Yogacampus Hebden Bridge Teacher Training Diploma: Meet the Board
The Yogacampus Teacher Training Diploma has become established as one of the UK's top yoga teacher training courses. Here, we talk to the brains behind the course that has successfully trained over 600 teachers in London and West Yorkshire.
Good friends and dedicated members of the teacher training faculty - Graham Burns, Amanda Latchmore and Jane Craggs - make up the Yogacampus Hebden Bridge Teacher Training Board. We asked each of them what it meant to be part of a programme that honours every path of the centuries old and constantly changing tradition of yoga and how life on the Board has changed since the course was first established.
You are a valued member of the Yogacampus Hebden Bridge Teacher Training Diploma Board. What do you most enjoy about being on the Board?
First and most importantly, watching students as they progress through the 18 months or so of the course. I believe so strongly that running the course over this length of time is a huge positive factor: unlike some of the short courses available, students have the time to absorb the teachings and to develop their own practice and teaching skills, and we have watched some amazing transformations from student to accomplished teacher. It can be really humbling seeing how much effort the students put into the course, and to watch them when they come to their final assessments. It is also wonderful to see the friendships and community which develop among the students over the course of the 18 months. Secondly, the chance to work with my great fellow Board members spending time sharing my own passion for yoga, its history and philosophies, and the skills of teaching with students. And thirdly, the chance to spend time in Hebden Bridge and its surrounding area several times a year!
Our first glimpse of prospective teacher trainees is in their application forms - these invariably spark my interest. From then on I look forward to meeting the trainees in person and gradually getting to know them better as the course progresses. From the first module that I teach, through to the final teaching assessment weekend, it is very rewarding and fascinating to see how the trainees develop and blossom in their individual ways. I also enjoy being in a team with colleagues I respect and value.
The role of Board member is a fascinating one and allows me to oversee the whole process of the course, from the development and evolution of the course content to observing students from application to graduation. It is very satisfying to be a part of the journey and to be able to offer my own experience as support to fledgling teachers as they spread their wings and to continue that support once they have flown the training nest!! It is also a privilege to work with highly experienced and knowledgeable colleagues on this process, leading to a great deal of interesting and lively discussions.
The Yogacampus Teacher Training Diploma in the North has been offered since 2010. What changes have you witnessed and experienced in the last few years? How have you had to adapt to the ever-changing landscape?
I think that we are seeing students come to the course from a wider variety of yoga backgrounds, perhaps reflecting the eclectic nature of our teachers and teachings, but also the wider range of yoga styles now on offer, especially in the northern cities like Leeds and Manchester. There is clearly more yoga on offer in the north of England now than there was even 3 years ago, and it is essential that, as board members and teachers on the course, we recognise that students will have backgrounds in styles as apparently diverse as hard core vinyasa flow and Desikachar's yoga. Our challenge is to instil in them a respect for all of the yoga traditions and help them find the knowledge and skills which they need to teach their chosen style with passion, and in a way which is safe and true to the core values of yoga.
In the past three years a number of yoga studios have opened in the North – in Leeds, Harrogate and York for example. Some of these studios have also begun to offer teacher training. Whatever other teacher training programmes are offering, I feel we need to stay true to our core values and continue delivering a course that has integrity and very high standards of training across the board.
The number of trainings for yoga teachers seems to have exploded exponentially in recent years and particularly in the North I have witnessed yoga studios and projects of all kinds mushrooming at a rate I couldn't have imagined when I first embarked on my own teaching journey in Manchester. I think that our course has gone from strength to strength as we become progressively more in touch with the kinds of challenges and choices that will face our graduates now. We consistently work to ensure that this training maintains its integrity and judging from the standard of graduates going on to set up amazing projects, hopefully we have succeeded!
In your opinion, what are the most important factors in creating and maintaining a successful and authentic Teacher Training programme?
In creating a course, I think that the most important thing is to have a small number of specialist teachers who get on with and respect each other and who have both knowledge about and a passion for what they are teaching on the course, rather than relying on one or two teachers to cover the whole gamut of yoga. Secondly, to plan the course syllabus so that students can absorb the teachings in their own practice (and life) and progress systematically towards teaching. In maintaining the course, I believe that we have to keep constantly reviewing the course content. As teachers, we have to stay on top of the 'trends' in the yoga world, and some of the exciting new developments in the world of both academic and scientific research on yoga, without allowing ourselves simply to become 'followers of fashion'. Each time I teach a course module, I review it to see if I can improve it in some way in the light of what I have learned myself since I last taught it, so I can keep what I teach fresh and alive - well, as alive as I can as a yoga historian! Some of the modules I teach now are very different even to 3 years ago, because I too am constantly learning.
I feel that it’s very important for teacher trainees to have sufficient time to absorb training material: to embody their practical learning, to complete assignments, observe classes, practise teaching etc. before moving towards qualification. Our Teacher Training course is run over a period of 18 months to create adequate time for these things. I don’t believe that short, compressed courses can produce competent and confident yoga teachers. I also feel that trainees benefit from a Faculty of teachers with varied and specialist yoga backgrounds. When exposed to a wealth and breadth of knowledge and experience, trainees have a much greater opportunity to develop a sound, well-informed and mature approach in their own teaching.
Training as a teacher is a lifetime’s work and so the first point of training contact needs to set the stage for the rest of the journey. The course needs to offer the student teacher the basic toolbox for taking their own established, embodied practice and experience and learning how to pass it on safely; a team of teachers with specialist knowledge and a range of experience to present the varied areas of study; a structure which provides plenty of opportunity for practical experience and gives space for students to question and reflect on what they are learning as they go along; mentoring and support for teaching as well as personal practice; assignments which are both inspiring and challenging; and a compassionate environment which encourages students to take what they are learning and run with it, finding their own personal path to pass on the beautiful teachings of yoga with clarity and authenticity.
The next Hebden Bridge teacher training course will start on 12 March 2016. Applications will need to be submitted by Sunday 24 January 2016 and interviews will take place on 13 February 2016. The course is comprised of 13 non-residential weekend modules, normally from 9.30 a.m to 5.30 p.m Saturday and Sunday. You can find more information here.