Join us as the story of Stillpoint Yoga London evolves to deeper trainings and teacher education
By Scott Johnson
‘Yesterday I was clever so I changed the world, today I am wise so I am changing myself.’
A privilege to teach
Helping someone to evolve an authentic and personal yoga practice that benefits their lives is what we do here at Stillpoint Yoga London. It’s what we have been doing since we opened in 2009. One which they can learn to lean on as a powerful resource over a life-span.
From my perspective as a teacher holding space, assisting someone to develop and enhance a yoga practice is a privilege to be a part of. When we form relationships with people over days, months, then years it can’t help but be meaningful. From the students and teachers perspective, both grow greatly from the interaction that is held in a self practice yoga room. But, there is a system to that personal practice that we are interacting and integrating with. That system is Ashtanga yoga and is the one we have been sharing over the past ten years.
At Stillpoint our founding vision was to create inspired practitioners who use the practices of yoga to awaken to the complexities of life and who have tools to navigate them. Practitioners who are skilled in understanding how they can practice with awareness of their bodies, combined with evolving a compassionate outlook on their lives. But, most importantly, remembering too that it’s a spiritual practice. A sadhana. Offering people the opportunity to unpack the teachings of yoga in a way that changes how they see the world.
It’s so important to remember that the development of a yoga teacher comes as a response to their deep inquiry as a practitioner. This is how the self practice method of Ashtanga yoga has always worked. The regularity, commitment to and the discipline of yoga practice over time creates the ability to teach, through the practice itself. This is why at SYL we have never wanted to create a 200hr teacher training or something that develops a teacher in such a small amount of time. One that let’s people go into the world unready, with no recourse, follow up or future check in and without having the deeply committed practice and resolve in the first place.
It has taken me years to feel like I can share this yoga practice in a way that can land and impact the people I meet. But I also have friends, colleagues, peers and teachers – a support network I can reach out to and lean on for advice. This is something that I truly value and have created for myself over the years. This for me was enough. But the recent shifts in the Ashtanga community have made me think about my place within it, how our work at SYL can help influence its future direction and what we can offer as an inspiring way of moving forward with the community.
A Process Of Evolution
Over the past two years I have been working with good friends and colleagues Greg Nardi, Jock Orton, Emma Rowse, Helen McCabe and Jacinta McBurney on a project called Amāyu Yoga. Amāyu was born as a response to our experiences working with many different practitioners in our yoga communities. We came together with a shared desire to serve those communities in a more fluid, empowering way.
Over the deep time we worked together we began to see a real need to offer higher quality teacher trainings that focused on professionalisation and that benefitted not only the potential students but the ongoing growth of a yoga teacher. We saw a real need to broaden the tent of Ashtanga yoga to include and unite more diverse practitioners. We wanted to create outreach programmes that focused on the disadvantaged. But within all of this we wanted to foster a sense of community. A sense of belonging that teachers and practitioners could be part of.
Our combined personal research and inquiries led us to create a vision, mission statement, methodology, learning pathway, policies and procedures. This new co-operative model for teachers, students and practitioners of yoga unpacks and evolves the Ashtanga yoga practice through a new non-hierarchical approach with student safety and care paramount but still places the assisted self practice method at the centre of the teaching modality. Importantly, the new methodology fosters an environment where there is a deeper understanding and acknowledgement between a yoga teacher and a student. And where the onus is on the teacher to create the space for it. Being Ashtanga yoga teachers at this particular time in yoga has been a sobering, yet deeply inspiring, process for me and my colleagues. We have all evolved greatly by doing this work.
It has taken a long time, many many days of working calls and parties, to form a new, fluid, open and inclusive organisation which we feel fosters a shared vision from the ground up. But formed it we have.
We feel we have created a deeply inspiring learning and education pathway congruent to the way we all felt we were developing practitioners in our shalas and for me personally in my role as SYL director. A pathway that deepens the personal study and focus of yoga and places it squarely in practitioners’ lives. Then after a time if they so wish, the pathway will support them to become teachers like my colleagues and I. I feel deeply passionate about what we have created.
Introducing Stillpoint Education
Following this period of deep work and development over the past few years with my Amayu colleagues, we are so proud that this year here at Stillpoint Yoga London we will be launching the Amāyu learning pathway under the name Amāyu Yoga Stillpoint Education.
The Amāyu learning pathway is a deep, sequential study of Ashtanga yoga from its beginnings and is a pathway that every practitioner, from those who practice the half primary series to advanced, can access and take part in. Most importantly, because it is an education programme, the emphasis on becoming a yoga teacher is secondary to the ability to learn the deeper practices of Ashtanga yoga and its associated fields. All the courses relate to your personal evolution as a practitioner.
Learning to Thrive
The ability to understand and know what you’re doing comes with time, energy and focus. A yoga practice is a lifelong spiritual endeavour and with every layer of practice there is deep knowledge that you can access that allows you to thrive. Stillpoint Education adopts a supportive and nurturing approach to learning, offering long term input, guidance and encouragement throughout that learning journey. Rather than imposing a beginning and end, it’s a process of modular learning that connects you to where you are and what you need to know at that time. You can access the courses that interest you in relation to your experience and all the courses expand your personal knowledge of yoga and practice and what it means to you.
The pathway is:
Practitioner – Experienced Practitioner – Foundation Teacher – Experienced Teacher – Senior Teacher.
The courses that make up the pathway are:
Each course builds on the previous one and helps you establish knowledge that supports your evolution as an Ashtanga yoga practitioner.
This year Stillpoint Education will run Essentials 1, Essentials 2 and the EPC based in London and it will be led by myself. The Mentorship will be announced later in the year and delivery will start at the end of 2020. At the end of the Mentorship, where you will learn the art of teaching yoga in real life situations and in peer to peer work, you will be given an Amayu Foundation Teacher Certificate (equivalent to a current 500hr course).
Courses and trainings will run annually – initially from London and expanding to other UK and international locations with preparation underway to launch Amayu in Dorset, with our dear friends Helen McCabe and Jock Orton and also in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, with our other dear friends Greg Nardi and Amanda Palermo.
We are so excited to see Amāyu Yoga grow over time and extend its reach and influence internationally. Our aim is to nurture a wider community of practitioners, teachers and studios working and practicing together to share this method in an empowering, honest and inspiring way.
New policies that support and serve
The Ashtanga yoga teaching community is still coming to terms with how to move as a response to the abuse of Pattabhi Jois.
The Stilllpoint Education programme/ Amāyu Yoga has been shaped by this context and we have created a set of principles, policies and procedures that teachers and studios will adhere to so as to make students feel more safe in a studio environment. As teachers we have a duty to serve students with integrity and compassion for their well-being as best we can.
From 1st February Stillpoint Yoga London will adopt the Amāyu principles, policies and procedures and importantly, the teacher/student relationship guidelines. These guidelines help us to understand and respond in a measured way to the relationships we hold and evolve in our self practice room. In summary, we wish to understand, highlight, create boundaries and, as best we can, work with the power dynamics in a yoga room in an ethical way while also being of service to the practitioners experience as it comes up in the moment.
Yoga As Relationship
The art of yoga practice is relationship, understanding the deep patterns that we have in our lives and seeing how they land in the present moment. Then fostering the tools of our own intuition, with awareness and compassion, to evolve an outlook that lands us directly in our unique creative and open lives.
The art of yoga teaching is relationship, understanding the path we have walked as a conduit for someone else’s learning. Being clear about the power dynamics we have, learning to get out of the way, when we can, of someone else’s learning and to be a support.
Stillpoint Education is ultimately about practice. Our practice. Our yoga sadhana. The ability to teach is an evolution of this sadhana. Sadhana comes first. Always. Hence why the course is so comprehensive and why prior knowledge is needed to access certain courses. It’s so important we understand that practice, a personal spiritual process, is the base from where we then teach.
Next Steps in Practice
The decision to take steps into deepening study is so important. There are so many yoga teachers, trainings, intensives and inspiring paths out there. What I feel is important, as we take that journey as practitioners, is that we take steps one at a time. With patience. This allows learning to open up for us in a real, fluid way. And it is so important that we can feel that someone is walking with us on that journey. By our side. Offering to hold the other handle of the bag we carry sometimes, when it gets heavy.
This is what teaching self practice is about. And this is what Stillpoint Education and The Amāyu Pathway is about.
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