This slow evolution is part of the point of YogaFit; they want you to take what you learn and practice and apply it, coming back for more when you’re ready. Many of the women I have met at YogaFit trainings find YogaFit and compete their 200-hour training certification in a few years. I have been working on my hours for about 12 years. My road has not been so direct. I have wavered from the YogaFit path because of the demands of my career in academia or my doubts in my ability and desire to fully commit to yoga. I have had to process and practice what I have learned at trainings—to teach it and integrate new ideas into my classes (amid my multiple other professional and personal obligations).
YogaFit has grown exponentially since I started my training. The depth and nature of the programming has also changed. When I began, there was much more of a fitness focus and in addition to the five levels, there were programs like YogaButt that were targeted to health club audiences. While it maintains the accessibility of “yoga for every body,” and makes yoga accessible to populations like my local YMCA, YogaFit provides a solid basis in yoga philosophy and tradition. It also encourages adaptation and innovation—permission to play and encouragement to take yoga beyond preconceived notions.
Today, YogaFit offers a 200-hour training and an additional 300-hour training (which qualifies for Yoga Alliance's 500-hour certification) as well as a 100-hour certification for YogaFit Warriors and a Health track (formerly YogaFit therapy). These programs are oriented toward not only teaching content, but also teaching how to teach and to integrate ideas from training into personal practice. The trainers I had—just two of the whole team—were amazing. Kelly Gardner brought wisdom and perspective from her work in the field of mental health (and was funny and full of practical accessible examples) and Sandi Cartwright was an excellent teacher, grounded and wise with a wealth of knowledge and a foundation of experience in the world of fitness.
Further, YogaFit offers a supportive community—the #YogaFitFamily that can be found at the Mind/Body Fitness Conferences across the U.S. and increasingly in social media spaces. Its emphasis on teaching and its commitment to community, as well as the ways it empowers women, has brought me back to YogaFit.
I never thought that I would do my 200-hours. There was a 5-year break between taking levels 1 through 3 and taking Level 4. I took Level 4, in part, because I was working on my book, Women and Fitness in American Culture, and felt I needed more training to make some of the arguments I was making. After taking the Level 4 training, I thought I had had enough. I learned a lot over the four days of training, but I never even thought I would take Level 5 training (the final “level” in the 200-hour certification). Level 4 included a lot of elements of traditional yoga, and I didn’t really see the relevance to my daily teaching.
In the five years since taking Level 4, I have explored some other yoga venues like the Yoga Journal Live conference in New York, and I have learned a lot of things that I have integrated into my teaching, largely because of the foundations that YogaFit gave me. In fact, what I learned from Bo Forbes in her workshops inspired me to pursue yoga further. So, I found myself back at YogaFit.
I also found myself back at YogaFit because I recently decided that I wanted to complete my 200-hour training, mostly because I wanted to further pursue my academic work in fitness, and in interdisciplinary approaches to yoga specifically. To be taken seriously, I thought, I needed at least my 200-hour certification (500 hours still seems out of reach!). So, while I found myself at the YogaFit Mind/Body Conference in Minneapolis for practical reasons, the full circle of yoga gave me so much more. Most of all, it gave me positive reinforcement of what I know, what I teach, and how important this work is to me and to my communities.
While I still struggle with some of the “woo-woo” of yoga, I can’t ignore the many connections and synchronicities that yoga generally, and YogaFit specifically, have made for me. My four days of training—one-day of Pranayama: The Science and Practice of Breath and Cultivating Prana, one day of Meditation and Mindfulness, and two days of Level 5: Integration—illustrated that I have absorbed so much more of yoga (and YogaFit) than I realized and reinforced the power of yoga in my teaching and my need to continue to develop my personal practice.
Through the conversations and connections with women who teach yoga, to the ideas and practices we explored, I returned home renewed, rejuvenated, empowered, and grounded. . . . And with new ideas, new tools, new visions, new inspirations, and new possibilities.
More on the development of my teaching and personal practice in part two….