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How important is it to do Yin Yoga Teacher Training if you want to teach yin yoga?

yoga students at a yin yoga teacher training in Melbourne with Dr Karina Smith
2023 Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Karina in Melbourne

I hope that headline was rhetorical, because I intended it to be read that way.

It's very important!

I have wanted to write a blog about this for a while, because:

a) I have been running 50hr teacher trainings for over 6 years now, and

b) I still hear from students all the time that they are told "you don't need any training to teach yin yoga".

You do.

I mean, you can teach yin yoga without it...

but.... very quickly you will realise that you are out of your depth, and more importantly, your students need support in ways that you won't be able to offer.

Where is this message that yin yoga teachers don't need training coming from?

I suspect, with all due respect, that it is coming from studio owners, that don't teach yin and don't have a personal interest in the practice, but know how popular it is and want it on their schedules, and need versatility from their staff, even if it means they have not done the training.

At least that is what I hear from my students; "the person that owns the studio where I teach said you don't need any training to teach yin yoga."

I can appreciate, as I'm sure you the reader can as well, that from the outside looking in, yin yoga looks basic, simple, easy, and should be a piece of cake to teach, right?

Who here teaches yin yoga? A show of hands please.

Does it look easy to teach?

Is it easy to teach?

(listens to unanimous NO from the crowd.....)

Look, I don't want to dishearten you from teaching this beautiful practice.

If you get an opportunity for more work, by picking up a few extra yin classes to teach each week and you haven't done any training yet, that is ok.

But, make a plan to do your training as soon as you can.

Even if it is initially just getting some of the fantastic books available and begin with some self-study.

If you are a Yin teacher, or a Yin teacher trainer, or even a student who loves to practice yin, what are your thoughts on this topic?

Have I missed anything on my below list? What would you add?

Is it quite obvious when your yin yoga teacher has not done any training? What do you pick up on, and what is it that you love about knowing your teacher has done training?

Leave me a comment on this blog as I would love to know!


Here are my top 5 reasons why doing your training is essential if you want to teach yin yoga.

5. Nobody taught you about the nature and needs of connective tissue in your 200hour teacher training

Yoga teacher trainings are intense!

There is soooooo much content that needs to be crammed into a teacher training.

Even back in the day when a year long 350hr program was the standard, it was still very difficult to fit everything into a teacher training.

I'm pretty old school myself, and I often wonder just how do they get through everything in a 200 hour training?

Let alone the in-depth anatomy details required to understand the needs of connective tissue in a practice.

You might have simply been taught about ligaments and tendons, and how it's really important not to "dump/sink/collapse/drop" into your joints because that is "dangerous".

That is a fair point, when you are moving quickly in and out of postures (hello sun salutations), but in yin yoga we have a completely different pace, intention, and principle we are working with when it comes to the connective tissue of the body.

As Bernie Clark famously says, "all tissues of the body needs to be exercised", we just need to know what type of exercise that is.

In yin yoga, long held static stretches, followed by a resting period are the ideal way in which connective tissue is designed to be stimulated (not over-stretched or aggressively brought to a breaking point).

You need to know the nature, structure, and needs of this tissue to create safety in a yin yoga practice.

4. Without training, you are likely to talk waaaay too much in your yin class.

Come on giggle with me, we have all been that chatterbox yin yoga teacher, just trying to get comfortable with the epic stillness and space of the room, and nervously filled it up with heaps of smart sounding sound bites.

When we are not cueing the ten thousand intricacies of vinyasa alignment in a class, it can feel as though we have entered the abyss......... hello......

Will your students give you feedback if you talk too much? Probably not.

Maybe if a good friend comes to your class they can give you some feedback (which I highly recommend).

I often encourage teacher trainees to reflect on what they like when they are the student, do they like endless word stream of fascia, chinese medicine, and skeletal variation info?

Not really.

Enough to help create a framework for the practice, but not a lecture please.

Also, finessing your world choice and pace is an experience thing and takes some time.

You get more comfortable with the quiet over time, and you remember that even though you might not be talking, there is a constant swirling stream of activity happening within each and every student in your class.

The space you give them, is where the treasures lie.

3. The yin yoga postures have different names for good reason.

Same, same....... but different.

A pigeon vs a swan. Very different vibe.

The names of the postures create an entirely different culture and feeling.

Paschimottanasana, for example, conjures up quite a dynamic feeling of actively pulling on the feet to stretch the back, and fold the belly down towards the legs. There is a feeling of muscles being quite activated, and lengthened at the time.

Whereas Caterpillar, (same same but different), is more of a soft folded yielding down over the legs, with as many props needed to support sensations of tension/compression that are too intense and causing a person to catch in their breath.

They might look the same, but the intention is very different.

If we called both of these Paschimottonasana in both flow and yin classes, there would be distinction between these different intentions.

It's often a big clue as to whether a person has done a yin training or not.... just saying.

2. You won't know just how essential the rebound is in yin yoga without doing some yin yoga teacher training.

I famously talk about a student of mine that attended a lecture I was giving on Yin Yoga.

She came up to me and wanted to gently let me know, that she absolutely hated yin yoga!

I giggled inside my body while keeping my face soft and open.

Once the lecture was over, I guided the group through a short yin yoga practice.

Afterwards she remarked that I had just guided her through something entirely different than what she had been taught before in a "yin yoga class."

The class she attended and hated, had no rebounds!

No wonder she hated it.

Could you imagine not being able to rest, feel, process, and marinate in between these moments of intensity? Not to mention how important it is for your connective tissue.

This student now absolutely LOVES Yin, and has gone on to open her own yoga studio.

(If she is reading this blog, you know who you are, sending you big love!).

1.If you don't understand the concept of Target Areas, you won't be able to support student's who have met a compression or tension impasse in their practice.

This to me is the most important factor of differentiation between alignment based yoga, and intention based yoga.

Instead of every student in the room being instructed on what the pose needs to "look like" in order for it to be mastered, an intention based practice has regions of the body to "feel into" like a roadmap of the posture.

Plot twist, because yin yoga focuses on regions of the body, you can do an entirely different shape to feel into that body part, if this initial posture does not work for you.

So if Butterfly is not your jam, take it to the wall and turn it upside down.

If Caterpillar is not your jam, take any other forward fold of your choice.

Not all poses are a good fit for all bodies, which is awesome, because yin yoga gives students an abundance of options, creating accessibility and bodily autonomy in a way that forcing all students into the same pose can never offer.

Karina Smith Yin Yoga variations manual

Do you get stuck in your classes trying to think of posture variations to help your students when they need to try something different?

It really puts you on the spot as a teacher, when a student is struggling, even more so when they wave you over for help and you are not sure what to try, or what props might alleviate their tension or compression!

In my trainings I created a whole asana guide for my yin teacher trainees to take with them into class for this exact reason.

Every page has a well-known yin posture, and at least 5 variations to decrease the intensity of the shape, or increase the intensity of the shape depending on the student.

Click below to get your copy and help your students fall in love with their most challenging yin postures.


Where to from here?

If a full fee in-person training is not in your short term budget, the books I would highly recommend you start with are:

"Your body your yoga" by Bernie Clark.

A brilliant blow by blow of the difference between tension and compression. This book is overwhelmingly dense, and difficult to read cover to cover, but the information is crucial, and if you can spend some time with it, your whole world will change! And Bernie truly is the go-to for learning about this stuff.

"The language of yin" by Gabrielle Harris.

This is a stunning book for teachers and students to grow and expand their yin vocabulary, and also to deeply inquire with all the parts of yin yoga that make it such a profound space for healing and teaching.

And, I do want to say that it was not my primary intention to write this blog in order to flog my own teacher training programs.

But I do run them, in person (in Melbourne Australia), and I have series of on-demand courses available online, in both long and short course format (you also get lifetime access to any of the online courses you enrol in).

Have a good shop around, and whomever you decide to do your training with will be the right fit for you. The more important thing is that you make the commitment to do the extra study and inquiry so that you can truly hold the space for your students, and be able to have options and ideas for them as they navigate their own yin yoga journey.

Did I miss anything?

I'd love to hear from you and your thoughts on this topic.

Love Karina x


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