I get a lot of questions about what I think of "continuing education" in yoga - workshops, immersions, in-depth studies, teacher trainings, retreats; basically anything outside of the Mysore room or led class.
There is so much pressure to do that it can be difficult to know how to judge whether a learning opportunity will be beneficial to us. I'm going to broadly say "workshops" to talk about this, but I think the lessons of this post and livestream really are applicable to most continuing education opportunities.
On a community level, I think that workshops and other continuing education offerings can be a great way to strengthen bonds with your existing community, as well as a great way to expand it. Workshops give you a chance to connect with your teachers and fellow yogis in ways that there just isn't the space for in the day-to-day practice. If supporting your community is something that's important to you, workshops can also be an especially great way to do that with your presence and attendance, while simultaneously benefiting yourself and your practice. Offerings like these require turnout to keep happening, so, by attending you're making sure that other teachers can keep teaching and other yogis can keep learning along with you.
Furthermore, workshops can be a great way to find new teachers and expand your community - trust the recommendations of people you trust, and trust your instincts when you find a new teacher through social media and online communities. I first met Tim on a retreat he led because he had been highly recommended for years by people I trusted, and the rest is history.
Workshops can also be a great way of learning what you are looking for in your yoga instruction - because so many studios have guest teachers come through for workshops, they can be a fantastic, low-commitment way of getting to know different teachers' different teaching styles, and getting to know what seems to work best for you and your practice.
As a teacher, I love workshops and other continuing education opportunities because it's a much more effective way for me to communicate information to a group of students than the Mysore room is. When a workshop has a specific focus a teacher can reach the group as a whole. Workshops are an extremely valuable way to communicate information and transfer knowledge about practice that just isn't possible to do in the Mysore room. Workshops allow a unique opportunity to drill down and hone skills.
It's the ability to take yourself outside of your "larger" practice and hone in on something specific that provides some of the most tangible benefits of continuing education. It's easy to get stuck in the grooves of a practice. Taking a more in-depth learning approach to something you thought you already knew can be a great way to open yourself up to bigger changes in the individual components of your practice. Any break from the "muscle memory" approach to a practice can be an opening for enormous growth and change and learning. In workshops, with the help of a teacher's instruction and adjustments, you have the opportunity to re-pattern this muscle memory in a deliberate way, which can create massive opportunity for new ways of approaching your practice every day.
One brief note on a difference between shorter offerings like workshops versus longer ones like retreats and in-depth studies, is that when something stretches over more time, you can be better able to implement and integrate what you learn. Also in a longer study opportunity, students are typically out of the routine of their daily life which means they are better able to sit with the residue of the teachings.
When is the right time or what is the right opportunity for continuing education you ask? For me, having practiced mostly alone for about a decade, things like workshops were a great way of staying motivated and inspired in my practice because I knew I had something to look forward to. Additionally, whenever I've felt a pull to learn something that I didn't currently know or that I didn't know how to implement into my practice, finding an appropriate workshop can help shed new light on a subject. Most importantly, I go to workshops when I feel a drawn to the teacher, especially once I am invested in my relationship with the teacher. There are some teachers who just never disappoint - hopefully you know some of them. I advise students not to focus too much on certifications unless they feel they specifically need it - I think the point of continuing education is the education. Go after what you want to learn.
People often go to workshops expecting breakthrough. But it's really the work we do in workshops that sets us up for a potential breakthrough later on - after we do the work in our daily practice. Don't get me wrong, breakthroughs in workshops do happen and it's exciting when they do, but usually breakthroughs happen over a longer period of time. A huge benefit of continuing education is that it provides the opportunity for these small, incremental breakthroughs that can add up to a completely reshaped practice.
Continuing education can reopen the doors into your own practice, and into your community. Follow your heart, follow your practice, follow your interest, and follow what works best for your life. The rest will come, and your practice will keep growing with you and expanding with your consciousness. They say that every journey begins with a single step, but it's important to also remember that every single step is the beginning of a brand new journey.
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