Re-posted with permission from Ariel Kiley. Original post: https://arielkiley.me/2017/03/25/my-3-favorite-lessons-from-jill-miller/
Back when I was just starting out as a yoga teacher, I was faced with what you might call a “quality problem.” My classes were getting really popular. The problem was that although it was great they were getting popular, they were filled with a vast array of students. All ages, body shapes, and injury/disease statuses were showing up for class.
Students were eager to practice with me, but at the same time telling me about herniated disks, neuroma in the feet, osteoarthritis… and I had no idea how to help them modify their practice. Let alone how to offer specific techniques that could help heal their conditions. In many ways, I was teaching in the dark.
Around that time my friend Clio took me to one of Jill Miller’s Core Integration workshops.
I admit, it was way over my head. She was having us roll on little “therapy balls” that felt like river rocks under my (surprisingly tight) back muscles. She talked about the core as this whole integrated system – the coreso she called it. Her reasons for getting fit weren’t superficial. She said we’re trying to get “pretty on the inside.” Huh?
I left that workshop confused, but curious. I knew I needed more education in biomechanics and anatomy. I knew I needed to learn from someone energetic and passionate. I liked the idea of learning from a younger woman instead of the older gentlemen who were leading many of the yoga therapy programs.
So a few weeks later, in September 2010, I found myself in the Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Training.
Adventures in Assisting Jill
Although I learned a lot in the YTU Teacher Training, the main thing I learned is that I didn’t know jack. But my evaluation at the end of the grueling week showed promise. After much studying, I got 100% on my written test and Jill and the assistants (Sarah Court and Tiffany Chambers-Goldberg) said if I just get my anatomy down, I’d soar.
They gave me props for the talents I had. And they gave me hope for what I didn’t have yet.
Jill made it clear that she welcomed having assistants join her at YTU workshops and trainings around the country. Nowadays, approximately a million people want to assist Jill when she leads trainings. But back then the operation was a little bit leaner, and she was always grateful for extra hands, eyes, body parts to demo with, and brains of course.
Just after I completed the training I got my arse to Ojai for the Ojai Yoga Crib festival and assisted Jill teaching a “Retrofit Your Down Dog” workshop in a carpeted chapel.
That was just the beginning. For the next couple years after that I followed her wherever I could, and wound up in some of the most hilarious and illuminating situations.
Now, years later as a lead YTU instructor, I’ve taught several of those same YTU teacher trainings that I originally attended. In fact, I’ll be leading one at Kripalu in April… which has got me thinking about some of my very favorite, and completely incomparable lessons, learned from the one and only Jill Miller.
I hope you enjoy!
Jill Miller Lesson #1: You Did It
One of the most powerful moments in the first YTU training I took with Jill, I saw re-enacted to the same paradigm-shifting effect with dozens of other students she taught on the road.
I had entered the training with persistent knee pain. I had run a marathon and the nagging knee pain wouldn’t go away. After doing the Day 2 Master Class Hips Focus to Twisted Triangle, my knee pain vanished.
I couldn’t wait to tell Jill about how her teaching had healed my knee pain. I thought she would be pleased as punch to know what she had done for me. But when I told her I was met with an unexpected response.
“YOU did it!” She said. “Huh?” I said… I had subconsciously expected her to take credit, but she didn’t… she pushed it back on me. “YOU did it, thank yourself! YOU got rid of your knee pain. I just made a few suggestions.”
The fact that she had empowered me to take credit for my own healing was revolutionary. I had never had a teacher do that before. They had always soaked up the praise I was offering them for themselves.
But Jill didn’t want to keep it. She wanted me to have it, because she knew that if I felt my own power to heal myself, I could learn to heal myself over and over again, instead of having to rely on others. Dude. Paradigm shifted.
I have enjoyed passing the credit back to many, many students in my own teaching career since then. It’s wonderful to watch their eyes widen and smile spread when I say “YOU did it! You healed yourself!”
Jill Miller Lesson #2: Love the Ones You’re With
I went with Jill to Miami Beach one year to assist the ECA World Fitness Conference. As a yoga person, I had never been to a fitness conference, and the whole thing was so strange. (Funny to think I presented at ECA in NYC several years later on Jill’s behalf when she was super pregnant! It was still strange.)
The Miami Beach conference lasted several days, with numerous presenters zooming around to different rooms to offer their formats. But almost all of the attendees came on the weekend, so the first couple of days were very quiet.
Jill was teaching several workshops over those days. On Thursday she was leading a Core Integration workshop in the morning and her first ever Roll Model Method® Therapy Ball teacher training in the afternoon. (But back then there was no The Roll Model Method book, there was only one size ball, and they weren’t even called Roll Model yet.)
These workshops were in a dingy little room half underground, completely shut off from the beautiful sunny Florida Day. The A/C was too cold. It smelled moldy. And the crew had constructed a rickety stage with mangled staples popping out for Jill to teach from.
Only four people showed up for the first Core workshop – very tanned and friendly local Floridians… definitely not movers and shakers in the fitness industry. Then just eight people showed up for the therapy ball training. Including the tanned Floridians who chose to stay on because they had fun during the morning session.
Friday night was a totally different story. Jill was in a a huge ballroom with giant windows and palm trees swaying behind her (not rickety) stage.
She was teaching a hips workshop with a microphone and giant speakers and at least 50 people attended. The crowd was pumped. The energy was mega.
But this is what rocked my world about seeing Jill lead these different workshops: She gave exactly the same amount of energy and enthusiasm to both. She offered the same richness of education, the same big laughs, the same whole-hearted cheerleading for the students.
Later that weekend, just to make sure she wasn’t insane, I asked her “Jill, did you even realize that the workshops earlier this week had a fraction the amount of people in them? It’s like you didn’t even notice the difference… you taught exactly the same to both.”
“You gotta love the ones you’re with!” said Jill.
In that moment I could see clearly how Jill wasn’t teaching for herself. She was teaching because she wanted to help others heal. And it didn’t matter if there were four or 80 people, those were still people she would give her whole self to help.
Makes me think of that Mother Theresa quote, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
Since then I have never canceled a class or workshop because of low attendance, and I have always worked to give my all, irrespective of who is (or isn’t) there.
Jill Miller Lesson #3: Inspiration to Action in a Split Second
Jill Miller is definitely of the Ready, Shoot, Aim style of teaching. When she gets an inspiration, it comes like a lightening bolt, and there’s no time like the present to put it into action. As happened with the erasable markers at that first therapy ball training.
When we were having lunch between workshops on that Thursday in Miami, Jill was going over what we would be doing that afternoon with me. As she talked about helping students learn “bony landmarks” on their bodies, so they can better map where to place therapy balls, she became pensive.
“It would be nice if we could draw them…” she paused again. Then, “Ariel, let me give you some cash, you’ve got to go get washable markers!” Two hours later she was drawing all over my body to show the students where different bones are located. And the washable markers have been a central part of therapy ball trainings ever since.
This was an epic lesson to witness because it was a lesson in self-trust. Jill didn’t need to quietly hem and haw and go back to the lab to find out if washable markers were a good idea. The second it came to her mind, she was ready to enact it. This kind of split-second intuition-to-action teaching approach leads her to so many brilliant places. Immediately.
After seeing this example of radical self-trust, my perspective on teaching changed again. I don’t need to be all precious about it. Just jump in! Paddle around! What’s the worst that can happen? A little purple ink on your jog bra?
This sort of aliveness is part of what makes Jill’s teaching so exciting. You are riding the cutting edge with her. And who wouldn’t want that?!
Jill Miller Lesson #3.5: Respect Your Spine!
It can be a little jarring at first when you’re trying to slouch in the corner of a Jill Miller training and she suddenly stops her lecture, looks you in the eye and calls out, “Respect your spine!” But two years later when you realize you’ve got excellent posture, you can’t help but appreciate her relentless commitment to your impeccable poise.
Mad Respect for Jill
These are only a few examples of the many incredible lessons Jill has taught me over the years. Lessons that aren’t just for the classroom, but are for life.
I’m feeling a little nostalgic right now since I’m planning on going on hiatus from leading trainings after this Kripalu one in April. I’m so aware of how deeply Yoga Tune Up®, and Jill Miller have positively shaped my thinking, my body and my life.
But perhaps one of the biggest lessons Jill has given me she has given by example. She displays the extraordinary bravery of doing your thing. Do not get too comfortable. Take a risk, step out on a limb… and by doing so build the proprioception to explore your leading edge.
And really, isn’t that the ultimate lesson in self-care?
PS: Remind me to tell you the story of the last night in Miami Beach when I got kidnapped by a swarm of Zumba instructors and went dancing til dawn. I showed up to meet Jill at the airport at 6am having not slept a wink. Jill loves to recount seeing me walk into the airport dragging my suitcase with bags under my eyes and a “shmata” covering my head. As any good mentor would do, she took me directly to the American Airlines lounge for free coffee. Yeah, it was totally worth it. Viva la dance!
If we love what we do, what we teach and if we do it for the good reason, people will feel it and the experience will be amazing!
Thanks so much for this fun and encouraging post, Ariel. I love when you said about your teaching “I don’t need to be all precious about it. Just jump in! Paddle around! What’s the worst that can happen?”. This is so true! A lot of times throughout the years of being a yoga teacher, I have had great lightning bolt ideas come to me, but have shoved them down for fear of not explaining myself well enough or not teaching it perfectly enough the first time. In the last few years, I have learned to embrace the lightning bolts and teach them when the idea strikes, and I’ve never regretted a single spur of the moment teach since. No, these teachings don’t always come out perfectly stated, and sometimes the cuing isn’t all the way there, but I always manage to learn something from those moments. And the next time I feel like teaching that tidbit, it comes out better and is even more well received than the first time. Just like how you only get better at teaching by teaching, and you only get better at giving lightning bolt lessons by giving them freely when they manifest.
I love the idea of giving the students ownership of their progress. Also, I found it very inspiring read that Jill gave the same quality of attention to a small group as to a large group. This should be part of a teacher’s creed. Also, giving yourself permission to make decisions on the spot and improvise is an invaluable teaching tool. I usually always plan my classes, but they often meander along a different path depending on who is in the room, prop availability, etc. A great lesson on trusting oneself!
great lessons. It is wonderful to learn from inspiring leaders in the industry that are invested in helping others find their own answers.
A really good reminder; show up for every single student no matter how many are there. This is one of my challenges, worried about attendance and why a workshop or class or training didn’t fill my expectation, but if I can remember it is about the students and not myself, then this will never matter.
I don’t know jack, but curious to learn. I completely relate to this feeling. These trainings and immersions leave you with the fuel to stoke your own interests and dive into the world of biomechanics, breathing strategies, anatomy – and more! Viva!
I love all of these lessons from Jill but especially 2~ Love the Ones You are With resonated with me. I have a hard time not getting tied up in what it means when I have class with low attendance. I can see that it may affect the energy I’m sending to the students who showed up. It’s a beautiful reminder to go back to what matters: creating space for your students whether its 4 or 40.
These are all such great examples of being an inspiring teacher and leader. I especially love “love the ones you’re with”. Thanks for sharing!
This is a very inspiring testimonial. I can relate to all of those lessons. Hope I will have the chance to meet Jill live one day.
Thanks for sharing, this article makes me so grateful to have discovered YTU and Jill Miller’s tribe. All three lessons are inspiring, and I especially appreciate #2, Love the Ones You’re With. As a teacher, some of my smallest classes (1 or 3 students) have been my best classes. It is a profound way to connect with your student(s) so intimately, and learn so much as a teacher.
What a lovely blog post! Especially the part ‘you did it!’ shows that Jill Miller walks her talk: she empowers people to heal them selves! Like!!!!
Beautiful to read how Jill is teaching from the heart and that it doesn’t matter for her wether she’s teaching 4 or 40 people… personally untill now I have to admit that I notice myself that the energy of a small group is totally different than teaching a large group. So this is food for thougt for me… I have a lifetime to learn!
This blog just made me fall in love with Jill even more. I would love to assist her in any training. Also, I have a very similar experience with twisted triangle. Went to level 1 with nagging knee pain from an old injury, left without it. Quite amazing!
This story just illustrates how professional the YTU-concept is and that is why I love it and its teachers.
Oh how parts of this resonated with me after my first day of YTU Level 1 Teacher training. I feel like a fish out of water. Working on my SANKALPA today, and it brought to surface a lot about how I let my insecurities get in the way of my moving forward. I may be a fish out of water but I have to learn how to be the best that I can be, even if it is being “that fish out of water”. The only worst thing than failing at this, is if I never even ever tried.
This is such a sweet article about Jill. It’s nice to hear all of the wonderful things she taught you and how she has a big heart. I can see how that resonates through to her students and her work.
How lucky you are to have had such a great mentor. I have been teaching yoga for about 8 years and I’ve done it alone. I’ve just had to pick pieces from different experiences along the way.
Great inspirational lessons. I’ve heard much about you as a great YTU teacher trainer so soon we will see blogs about you too!
As a recent attendee of YTU TTL1, I totally appreciate this article and insight. These lessons resonate and are totally applicable. Thanks for sharing!
That is one inspiring article, totally loved it!
This is an amazing article! Thank you, Ariel. These lessons are so important. I can understand how you felt “teaching in the dark”. YTU Level 1 has taught me so much already, I’m excited to continue learning!
I loved reading this article for so many different reasons! First and foremost it gives me hope because “I don’t know Jack either!”…another reason is the great reminder of “Love the Ones You’re With”…wouldn’t it be such a great world if everybody did that?!! …and I especially loved reading about how Jill empowered you and how you are empowering your students, what a wonderful/powerful thing to do…Yoga Tune Up is turning out to be so much more than I thought it was! Thank you for these insights!
This is so great! I love your ability to tell “the story of Jill (and you!)” from then to now. You have grown, she had grown, the brand has grown – and every step of growth happening through learning!
I love this post! Those are great great lessons… not only for teachers… But as humans!
Jill seems very very authentic and I would love to attend a workshop with her!
Loved this post! It reflects so much of what I felt and experienced in Yoga Tune Up Teacher Training. I laughed when I read your comment, “The main thing I learned is that I didn’t know jack.” Same for me! Your three favorite lessons are great reminders of what good teaching is.
What a nice article. I haven’t had Jill for a training yet, or even met her for that matter but I love all the lessons she taught you. “Love the ones your with” is my favourite.
I really appreciate hearing of your journey, and how the YTU training is about service to others. I have a similar realization that I need to know anatomy better to extend my reach to students looking for healing in the form of movement modalities. I’m moved by the “Love the ones your with” quote and the Mother Theresa quote, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Often, it is easy to get stuck on low attendance in classes, but this is a reminder that it’s always about the student and as my YTU trainer said today in class, “It’s about you (the teacher).” As a teacher, we have a knowledge base and unique viewpoint that we can share to uplift the student. Lastly, I needed that reminder of running with inspiration. It’s easy to get stalled on the perfect way of doing things or not doing it. But there needs to be spontaneity in the process of learning and teaching others. I can only imagine that’s where so much revelation and “aha” moments occur.
Ariel, I loved your article! Made me break out into a smile multiple times and it just further drove home my sankulpa that I’ve been staying true to since my YTUL1 ended this weekend. Thank you for your refreshing honesty and candor. If you ever make it the PNW I’m totally checking out one of your classes. p.s. “Love the ones your with” is my new favorite and perfectly echos my own feelings. Thank you for sharing that particular antidote – it really hit home for me.
This article makes me think of why we do what we do. The passion that motivates us to step out in faith and to risk and learn and getting to be our unique selves. Pure joy mixed with fear and bravery, ignorance and intelligents.
I’ve only met Jill on two occasions, YTU teacher training level 1 and Breath and Bliss and she was a glowing gem everyday, no matter what was going on in her life and I admire and look up to her! What a dream to attend her trainings and listen to her brilliance day after day! I love knowing that my impression of her is exactly the way she is. She blesses all of our lives!
I will remember and use those new creative and powerful ways to be in the world! For the propulsive potential of progress my path and maybe propulse others !!!! Very very wow ! I will re-read and do it and integrate it , thank you so much Ariel !!
Ariel writed a very nice portrait of Jill Miller. The generosity, the passion of Jill to his teachers, is students, everybody is so contagious and so true that even at east part of a North American (Québec), I have a same impression of the deepest devotion for all the students that I had at my level 1 teacher training. Mimi and Lisa were so kind, generous, positif and creative to manage in those seven days of school that I still have a very big smile in my face and my… embodie ! Thank you to take some time to read my special English !
You’ve just summed up for us what great teaching looks like. It’s empowering, liberating, committed to the moment (and client) and energizing. Too many teachers close to the top allow their ego to get the better of them, and as a result demean their students – or feel threatened by their growth and use subtle ways of disempowering them. How wonderful to hear that Jill teaches with such amazing integrity. This encouraging and respectful culture is already present in the wider community and her team. I hope to be able to train with her some day, too.
thank you for sharing your inspiring experiences with us. It is amazing what an energy a person can give us, who loves what he/she do als Jill do. I hope to join a class with Jill and you in some time so that I can say “I did it”. Have a wonderful time. Tatjana
Thank you so very much for sharing your story with me! I just finished my first day of the YTU teacher training level 1.
What I learned form reading your blog (and what I knew inside) is the following:
– Give the credit back to the students.
– love the ones who come in weekly.
– Trust myself in teaching and jump in when it feels right.
Thank you for letting me see this!
I love this article , especially because I am currently in the level 1 training right now which has not been easy but each day I am left feeling inspired and more and more prepared to share this work. Jill has left me with something huge, and that is to be playful, curious and let go of perfection! I love how enthusiastic she is and her level of creativity is out of this world. I have never seen someone think so far out side the box and use what she has experienced, learned and integrated from her own life’s work, and challenges. She really asks you to listen to what the body is saying and giving it what it needs. Being playful in that it does not matter if stick a pose but that the process is the pose awareness on the way to the pose!
Love this! All three point five are great reminders and really encouraging. Inspiration to act allows for playfulness even if it doesn’t work out hopefully the students have fun with the process as you figure it out together.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Ariel. I particularly liked the lesson about loving the ones you’re with!
“Love the ones your with!”. Such a great reminder. Great analogy to Mother Theresa, too. We need so much of this in our world right now! Couldn’t agree more that Jill’s energy is humble, magnetic and contagious!
You mentioned Jill empowering you to take credit for healing yourself. I feel this is the most profound realization that I encounter when introducing friends and family to the therapy balls. Its like it’s so simple that people over look it and forget that they are the ones seeking treatment for their ailments. I was absolutely mind blown in my first yoga ball therapy class that I told everyone I knew about them. I bought balls for friends and family as Christmas presents. It was so amazing to me that these little balls could have such a massive impact on my mobility and pain issues. The Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls and Method allow you to discover your body in ways we never have before, allowing us a platform to learn and heal. I am currently right smack in the middle of my Level 1 training and I cannot wait to give even more instruction to help people heal themselves!
This post was really comforting to read, Ariel! Loved hearing about your adventures with Jill as you first encountered this work, as someone who is now diving into it myself. Your “your did it” moment is exciting to read as a teacher because its so true that a teacher is only a guide and we are all really the student of our own body. “Love the ones your with” is a beautiful reminder to give all of yourself no matter the size of your class. “Inspiration to action” is also an important lesson to trust ourselves in the moment and allow your class to unfold in the present. “Respect your spine” is a huge one too- I’ll be whispering that to myself as I continue my YTU training!
Lovely lessons from an amazing teacher! What an important ideas to ensure that our students own their healing and/or progress they make….this is something I will take away and treasure from this blog. And all of our students deserve 100% from us regardless of how many of them are in the room at once. I am an “inspiration into action” as a teacher as well, so it’s great to read that you have found great value in this quality of Jill’s, as it is easy to question these spontaneous teaching moments after a class. I now like to reflect on these moments and realize what I learned, what worked out well, and what needs refining 🙂
What a beautiful look into the lens of Jill. Only makes me appreciate even more her compassion and attention to students. Being a new student to the YTU world, I am resonating and understanding your initial feeling of that you knew Jack when taking training. That is exactly how I feel currently but also am inspired and intrigued to know more!! Reading the passion yourself and Jill have for the teachings and your students, only make me appreciate and respect the knowledge you are transferring over to us in the training. One day I hope to meet Jill aside from seeing her in my videos I have of her 🙂
So true! The more we know, the more we don’t know. To grow, we must keep learning and always follow your passion and purpose and work on your own body first in order to help others
so true! the more we know, the more we don’t know. To grow, we must keep learning and always follow your passion an purpose and work on your own body first in order to help others.
So true! The more we know, the more we don’t know. To grow we must keep learning and always follow your passion and purpose and work on your own body first in order to help others.
THIS. This is what I am already seeing only one day in to the level 1 YTU course. This magnetic energy to be oneself. It makes me feel so comfortable with not being perfect. She knows her stuff so fully, yet allows herself to have blank moments or just be goofy. I love goofy. I’m one that wants to have fun with anyone anytime. We can be serious and playful! The portion about give all no matter how many show up resonates. I’m not money driven and I just want to find ways to get people enthused about their bodies.. lives… their true beings!
I love the reminder to teach the same way to whoever is in front of you, whether it’s 2, 20, or 200. It’s important to always give the same amount of energy and attention to whoever is in front of you!
#2 hits home for me. I have been working on teaching all my classes the same, no matter how many students are there. It’s a good reminder.
This was such a nice change of pace from the anatomy-focused blogs I have been diving into. Thanks for sharing these lessons that you’ve taken away from such an inspirational woman. I am now at the point where as a practicing physiotherapist and a yoga teacher, I am trying to combine my worlds in a way that works for me. She is such a great example of how she is truly “doing her thing”.
My goal is to be able to help people physically and mentally and that was my reason to join yoga tune up training , however very soon I realized I also have few issues I should help myself with.
I agree , this is an amazing experience.
I love this ‘origin’ story! I first met Jill at the Toronto Yoga Show and one of the things I was immediately struck by was her (sounds weird), self-effacing charisma. In a context where the presenters are Yoga ‘rockstars’, you felt as though Jill was approachable and engaged with every student crammed in the room. I hope I get more opportunities to work with Jill in the future.
I love the story about Jill teaching with the same integrity and enthusiasm to a small group in the same way as to a large group.yes,love the ones you are with!
Thank you for this post. It is amazing to see how such a positive influence can dramatically change the way we teach and the way others respond to our voice. I think there is so much to be said about respect in all areas of teaching, firstly by always respecting the student and having the awareness to know that you are always a student. Creating a flow of being one with the class really does bring out a greater collective confidence in the room.
I think it requires so much dedication for people to take time out of their busy schedules and “heal themselves”. As a massage therapist I give remedial exercises to aid with patients recovery but the obstacle is to adapt those changes to your life routine. As I read your “respect your spine part”, I am not going to lie….it made me straighten up :). Good Advice!
A big realization I had as a teacher was that I won’t necessarily get to see the changes that occur in my students. We make our offerings, our suggestions, and then it’s their journey – something may click within them in one day or one month or… one year! But that line of, “You did it!” is the thing I want my students to embody. Them showing up to themselves, to be an active participant of their journey, is the hardest work.