Yoga teacher training programs aren’t just for new instructors. Most encourage sign up by those interested in deepening their yoga practice. The rigorous programs provide total yoga immersion that will likely take your practice to new levels, but if your end goal isn’t certification, these teacher trainings can be pricey. There are less expensive do-it-yourself ways to amp up your learning without the financial costs, it just takes a little time and tapas (yogic discipline and commitment). Here are some ways to create your own DIY-DYP (Deepen Your Practice) program.
Teacher training programs offer structure in the form of reading, writing papers, analyzing asanas (postures) and being tested on what you’re learning, so follow suit and organize yourself to get motivated. Best advice? Make it simple.
To begin a DIY-DYP, decide how long you want your organized program to last (try around three months) and then commit. Take out a calendar set times and dates for your daily practice and meditation—an absolute must. Pick at least one day per month that you devote to a special workshop or class, even if it means traveling to another city. Of course, this should be in addition to your regular yoga class(es). Finally, devote at least 2-3 evenings per week to reading books on yoga, checking out new articles on Yoga Basics or use that time to watch webinars and other yoga videos. Choose what books and videos you’ll watch during your program so that you don’t waver a few weeks in—make your choices and stick to them.
Keeping a journal is an important part of many teacher training programs, and I can’t recommend it enough for your DIY process. Use your journal to reflect on readings, analyze your own practice (you might want to write down your asana sequence every day) and to tuck special quotes or articles that you find interesting. I often used my journal to keep track of yoga websites I liked and notes on music that I heard in different classes. I even drew pictures (more like stick figures) of asanas and points I wanted to remember (watch that lazy knee in Vira I & II!). You’ll be surprised how often you look back at what you’ve written and find inspiration—or a good laugh! You might also find patterns in your own yoga practice that you want to explore. I found that I never did restorative poses, and once I realized this, I began integrating them into my regular practice.
Read! There are so many good books on the philosophy of yoga. Keep them by your bedside. Watch webinars on any aspect of yoga. Instead of following along with a yoga practice video (there are many on the web), just watch it, paying special attention to the cues the instructor is giving. You learn by watching, listening AND doing.
Part of your commitment to DIY-DYP is to attend workshops or special classes. Broaden your practice by going to classes in forms of yoga you’re not familiar with. Never done hot yoga? Yin? Try them. You don’t have to experience every kind of yoga, but move outside your comfort zone. Don’t forget to write about it in your journal.
Before you embark on a do-it-yourself program, get clear on what you hope to get out of it. Yoga is so much more than asana, but if the physical practice is important to you, commit to a home and studio practice while learning Sanskrit to familiarize yourself with poses and spend time learning about anatomy. If your focus is on spiritual learning, explore diverse meditation practices, study yogic philosophy and join a local sangha for support. Whatever your goals, give yourself permission to move forward, devote time to the exploration and remember—it takes practice to get there. This isn’t just a three month trek—you’re on an exciting journey that will last a lifetime.