An Interview with Steve Avian of Shamayoga

What kind of Yoga do your trainees teach?

“Every school has a particular emphasis. Mine is very practical. There is a focus on traditional Hatha Yoga practices and postures and a foundation in the underlying principles and spiritual aspects. There are lots of opinions about all things yogic. I encourage my students to know the difference between opinions and yoga principles. I like my students to think for themselves. Because I teach small groups (up to 12) I can respond to their individual interests and the direction they would like their teaching to go. Some students go on to emphasise physical fitness and others the more subtle, meditative aspects. As well as starting their own classes some have gone on to teach in gyms, hospitals, schools, community centres and in the workplace etc. It’s all great. ”

Who is the training for? Who can be a yoga teacher?

“Rather than trying to get students to fit my yoga, I want to bring out the yoga in each student. According to yoga teachings we all have yoga in our bodies and souls as a gift. Yoga can be turned to at any age and so can training to be a yoga teacher. My teacher trainees have been from early 20s up to mid 60s. In a sense yoga is about recapturing or maintaining the openness, wonder and creativity we had as children throughout the whole of life. Most children are natural yogis with supple bodies and relaxed breathing and the way they can be totally absorbed in whatever captures their interest – that’s all yogic. Some people do the training not necessarily out of a desire to teach but for self discovery / development through yoga. ”

How do you know someone is ready to be a yoga teacher?

“I have to see someone on their mat and know they have actually been practising yoga. I would ask how yoga makes them feel and why they want to share it with others. I would need to know they are motivated enough to commit the time and energy to become a yoga teacher. My main teacher Enid Culf, who has now passed into spirit, told me that “the best yoga teachers don’t forget to keep an appointment with themselves”. They show up for their own meditation and practice. The best way to teach yoga is to get on your mat every day if only for a few minutes and embody what you teach. A yoga teacher needs to learn to communicate with students of varying personalities, abilities and levels of understanding and at the same time be authentic and fresh. A teacher’s work flows simultaneously in two directions -outwards to others and inward – which is work on oneself and never stops. I have been practising yoga for well over 30 years, teaching for 20 years and training teachers for over 12 years. I am still learning all the time and do some form of specialist training every year. I am a work in progress!”

What’s your advice for anyone looking for a yoga teacher training course?

“It’s important to have a teacher who can see your promise and draw it out. If you have someone who believes in you, it makes it easier for you to manifest your potentials. Whichever course you look at, check out the lead trainer, their experience and credentials and if possible attend one of their classes or workshops. You’ve got to love how they teach. The training I offer is primarily practical with lots of hands-on teaching opportunities, not only with peers but with the public too. Written assignments can be used as future teaching material or for websites, workshops, articles or publicity. Guest teachers feature specialist topics such as yoga for pregnancy, children, special needs or disabilities and anatomy . When you’re choosing your teacher training school you should also consider what you’re going to get from the qualification. I chose Yoga Alliance International (YA) so my trainees gain a trusted and long-standing accreditation with a global reach. It means they can teach yoga almost anywhere in the world with a recognised qualification. “

What do new yoga teachers do when the course finishes?

“The teaching journey starts when the training ends. I give everyone the best preparation for take off! Students are kept up to date through my email newsletters with Continuing Professional Development opportunities, workshops and retreats. I recommend any independent UK yoga teachers join the Independent Yoga Network (IYN) because I’ve found they provide a great support network and benefits.”

What do you enjoy most from training yoga teachers?

“Every year it’s fresh because the people who attend always bring something new. The group creates the journey and I respond to that, so each time it’s unique. That’s what I love about it. It’s always a learning experience for me. The explorations and interpretations of the teachings always reflect the people who are there and it delights me that it’s so different each year. I think people learn best when they are relaxed and having fun so we have lots of belly laughs too ! As yoga expands in the mainstream the demand for yoga teachers is growing. It’s very timely that there’s such a variety of styles and teachers for people to choose from. There’s something for everyone.”

For details

Interview by Susan McHale for Yoga Vision . Picture by Lucy Livingstone.

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