Program Spotlight: San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute's Accessible Teacher Training
Patrice Wagner is a long-time yoga student of Rev. Jivana Heyman, Director of Teacher Training, at the San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute. Patrice was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) about 20 years ago and since then has benefited tremendously from yoga and the serenity that it brings. Though she would have liked to enter a regular yoga teacher training program, fatigue kept her from doing so as most programs are highly intensive, requiring completion of 200 hours of work in about 8 to 10 weeks. Another long-time student of Jivana’s, who also has a physical disability, made a courageous attempt at the regular program, but he, too, was unsuccessful. Perhaps the reality of seeing two students hit a “glass ceiling” caused Jivana to act on the idea of offering these two students (and many others) a more compassionate way to learn to teach yoga – and from there, the Accessible Teacher Training (ATT) was born.
The ATT spreads the 200 hours of required training over 8 months (classes last only three hours with one break midway), thereby making it possible for Patrice and others with similar physical limitations, to complete the training. The program meets national standards for yoga teachers and is registered with the Yoga Alliance (the national yoga organization). The content is very similar to the Institute’s traditional Level 1 Teacher Training program, but emphasizes Gentle Yoga modifications to the Level 1 poses. The training is offered in an accessible space, at a slower pace, and with many other features that help to make it user-friendly for people with physical challenges. The course also offers scholarships as well as opportunities to partner with national organizations serving people with physical disabilities to further increase the accessibility of the program. It all sounds quite simple in theory, yet this program may be the only one of its kind in existence!
The 2007-2008 pilot program graduated eight students (seven with full teaching certification honors). Several of the graduates are currently offering a weekly class to the community (no cost, but donations accepted). They share most of the responsibilities for the class and rotate the duty of instructing on a weekly basis so each of them gets a chance to teach. ATT has helped develop this community for the recent graduates and with new students enrolling this fall (session will run October 14, 2008 – May 22, 2009 at Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, California), the current community of graduates may serve as mentors or assist the program in other ways.
The goals and objectives of the ATT incorporate the idea that anyone, regardless of physical ability, has the opportunity to complete a professional-level yoga teacher training program. Beyond the training, the program also seeks to empower people with physical challenges by giving them a deep understanding of the yoga teachings and training them to better utilize yoga in their personal healing. Patrice agrees that even beyond the accessibility of the program, ATT connected with her on many levels. When she enrolled, Patrice thought the program was just about yoga poses and philosophy, but it has taught her many valuable tools for life as well. While at the start she performed poses on a regular basis, now she maintains a daily practice that addresses not only her physical needs but mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, too. Patrice reports that her daily yoga practice has helped her in innumerable ways and now she is able to teach people with physical limitations, much like herself. Her desire is to empower them with the “tools” of yoga that she was fortunate to find and demonstrate that yoga can be adapted to a wide variety of challenges and abilities.
For more information, contact:
San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute
770 Dolores Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 821-1117 x 375