I know I say it a lot, but the Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 changed my teaching. I think it’s important to add that I was ready for my teaching to change.
It was 2013, and I had been teaching classes for 6 years and leading 200hr Teacher Trainings for 3. I was in some pain here and there – mostly my SI joints and neck. I was a little bored, too. The asanas weren’t exactly cutting it for me physically or creatively. It’s extremely difficult for me to teach subject matter that I don’t totally believe in. Students can smell lack of enthusiasm from a mile away.
One day at the old YogaWorks Union Square studio, I saw a poster for the YTU L1. I was particularly drawn to the therapy ball component of this training. I had been using tennis balls to help myself temporarily relieve intermittent neck pain. Like my SI joint pain, this neck discomfort reared its ugly head for days at a time every month or two. It left me feeling really uncomfortable and confused. How was I teaching a “healing art” but also in regular pain? I felt like a failure and a fraud.
It was this mindset, more than anything, that propelled me to undergo the incredibly intense and transformative process of the Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 training. I’m a worker bee. (Bee is for Beversdorf.) The training’s intensity played well to my personality. Surprising to me, though, was how impactful the process was on my practice. It reinforced for me that in order for me to change my teaching, my practice needs to change first.
The seven day process gave me the building blocks to reshape my practice, which naturally reshaped my offerings and message as a teacher. The biggest shift was away from prescriptive teaching (a do-as-I-say-to-make-this-shape-approach) toward teaching movement to facilitate student’s self-directed experiences. I learned to better lead the process of inquiry. I didn’t learn to teach Yoga Tune Up® classes, per se. Rather, I gained YTU teaching tools to align my classes more closely with my values and goals as an educator.
The exposure to dozens of corrective exercises, self-massage techniques and habits of thought, guided this shift in my attitude toward teaching. This didn’t happen overnight. My teaching has been changing steadily since (and largely because of) the Level 1 training. It planted many seeds that sprouted fruit days, months and years down the road. It gave me a taste of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up as a movement educator.
How Moving My Body Changed My Perspective
Most surprising to me, however, was how the Level 1 helped me tap into myself emotionally. My mom had died of cancer a little over a year prior. The self-massage sequences and investigative movement were potent tools for connecting to and touching my pain in what felt like safe and nurturing ways.
I realized how angry and sad I was still from the trauma surrounding the loss of my mother. I sought therapy soon after the training and began the process of working through my pain in earnest. Moving my body in novel ways moved me to feel new possibilities and change my perspective on my own ability to change and to heal.
Probably most transformative, this training connected me with a very positive drive to educate and empower my students toward a greater curiosity and trust for their body’s ability to heal. It didn’t give me special poses with curative properties, or endow me with a instantaneous medical degree. Rather, it showed me that I could follow my own intuition more as a mover and inspire my students with the tools I had as a teacher to do the same. One big lesson I learned is that as students, maybe we don’t need to be told what to do so much as we need to be given permission to feel.
I really resonated with this piece on so many levels. On the first day of training we did what you do at trainings, you sit in a circle introduce yourself, where you’re from, why you’re there etc. Only, I had no idea what I was doing in this training, so I said, I really don’t know why I’m here…lol. I also lost my mom about a year prior to the training and I felt myself going through a lot of emotions that I wasn’t really expecting as well. I am a teacher/coach, but of high school and of history and swimming, yet I still found my seat based classroom teaching methods shifting as well. I started to question why/how I do what I do. Don’t get me wrong…I learned A LOT about the body and alignment and muscles etc. but I also was able to reflect in so many other areas of my life. I partly blame the 2 hour drives home…lol…but level 1 was transformative and re-awakened this love of bodywork that I put on the back, back, back burner. Bodywork is on the front burner now, and I’m cooking up something yummy I hope!
“…teaching movement to facilitate student’s self-directed experiences” This is such a poignant way to sum up what sets Yoga Tune Up teachers apart from some other yoga teachers. I definitely aim to be the kind of yoga teacher who, like Laurel, teaches my students how to inquire and feel things out for themselves.
Thanks for this testimony! Indeed, the YTU training gives me more confidence in my teachings and allows me to educate my students about their bodies. It is true that it gives power to the management of the health of the students.
Thank you for sharing. I am on day 1 of my YTU training level 1 and am inspired by your article. I like your last comment: ”One big lesson I learned is that as students, maybe we don’t need to be told what to do so much as we need to be given permission to feel.”
You are so right.
Oh my gosh I love this article. I’m going though YTU Cert right now and I’ve been thinking of how to describe it to my students when I get back to “real life”, and I’m so glad I found this!!! I mirror exactly this sentiment about this amazing experience and while I’ll be leaving feeling empowered in my own practice and body, I know my students will experience the same. I’m so excited to apply what I’ve been learning this week.
Wow, talk about a message from the universe taking you down another path. I’m currently taking YTU training for reasons similar to yours and also finding this experience transformative as well. Thank you for sharing your story.
Lauren, I’m heading into Day 4 of the YTU training, and this SO resonates with me – especially your statement that “I didn’t learn to teach Yoga Tune Up® classes, per se. Rather, I gained YTU teaching tools to align my classes more closely with my values and goals as an educator.” At least at this point, I don’t see myself teaching TYU classes either, but I AM noting that I am mentally bookmarking certain elements of the training to include in my teaching going forward. Thanks for putting words to my experience!
I’m taking the yoga tun up training with Jill Miller this week, the 8-hour daily class was very informative and engaging. Although a lot of info to take in, I can tell I will learn a lot on how to provide proper guidance in teaching.
This is so refreshing and along the lines of how I have felt about my yoga practice. I hope to take this knowledge I’m learning in the YTU training into the classroom to empower my students to facilitate their own healing.
I took the yoga tune up Certification Training with Laurel.
Just amazing and empowered training. Not just about movements and anatomy, is more about purpose “Sankalpa” on what you do on each single thing, every single thouhgt, single movement on Consciousness mode.
Muchas gracias Laurel, es muy inspirador el leerte y más aún el ser tu aprendiz en este gran entrenamiento de YTU, estoy muy contenta de poder tomarlo y poder tener más herramientas para mis clases, el aprender a usar los props de manera diferente y a poder alinear de manera correcta a mis alumnos y que ellos sepan qué están trabajando y cómo se siente, pero sobre todo para mejorar mi propia práctica y aliviar mis dolores físicos, que como tú, siento que no es congruente que sea maestra de yoga y mi cuerpo sea un nudo! Pero todo llega a uno por algo y este es mi momento y lo quiero aprovechar al máximo.
Definitivamente este curso ha sido muy enriquecedor, me gusta la libertad que ofrece para movernos de maneras innovadoras y hasta juguetonas. A mí me dio mucha seguridad y me siento mucho mejor preparada para compartir en clase lo que he aprendido. El estudio de anatomía en el curso me encantó y me hizo entender muchas cosas sobre mi práctica y sobre mis clases. Gracias por lo que compartes, Laurel.
I have heard your story for some years now and what inspires and impress me the most is the transformation that you have gone though in your practice and teaching. That which can be seen, beyond words.
Now I feel that I am broadening the scope of possibilities through which I can move, feel and observe myself, with a much more acute lens, while I practice and teach. My awareness has amplified and my urge to know more about the muscles that are involved in each pose is growing since I did the YTU Certification Training. It’s like learning from the inside out.
It has made so much sense to me and made me feel more fulfilled to feel the work that I’m actually doing and not just stretching in some fancy (or not so fancy) asana.
Thanks for sharing this movement/learning journey with me, where we have been navigating from following alignment guidelines to applied anatomy to conscious, functional strength based movements to sharpen our skills and moving (and feeling) better in our bodies.
This is so inspiring , I was a former dance instructor but haven’t been teaching now for mote than 15 years. Taking yoga classes everyday became my new choice of sport tokeep my body in motion ,but I was craving something more , something that could help other people who also suffered from pain and aches so I stumbled upon a ball rolling class one day and I always wanted to learn more about it so I am looking forward to learn this YTU
I can relate to this in so many ways! I’ve been teaching vinyasa yoga for 15 years; and while there are so many things I love about it, I am so ready to evolve. I’m diving in! It’s time to change my practice, (slowly) change my teaching, and become a better version of me as an educator. I am so inspired and can’t wait to explore this body of work!!
This was very empowering to read through, as a current instructor going through the Level 1 training of YTU. Most intriguing is given what feels like a new license to be creative and explorative, and to challenge the rules and prescriptions to better meet my needs and those of students coming to me. I agree that this is not an overnight full change, but one that will continue to grow and shift and be absorbed with time and continuing the process.
As I continue to grow and nurture my own practice, I feel such fulfillment bringing my own discoveries to students…asking them to discover, take a leap of faith, explore the unexplored. This training taps directly into my own passion and will help me to continue to grow, learn, ask the questions, discover and share. Laurel- your knowledge and passion shine through every day…thank you.
I, like you, am ready for my teaching to change. To be empowered, but to also empower my students. I tell them to become participants in their bodies, rather than observers. That is what drew me to this training: to learn more, differently, to obtain the tools to transform the way I teach (and what I know). I am thrilled to be taking the level 1 training with you this week! 🙂
Much here echos many of my own attraction to YTU. Slowing down to question, trying out movement with introspection and allowing emotions to flow in are all factoring into my own personal practice. I know there will be kernels of wisdom shared to help me blossom in my own way as a teacher, so that I can guide students to their own personal awakenings.
The YTU training is really original and adapts to all the customers. I am also very happy to have discovered the YTU, it changed my life!
I just finished the YTU TT a few weeks ago and I can see why it changed you teaching! When I registered, I wanted more than anything to learn «how» and «why» instead of «new postures»… and that is exactly what they teach us. Even if yoga is «a healing art»; IT DEPENDS on so many levels. A posture can be good for someone and bad for someone else… but to know that we need to understand «Why».
Inspiring article — and it reminds me about my ‘why’ as a student, and as a teacher. I want to become more embodied, and as I learn and experience more practices to awaken in my own body, I can offer guidance for students to do so as well.
This training has exceeded my expectations and so has Laurel’s teaching. She is all at once, funny, super smart, tough, soft, a bad ass and very kind, but most of all she absolutely embodies the qualities of an empowered educator. She is clearly so committed to learning and to teaching – I hope to continue to learn from her. Her energy, even with a little one at home is infectious and seemingly never ending.
As a former professional ballet dancer, I’ve spent the majority of my life being told what position to put my body in, and how it should look and feel based on the aesthetic goals that drive ballet’s very existence. I’ve since taken that approach into many other forms of movement, and although it has served me well in many regards, lately, it hasn’t felt like enough (physically, emotionally, spiritually). After discovering Yoga Tune Up and the self-massage techniques, I discovered just how little exploration my aesthetic driven movement practice was offering me. The self-massage techniques in particular provide me with the space to let go and FEEL. This shift away from feeling “safety” in being told what to do and instead giving permission to feel, is something I deeply connect with at the moment, and like Laurel says, can help empower not only yourself, but your students in gaining a more curious and nurturing practice.
For 3 years I stopped moving. I had no idea how much it would affect my body and my entire life. Moving saves me physically and emotionally. What I love about YTU is that it helps me release. I can’t wait to teacher other’s how to release as well.
I am in my day two of my YTU training and , I totally agree with becoming empowered educator for my self first because I have always wanted to know about the anatomy but more so the physiology and biomechanics.
I have always loved working out but had never really connected with my body , all I was after was how can l lose weight or put on muscle.
But then because of my long history with lower back pain, I started listening to my body more and now wanted to know how to be pain free. My first class of yoga tuneup just opened my eyes and my body loved all the rolling I had in class.
So it has led me to this training as a student of my body but also lam happy when l move. We were asked to find our sankalpa and l wrote all that I was feeling but finally today in class l got it. My sankalpa is Movement is freedom, Movement is happiness. So lam going to keep educating myself to be empowered to help others.
I really like how the author discusses “teaching movement to facilitate student’s self-directed experiences”. As I go through my own teacher training experience, I have come to discover that this is by far the most complex and challenging component (in my opinion) to being a teacher. It is most difficult because each student has a different idea of their own self movements and have each had different experiences with poses or life in general. This is exciting and intimating at the same time. It is exciting because it really shows me that yoga and learning will never stop as a teacher and intimating obviously because there will be a lot of times when you will not get it right!
I just finished my YTU level 1 very class and taught my first yoga class. My teaching changed immediately as the anatomy and alignment cues just flowed out of me. As my class stood in tadasana, I automatically looked around and started cueing pin the arms on the yogi and than added cues to scrub your feet into adduction, abduction, flexion and extension. The feedback from my students was so awarding.
“Maybe we don’t need to be told what to do so much as we need to be given permission to feel” … such food for thought. That is a daily practice, “giving yourself permission to feel” that we so forget to embody in daily life. We run the rat race and suppress why what makes us feel a certain way and then totally forget about it until it happens repeatedly or we are forced to address it. A new sankalpa I will have to add into my own practice, is that it is okay to SLOW DOWN and that I am giving myself permission to FEEL.
I am in the middle of level 1 training now. I too am feeling like this is not going to change my teaching just yet.. but firsst my practice. I am looking forward to steppy back more intensively to the role of student of my body. Spending more time moving and playing in my body, exploring new interpretations of poses and movements.
I’m amazed at the stories of the ways in which YTU changes our relationships to our physical and mental beings. This is very powerful as is the ability to start to connect the fact that trauma does live in our bodies and will continue to do so until we face the messages we are being sent.
I can completely relate to this. I just finished the in-person part of the YTU cert last month, and finished the take-home final yesterday and I am blown away at how it’s already changed me as a teach, but what’s been even more fascinating is how I experience being in my body when I practice now. It’s opened up a world of physical, anatomical, and physiological intelligence that is never ending and blows my mind in the best way.
It’s incredible how much YTU training changes the way you view yoga and movement in general. After completing an intensive 200hr YTT I didn’t feel I had all the tools to really bring informed movement to students, so 2 years down the road I still haven’t taught. But after a one week YTU training, I feel sooooo ready to teach now, with all the tools and knowledge of anatomy and functional/correctional movement that it has provided. And I love this quote: “…as students, maybe we don’t need to be told what to do so much as we need to be given permission to feel.” Empowering students to go further inside and connect to themselves on a deeper level and really feel is something many can really benefit from.
It is always so inspiring to hear when teachers re-ignite the intention behind their movement education. This resonates with me deeply because I too have felt fraudulent in my teachings at time, stale with the repetitive movements, and so many unanswered questions about the WHY. My own Level 1 was such an eye-opener. It truly moved me to be a better teacher for myself and my students. I love the bit about assisting students to uncover how THEY feel rather than simply dictating how they should move. So empowering.
this was very powerful article as i just experienced the same finishing the level 1 cert. i have already incorporated the tune up method in my classes and it’s empowering for me and my students.
This hits the nail on the head!! My history of injuries from yoga, my hyper mobility, the performance of it all, and my long history of wanting to be people pleaser had gotten my body into a lot of trouble. I had stopped practicing regularly and become so bored with the way I was teaching, I imagine my students felt the same way. I HAD to do something about it, so about 6 months ago, I challenged myself to think outside the box of yoga’s traditional poses by diving deeper into anatomy and having an anatomical theme for the week which broke poses down into understandable segments, and related muscle and joint actions to asana. This was all self taught through my personal practice, and a lot of youtube videos, mostly self massage videos with the tune up balls. I had been to a few yoga tune up workshops before, but was not terribly familiar with what it was. I was finding that I was offering ball rolling to my students in vinyasa flow classes as a warm up or a cool down with no formal training on how to actually do it. On a whim I signed up for the YTU training, I’m only 3 days in and I can never look back on my old ways of teaching. This has spurred incredible growth and has given me a fresh set of eyes to truly see movement practices through a whole new lens. I’ve come a long way in just these 3 days, I’m enjoying being present in the process.
I appreciate you opening up personally to empower others to be open to change and growth. Especially when we think we have already nailed it. More can come.
When I was first introduced to alignment-based yoga, there was a lot of fear mongering associated with the practice. Very rigid cookie-cutter cues that were meant to bring awareness to students and to keep their bodies safe (or maybe just aesthetically more pleasing). As I was introduced to more biomechanics and interdisciplinary movement modalities, I only became more and more intimidated by all the information I didn’t know as a yoga teacher.
I am lucky enough to live in New York and I have experienced Laurel’s teaching in person. What I love about her teaching style is her commitment to guiding her students into self directed experiences and leading students to a path of inquiry. I love where she writes about how YTU training didn’t give her any special powers or a medical degree but it planted the seeds to expand her perspective as a teacher and student.
While I am still, at times, intimidated by all the information (and the amount of contradiction / cognitive dissonance within that information) about anatomy and the body, I feel empowered to start a life long journey where I don’t have to be right, but I have to be present, aware, and open to both teaching and learning from all my experiences.
I had to cancel my attendance to level 1 with you last July but I did manage to make it with Dinneen last week and I agree that it really provides some food for thought. Curious to see from now on how it will change my teachings and as you mention here, my own personal practice. I know it won’t be exactly the same as before. Probably more conscious and purposeful PNF to start with…
I love the idea of its not so much about how we direct our students in what to do, but permission to feel. My own teaching style is a lot feeling into the sensation of what we’re doing or have just done and YTU invites this in more deeply. Because we actually roll on balls, creating a personal experience unique to each student in ways asana may not. It’s less about doing it “right” and more explorative. Thanks Laurel.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Dear Laurel, thanks for your openness and vulnerable sharing about how Yoga tune up changed your life. As a yoga teacher for 5 years and a fitness and rehab trainer Fie over 15, I too have felt like a fraud when going to class in pain. It has only been recently that my taught classes are outnumbering my personal practice, and boy do I get un-inspired when my practice wanes! One thing I’ve tried recently is to personally practice my class that I want to teach 12-48 hrs ahead of time. And also go in to class with an open mind that is willing to switch to a plan B or C it D 🙂 It has made such a difference! I also am better at embodying and leading the class when I do the poses with the students vs. Walking around and talking about how to move. I am concerned however about teaching things I can’t do myself. I understand the concepts, and can teach above my ability level in other fitness areas- even with with elite athletes- but for some reason, Maybe it’s because today is end of day 2 of my YTU Level 1 training, Ian’s after reading this article and knowing I teach better from a place of intrinsic knowing rather than superficial knowing, I and doubting teaching the things I can’t do. Suggestions or workarounds welcome!
Laurel, I loved this empowering post. I especially like that you came to terms with how you felt about being a movement educator and yet in pain yourself – it reminded me of Jill’s story about her hip replacement. I have felt this way too – I still get shocked looks from participants when I talk about my pain and injuries. Some of them believe that yoga teachers are so “good” at self care that we don’t even feel pain! Your message inspired and resonated with me. Thank you for sharing.
Really enjoyed the testimonials
Thank you for your testimony ! I am doing the YTU L1 and I like to find in you that it changed your life in many ways. That’s the feeling I have too. YTU chan change our life by knowing much better our body and by knowing how to make it stronger ! Than you !
Just started the YTU certification level 1 today! can’t wait to find out all treasures I’m gonna discover during this week.
Thank you, thank you for this beautiful and powerful piece, and for your courage and authenticity in sharing your experience of this amazing work! I also loved that you stated, “this training connected me with a very positive drive to educate and empower my students toward a greater curiosity and trust for their body’s ability to heal.” I also experienced this not only in my drive to educate, but also toward my own body. I too am so grateful for this growing community of authentic, brilliant, and innovative movement educators and healers.
I just finished Day 3 of the Yoga Tune up Training – wow! What a game changer!! I’ve been teaching for a few years but in the recent years have felt more drawn to the more formless aspects of Yoga.. meditation, inner experience, breath, energy, thoughts, emotion ect.. and have explored a lot of Yin and Restorative Yoga in my own practice as well as with my students. Meanwhile though I started to feel somewhat bored, uninspired and even alienated from the more active practices. For me personally this training is an amazing way to wake up curiosity and creativity about exploring form, body & anatomy and weaving it into a more engaging active asana practice. After all Yoga is about Yin & Yang and balancing these opposites to experience wholeness!
Beautiful. Your whole journey described here really resonates with me. I lost my mom 2 years ago to cancer after 8mo of caring for her. We became so close during this time and my life was her illness and her illness was my life for that time period. Since then, I have kinda been coasting when it comes to my teaching and barely even there when it comes to my own practice. I kinda “lost that loving feeling”. Currently in the training (with you!), I feel new life and curiosity being birthed. I know this is only the beginning of a shift. I look forward to seeing where this takes me.
Level 1 Training changed things for me too! I go so much more out of it than I had expected. I agree, teaching to others starts within!
Two things really speak to me in your story, Laurel, which I so appreciate you sharing. One is the shift away from prescriptive teaching. This is something I really want to keep in mind as I start my mindfulness work with parents– that to offer clients access to the benefits of the practices does not happen by telling them how a practice “will” or “should” make them feel. Relatedly, the building of curiosity and trust in one’s own ability to heal (body and spirit) is such a powerful, beautiful concept. It is needed so far outside of the yoga classroom– makes me think of all the children who have experienced trauma, racism, the hateful politics of right now– imagine what good will come if we can have curiosity and trust in our national ability to heal. Embodiment practices can be so small but their ripple effects so big.
This blog post inspired me to sign up for this training with you! I am so thrilled for the opportunity to learn from you and related deeply to your experience. I was also the sole caretaker for my mother during the last months of her life when she was dying from Pancreatic Cancer and I still find ways in which I carry the grief of that time in the tissues of my body. Self massage and getting strong around my joints and guided me to trust my own ability to take care of myself while also caring for my daughter and husband and students. Thank you for sharing your story and this training with us!
So much of your journey is relatable. From feeling stale and uninspired, to being in pain and therefore a fraud, to emotional turmoil leading you to changing your perspective on your practice. I love this line: “as students, maybe we don’t need to be told what to do so much as we need to be given permission to feel.” I’ve spent so much of my parallel journeys of student and teacher telling or [wanting to be] told what to do, but I am beginning to realize exactly this–the potential of using what we feel as our first guide.
I love the distinction of coming at teaching asana as an educator rather than the curative authority. I find much more freedom in being able to see the person in front of me as whole rather than a series of broken traumas that are my responsibility to heal.
Thank you for posting! This is beautiful and it touched my heart deeply. YTU level 1 literally changed me as a yoga teacher, mom, wife, friend, and connection with myself mostly! It also brought me deeper into my inner sankalpa work and the relationship I have with my body and mind. To trust and choose my intuition and have the confidence to follow thru with the training even when it got emotionally difficult helped me grow exponentially as a person. I didn’t think I could learn so much amazing information in just seven days and apply it in all aspects of my life with assuredness and ease. I am grateful for your sharing and your braveness. And I am thankful for this powerful growing community of healers.
Hey Laurel! I too recently completed the YTU Level 1. I know what you mean about feeling like your teaching was a bit stagnant and this desire to really educate people about their bodies. It’s hard to ignore that feeling once it starts to bloom. I too had physically and emotionally awakening experiences that brought me into a greater state of comfort and intimacy within my own body and it’s current capacity. It’s simultaneously a humbling and inspiring experience that leaves its mark. From the first day in class I thought “how do I become a teacher of THIS” and seeing that you lead a level one now is such an inspiration. Thanks for helping light the way!
I feel like I’ve been moving towards this different way of teaching for a few years now, but it wasn’t until I recently completed the Level 1 YTU YTT, that the pieces fell into place for me. It definitely does change your perspective on what a yoga class can be. Thanks for this great post Laurel, it really confirms many of the things I’ve noticed in my practice and classes.
A great article. I’ve recently finished the training to and have been experimenting even more with my teaching, throwing in some pilates and movements my osteopath has given me. I really relate to “it showed me that I could follow my own intuition more as a mover and inspire my students with the tools I had as a teacher to do the same”.
Well said! Thank you for sharing! I am also a Yoga Tune Up ®️Teacher. You have helped inspire me to continue to teach my style to help people feel better! Teaching teachers is a goal for me…thank you for your post!
Thanks for sharing your story 🙂
Thank you for sharing your beautiful and personal Level 1 experience. Having just completed my Level 1 with Jill Miller, I felt connected to your journey. I found myself teaching standard yoga classes and it didn’t feel quite right to me. I wanted to teach people about their bodies not just lead them through yoga poses.Yoga Tune Up Level 1 Teacher Training gave me what was looking for and the permission to teach the way my intuition was leading me. I wish you continued healing and happiness. Thank you again for your blog post.