A journey of growth and learning -- my experience with Flow and Grow Kids’ Yoga 95-hour Kids Yoga Teacher Training
By Flow and Grow Kids Yoga Social Media Manager and Content Contributor Kathryn Boland
Like many things in my life, I came to Flow and Grow Kids Yoga’s 95-hour Kids Yoga Teacher Training serendipitously; I didn’t plan it and I didn’t expect it. First, some background to paint the picture of how this experience and journey came to be for me. While I’ve been teaching kids’ yoga for almost nine years, off-and-on, I’ve never officially been certified in the work; I’ve learned through personal study, shadowing other teachers, field experience with various ages and in different contexts, and at-home 95 hour program that -- because of life craziness -- I never finished (I read the books, essentially -- not something I’d recommend, but it’s the truth of what happened). I’ve been teaching, subbing and in longer-term structures, for Flow and Grow for several years. Lara Hocheiser, Founder, has become a valued professional contact and personal friend.
Fast-forward to March 2020. I had relocated from Brooklyn to my mother’s home in Newport, Rhode Island in order to avoid the thread of COVID-19. Due to loss of work from the move, I was feeling a bit panicked about my financial situation. I followed up on various work possibilities, including preliminary talks with Lara about doing some writing work for her.
Before I knew it, she had convinced me to take her 95-hour Kids Yoga Teacher Training in exchange for doing social media and other content work for her (such as writing blogs and leading SEO efforts) -- partly for work-study, partly paid. This arrangement helped me get over the financial hurdle I always seemed to face with getting more yoga teacher training. It hit me that it was well past time for me to get officially certified in this work. I took the plunge. Sitting here now, I’m so very glad I did.
Deepening and sharing knowledge
In one of the first lessons of the Foundations Course, Lara taught us about the different kinds of learners -- kinesthetic, auditory, visual, literary/linguistic, natural (through the outdoors and nature), and more. We discussed different methods and tools for reaching all kinds of learners in our classes, in the context of a balanced and engaging yoga class for all students. Like many things I would learn in this course, this lesson broadened and enriched a framework that I already had in my knowledge base.
As time went on, what was also striking to me was how Lara walked the walk here; throughout the 95-hour training, she offered many different ways in: visuals (by the very talented Nafeeza Hassan, Flow and Grow’s Head of Content), reading aloud, reading and reflecting alone and in small groups, experientials, group discussion, and more.
I was never bored and never knew what to expect next. I never knew what I’d learn next. That’s an amazing way to be immersed in an educational, enriching experience! It was all possible, and in fact wonderful, as a virtual learning experience. Zoom has its limits, and of course being in person together is incomparable, but Lara definitely made it work great.
Lara was also respectful of our autonomy, bandwidth, and needs, as adults with myriad other professional and personal obligations. For instance, each module required a video of us teaching. Lara strongly recommended we also write up a professional-quality lesson plan for each one. She impressed upon us the value of building a portfolio of our work, so that we’d be ready to hit the ground running with our teaching. This wasn't required, however. Similarly, she offered reading recommendations but this was not "required" reading.
We had due dates for these assignments, but she was in no way strict about if we got them in a week or two late. She understood that we all have a lot going on and are doing our best. She was also always checking in for what we needed -- if we had questions, needed something clarified or reviewed, or even if we just needed a five-minute “biology” break (to grab a snack, get some water, use the bathroom, stretch, rest our eyes, et cetera). Lara always impressed me with the grace with which she handled her own various obligations, running a business while caring for her three-and-a-half year old daughter. It was always a treat when Charlie would pop in Lara’s Zoom screen to say hi!
In a similar way, Lara was always open and honest about how she was feeling through teaching her first 95-hour training -- inspired and grateful, but also often experiencing self-doubt (that good-ole Imposter’s Syndrome). This kind of openness put us all at ease. Our teacher wasn’t claiming to be perfect, so we didn’t have to put up a front of perfection either.
Community, individuality, and leadership
Laughter, sharing, and caring for each other further zapped out our fear and allowed our creativity to fly. It was truly a safe space; we all felt safe to try, perhaps stumble, get back up and give it another go (my cohort-mates were brilliant, though, I’ll say!). From my background in mental health, I can say that this kind of atmosphere is essential for full learning and reaching one’s potential. We created it together, from Lara’s wonderful lead.
From eighteen years as a dance artist (choreographing, performing, taking classes, and writing about dance), I can say that this kind of environment is also essential for finding one’s creative voice. It’s a long journey, and at times a lonely, frustrating one, but the fruits of that process are irreplaceable. Trying to be just like another creative just never works; it comes off as inauthentic and unappealing. Lara always encouraged our unique creativity and voice. She offered tools from her experience and creative process over the years, but never once made it sound like her way was the way.
Her extensive feedback to our video assignments made this leadership style of hers all the clearer; her comments were always encouraging and kind. If something that we were doing wasn’t working, she explained why and offered concrete tips for making needed fixes. In classes, she never once shut anyone’s voice or ideas down. Again, she might every so often offer the sense that she heard what we were saying and knew what we meant, but here’s what her knowledge and experience indicated to the contrary (yet I will reiterate, my cohort-mates always showed incredible grace, talent, and intelligence!). As noted, fear shuts off learning and creativity. Lara fostered an environment where we could all explore and learn together, to our potentials.
My experience in both dance and mental health has also taught me the importance of consistent personal growth and self-improvement, through daily work and practice. In yoga, this consistent work on oneself is called tapas. In my Master’s degree Mental Health program at Lesley University, they would often say to us “self as instrument” -- meaning, essentially, work on yourself and you’ll know what to do when the time comes to guide someone else. Lara often spoke about the importance of our personal yoga and mindfulness practice as teachers. The curriculum also reflected this idea, such as elements in the Yoga Philosophy course that were for us as teachers and as humans rather than what we would teach to young students.
For all of these reasons, this training was a true journey and immersive experience for me, one that built upon but deepened my prior knowledge and experience. I will freely and gladly give my personal email, should you have any questions about this training -- firstname.lastname@example.org. We're here for you! We hope that you join us for this journey of learning, sharing, flowing, and growing. It'll be your own journey, but you won't travel it alone, not in the least.