If you’re looking for something to help solve those winter blues, Sherry Sidoti is offering her annual yoga teacher training from Jan. 11 through Jan. 20, and April 12 through 21. It’s a residential immersion broken up into two sessions — a breakdown that compliments the teachings most. But before we get into those details, Sherry’s offering a new scholarship program that not only alleviates the cost of the 200-hour teacher training, but also aligns with a shift in the business and practice of yoga.
What’s new at the FLY Yoga Teacher Training this year?
There’s always some form of scholarship scenario that I try to weave into the trainings. That changes year to year. At first, it was something I worked out individually in exchange for program assistance. Then I decided to create something more formalized. At that point I had a nonprofit, FLY Outreach, so those who needed a scholarship would offer time back to the community through the outreach program.
Last year and this year, I’ve been doing something different. I’m working as an advisor to the Yoga Alliance [the largest nonprofit association representing and accrediting yoga communities, teachers, and studios]. It’s redoing its standards for yoga teachers and yoga teacher training curriculums. It’s a huge project called the Standard Review project, and it’s been going on for about a year, with another couple years’ worth of work.
We’re trying to redefine the standards for yoga teaching and yoga sharing. I’ve been hired as an advisor to one of the working groups, and our focus is what constitutes someone who’s able to train teachers.
If we want yoga to be more accessible to all bodies, all economic statuses, and all ethnicities, we have to change the face of what a yoga teacher looks like. And on top of that, we need teachers training teachers to be diversified as well. I don’t just mean race or culture, I mean all bodies and abilities. Re-examine whom yoga is serving, and the most direct way to do that is to change who’s in training, and who’s offering trainings.
So what does your scholarship program look like now?
We want to offer the scholarship to a different face of yoga — specifically to students serving in nontraditional yoga studios. It’s not that I feel the yoga-studio model is dying, but it’s not reaching who we need it to reach. It’s only serving one sliver of the population. The people who feel comfortable and have means and time to walk into a studio are small compared with the people who want to be, should be, and deserve to be.
I’ve developed a specific interest in this scholarship program for people interested in offering yoga outside the studio model.
How many scholarships are available? And what could ‘yoga outside the studio’ look like?
We still have three partial scholarships available, and I’d love to get the word out. It could look like anything. It could look like a creative film. It could be a fashion designer who’s weaving yoga teachings into clothing. The options are endless. We’re looking for creative ideas to get yoga out into the world in ways it hasn’t before.
Talk a little bit about the training itself. Why the two 10-day immersions?
I’ve done it in other formats, and this is the one I find has the greatest impact on someone’s life — it has the most long-term effect on someone.
The first 10-day immersion is so intensive, you really need to jump in and immerse yourself in order to break up the habits and patterns of your life. The first session is more of an undoing in addition to a learning: undoing your habitual ways of thinking, your actions, your relations, and not only with ourselves and to other people, but with our work life, finances, food, and all aspects of what we interact with in our lives. And while we’re doing it, we’re doing it through the lens of yoga teaching. Taking yoga teaching and putting it into practice to remove the interference of things that aren’t serving us.
Then we need time to go back into our everyday lives and let it play out. It’s important that there’s a break after being in that unified collective. We go back home to our homes, jobs, lives, and we see where this new sense of self fits. We’re taking that undoing and applying it. There are also reading and writing assignments, observing and assisting other classes, and getting that feel for what we learned and putting it into action. There’s a lot of learning happening between sessions.
The second session is about how we’ve undone and lived this undoing within the yoga teaching and our everyday life, and taking that cumulative study and propelling it into something we can share with the world. That could be serving as a yoga teacher, or it could be something totally different. We figure out how to harness what we’ve learned to empower ourselves and the greater good.
What happens after the training?
Students have a full year from the end of the second session to complete all out-of-class work. Everyone takes on an independent project, and that could look like assisting, taking, and observing classes, practice teaching before actually teaching for money, and community service, or “seva.”
There’s also a 40-day sadhana, which is a personal 40-day practice of the same thing every day. It’s very spiritually oriented, and varies with the person. There’s also reading and writing assignments.
There’s a lot expected of a person taking trainings to get certified, and not because I want to be a hard teacher, but in order for us to really have yoga be who we are and what we’re sharing authentically. It takes time, and we need to develop a relationship to it.
This training is a lifelong thing. I mentor my students the whole time. Just last night I had a session with someone in my training from five years ago.
How do you prepare for something like this? Is it exhausting?
It’s unbelievably exhausting and exhilarating, all at the same time. I’m not going to lie, it’s so exhausting in the sense that I’m teaching all day. I’m facilitating transformation and major emotional breakthroughs. But it’s not just me. It’s everyone. As I’ve gotten more experienced, I know how to create an environment that’s not all leaning on me. There’s mutual support among students, assistants, and myself. It’s not just student looking to teacher, and teacher giving to student.
When you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing on the planet, you have an unbelievable amount of energy to do it. It’s like your battery is being charged from the earth or something. When you’re in the zone and aligned with what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s extra energy. I can’t explain it.