8 Reasons Why our Teacher Training is Ranked in the top 5% Nationally

This fall, we are honored to be offering – for the 3rd time – The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We feel beyond grateful to have this highly ranked extraordinary program right here in our small town in southern Maine.

You might not realize it, but besides being a wonderful teacher and inspirational human being, our director, Beryl Bender Birch, is an international yoga super star. She is one of the first people to popularize yoga in the United States.

But that, in itself, would not be enough to rank The Hard & The Soft as a Yoga Alliance® 5-star Rated Accredited Training School.

Here are eight reasons this yoga teacher training course,  when compared to hundreds of other programs, is consistently rated in the top 5%.

 

  1. The students. Our programs attract top quality students and genuine, bright, compassionate human beings from all over the world. We consistently hear from our trainees and graduates that “this is the best group of people I have ever been a part of – I look forward to the training weekends because it feels like I am coming home.”
  2. The Sangha (community). Students meet and are supported by like-minded practitioners and forge lifetime friendships.
  3. The faculty. Unlike many other programs, our teachers have all been practicing and teaching for many years. Most are Certified Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and nationally renowned specialists in a wide variety of fields and yoga applications. Students would need to combine several different professional trainings in order to duplicate the comprehensive quality of our single program.
  4. The practice. There are many ways to teach yoga and many ways to practice. Every weekend includes study and practice in asana, pranayama, and meditation, in order to help students find and define their unique path. The foundation and primary focus of our asana study for the 200 hour training is a brilliant vinyasa sequence of postures called Present Power. It can be as challenging or as accommodating as desired. Every student is certified to teach this power vinyasa system, plus more moderate styles of the practice that are capable of being amended for all limitation and disability, as well as beginning forms of pranayama and meditation.
  5. The depth of training. Because all our faculty have actually been studying yoga and practicing all its aspects – asana, pranayama, meditation, service – for so many years, we can offer insight into the deeper dimensions of yoga that, frequently, the staff of other trainings does not have the experience to provide.
  6. The emphasis on service. Through our affiliation with The Give Back Yoga Foundation, we prepare our graduates for a career in yoga service and help them to take their practice out into the world and be the change they want to create.
  7. The Individualized Yoga Plan (IYP).  Every student develops an Individualized Yoga Plan with help from faculty and the director of the studio where they are training. This provides students with a way to identify their dharma and pursue a path into the specialized field of their choice.
  8. The Director.  American yoga pioneer Beryl Bender Birch, is the founder/director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute and co-founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation. As a best-selling author, (Power Yoga, Beyond Power Yoga, Yoga for Warriors) and teacher, Beryl has been teaching yoga and meditation internationally for over 40 years and is a longtime faculty member at Kripalu and Omega Institute. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in English and Philosophy, and began the study of meditation in 1971 with her teacher, Jain monk Munishree Chitrabhanu. She traveled to India in 1974 to further her studies and started practice of the ashtanga vinyasa asana system with her teacher, Norman Allen, in 1979. She continued to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from 1987 through 1993. Her book Power Yoga (1995), an accessible form of the ashtanga asana practice, sold nearly 300,000 copies and was primarily responsible for introducing yoga to the athletic community. She, more than most, walks her talk…and is one of the brightest, most down to earth, knowledgeable, accessible, funny, and joyful people you will ever meet. One of her gifts is making authentic and therapeutic forms of asana accessible to all. Everyone on faculty has trained with her for decades and is at least a 1000-hour graduate of her school, The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. Beryl’s vision trickles down from the top and infuses the program, the faculty, the community, and the students.
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5 Opportunities to Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME This Holiday Season

The opportunity to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME  is a very important part of our community. At the end of many of our classes, we offer an opportunity to take a moment of gratitude. Often, I will invite students to think of one thing that they are grateful for today. Practicing gratitude is a great way to improve your interpersonal relationships and spread positivity to others in your life. Practicing gratitude can also bring numerous benefits to YOU. Read more on the “selfish” benefits of practicing gratitude in this post.

Some of you may be thinking “well, that’s all great… but what does practicing gratitude even mean?”. There are many small ways to practice gratitude. Some of these include: keeping a gratitude journal, verbally expressing gratitude to loved ones, or even just thinking about things you are grateful for on a regular basis. Another wonderful way to practice gratitude is by giving back to your community.

If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate gratitude in your life, here are 5 opportunities to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME this holiday season:

1) Join us at our Veterans’ Day Outreach and Fundraising Event

Grateful for our veterans and want to support our FREE Yoga for Veterans Classes? Curious about the class? Now is your chance to try it out and/or ask questions – or just show up to show your support for this life changing program. This is a once a year opportunity for friends and family to join the class to see what it’s like – or to bring a veteran(s) you know that might enjoy their first class more if you were there to support them.

2) Come Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME at our Annual Thanksgiving Day Gratitude Class

Take some time to care for yourself and cultivate gratitude before the distractions take over the mind. You may notice the rest of the day is truly something you can feel grateful for. Any donation appreciated.

3) Participate in Our Fall Food Drive

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to give back to others? Each year, we celebrate Yoga in ME’s birthday at our fall food drive. During this week long event, we collect a trunk load of food and other items (or more!) to donate to Footprints Food Pantry in Kittery. More information about this fun annual event coming soon!

4) Monthly Give Back Yoga Nidra

At this class, we support a different cause each month. We are grateful to Erica for donating her time to host this class and for the opportunity to give back to some awesome local organizations. We especially love to support local causes that our members are involved in, like End 68 Hours of Hunger. If you are active in a local non-profit please talk to Erica about how this class can help you!

5) Weekly By-Donation Community Class

We are so grateful to our teacher trainees for donating their time to teach this class and Rachel for volunteering to coordinate it! This class is a great opportunity to show your appreciation to these teachers (all you have to do is show up!). It is also an opportunity to support our FREE yoga for veterans program by donating.

Bonus opportunity: participate in our November Gratitude Tree! Read more about that on the blog soon!

We hope that you will join us for as many of these opportunities as possible. These are just a few of the ways that we are practicing gratitude at Yoga in ME this season. How are you practicing gratitude? Let us know in the comments!

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason.

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason Written By: Rachel D.A.

Laughter Yoga was really my first experience with Yoga. Wait…What? Laughter Yoga? “What the heck is that?” you might ask. That would be a very valid question.

Laughter Yoga is a series of exercises that promote unconditional laughter.

Yup, it’s silly, very silly, and it IS meant to be. There is really very little Asana involved, however the yoga part comes from the deep breathing involved to keep the oxygen flowing through the body while you are having so much fun. To me, it is another form of Pranayama (a basic aspect of the yoga practice). So, your next question might be “WHY?”

Why would you want to spend time laughing at nothing at all?

There are actually so many reasons to laugh this way. They say that Laughter is the Best Medicine and research is finding that that is very true. More and more studies support the positive effect that laughter has on the body, mind and spirit. In the 1960’s a well known author named Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a severe immune-deficiency disease. This disease left him in extreme pain and unable to function.

At the time there was very little the medical field could do for him and no hope for recovery. He found that when people visited him and made him laugh through funny stories, movies and jokes, he felt better for awhile. He created a rule for all his visitors that they must make him laugh if they wanted to spend time with him. Eventually he did make a full recovery that he credited, in large part, to laughter.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits:

  • Helps control blood pressure and heart disease
  • Boosts the Immune System
  • Alleviates pain by releasing endorphins and serotonin as well as other “feel good” hormones
  • Suppresses the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact they have found that laughter can reduce cortisol in your system by 24% as opposed to medication (4%) or meditation (4 – 5%).
  • Makes it easier to cope with challenge and conflict
  • Defuses fear, anger and boredom
  • Helps build teamwork
  • And possibly the most helpful of all is that 10 minutes of laughter will yield about 2 hours of being pain free

Another advantage is that it makes you vulnerable.

Many might argue that vulnerability is not an advantage and are afraid to be vulnerable, yet, according to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to living completely in the present moment – that wonderful place where creativity, joy and hope thrive.

When I talk to people about laughter and it’s benefits, many people react with “Oh, I love to laugh! I laugh all the time.” I always say “that’s great! Keep it up”. But most don’t realize that when you laugh at something funny, like a joke or a funny story, you only laugh for about 20 seconds.

The truth is that it takes about 10 minutes or more of laughter to bring you to the place where you can reap the benefits listed above. That’s why Unconditional Laughter (Laughter Yoga) was developed. It doesn’t hinge on something funny, you just keep laughing at nothing at all. Don’t worry, a good Yoga Laughter Leader will help.

One of the most wonderful things about this practice is that you don’t even have to laugh for “real”.  Your body will get just as many benefits from fake laughter as it will from real laughter.

Keep an eye out for more on the benefits of laughter and how to incorporate more of it into your life. And a  Laughter Yoga class.

Do You Use Yoga As An Excuse To Think You Are Not Enough?

Sometimes I think I am not enough.

I have been teaching yoga for just about 3 years. To some people, this might sound like a long time. To others, it might seem like a very short time. Generally, I feel pretty confident in my teaching abilities. I get (mostly) positive feedback and students (generally) seem to enjoy my classes. But guess what? I still sometimes get the feeling that I am not enough!

For the past few months, I have been teaching one of the Boomer Yoga classes on our schedule. I LOVE working with this group and find all of the Boomers to be such a great inspiration for me – personally as well as in my practice. Many of the students in this class are a perfect example of one of the best aspects of this practice – using it to keep our bodies and minds working for us  (rather than against us) as we move through every stage of life.

But sometimes when I stand up at the front of that room to instruct these amazing Boomers, I am filled with doubt.

There’s nothing like teaching a class where everyone in the room is about twice your age to make you doubt yourself. Especially when one of them is your mom who has been teaching for over 10 years! And it’s not the students who are the problem here: it’s my internal dialogue. I think things like “why would these students take me seriously?”. Sometimes, I worry that because I have not experienced things in my body or in my life like they have, students don’t want to hear what I have to say. I tell myself, students are thinking I can’t possibly understand what they are experiencing.

Now, maybe all that is true. But it doesn’t mean that I have nothing to offer these students or that there is nothing they can learn from me.

I’m not writing all this to get your sympathy. I’m writing it because, after a conversation with my mom today, I realized that I am not the only one in the room having these feelings. Our culture teaches us to think that, no matter what, we are not enough.  And even if someone tells us this isn’t true or that we should feel otherwise, our feelings aren’t very likely to change . If we want to flip our perspective, we have to work at it.

What can we do to change this internal dialogue?

Focus on the positive.

Sometimes things that we think are negatives can really be viewed as positives! As one student was leaving today, they chastised themselves for having to lean on the wall to put their shoes on. But while doing that, they ignored the fact that they could do it standing up! There are many people who are not able to do this. Let’s celebrate what we can do instead of focusing on what we can’t do.

Breathe.

How many times have you heard us say “if you’re breathing, you’re doing it right”? Or “all you have to do is breathe”? These statements could not be true-er (is that word?). The purpose of this practice is to ATTEMPT to still the fluctuations of the mind – if you’re attempting to focus on your breathing, you are doing yoga!

Practice gratitude.

We are lucky to be alive. Lucky to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and have food to eat. We are lucky to be able to do this practice! Remembering these things can go a long way towards shifting your perspective!

Do the best you can.

This changes all the time. From one minute to the next and one decade to the next. Do the best you can in that moment and don’t worry about what it is “supposed to look like”.

Practice, and all is coming.

And even if you don’t believe me – know that I know you are enough!

 

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