of flying the nest, the mentor is once more pivotal as you go through final assessments of both practical classes and your personal project.

In these times of concern about the idea of gurus and a challenging of teachers and authority, the Ashram is an open space that allows those questions to have space and time. Sometimes in yoga there is a sense of devout unquestioning following of a teacher, but it’s not like that here. You’ll find plenty of healthy and hearty debates go on. The founder, Swami Nishchalananda frequently refers to the idea of Guru as a guide within yourself, rather than something that is embodied in another human being. So the role of your mentor at the Ashram is as a concerned and approachable teacher. For me personally it made all the difference to my experience on the course and furthermore to my ability to confidently go out and teach yoga.