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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Yoga Teacher Training: Discover Your Best Nature

Apr 25, 2015 10:52PM ● By Ginny East Shaddock

The leisure of summer often brings the opportunity for new experiences and broadening horizons. Travel widens a person’s perspective and gives clarity to the world. However, while taking a trip to someplace exotic like the Caribbean is fun, no destination can make as big an impact as traveling within to explore your own heart and mind. 

Yoga teacher’s training not only provides yoga enthusiasts with the skills and confidence to teach yoga as an alternate career or side job, but the course also delves deep into the core philosophy and theory that makes the practice of yoga a deeply poignant, life-altering experience. 

When that course is taken at a vibrant Yoga Retreat Center, such as Heartwood, students enjoy convening with nature, and reconnecting to the earth becomes an empowering part of their journey. Heartwood is a yoga student’s dream, with a fourth-acre Chakra meditation garden always blooming with flowers, and a koi pond and waterfall serenading a quiet meditation. The Zen fire pit invites deep discussion, a sea of ferns makes the air feel fresher, and tall, stately oaks offering shade over quiet seating areas remind us that the natural world is a work of art to be enjoyed and appreciated.

Heartwood’s state-of-the-art, organic studio features soaring windows and warm wood framework to inspire practice. Learning proper technique, anatomy, history and hands-on corrections is only one part of yoga training done here. Beyond this, students study the yoga sutras, Chakra theory and intention setting, while engage in vibrant group discussions to explore yoga beyond the mat. 

At Heartwood, students in the RYT-200 training work with experienced ERYT-500 teachers. The program begins with demystifying yoga, as the course openly evaluates the pros and cons of commercialized yoga in America. Only after yoga is deconstructed then put back together as the vibrant, beautiful practice it can and should be, will “big yoga” (the name that director, Ginny East Shaddock, uses to describe authentic yoga as a tool for self-discovery and therapy) find perspective. 

Many programs teach a single method of yoga such as Bikram, Ashtanga or Anusara, and students, who’ve already have broad exposure to the vast array of yoga styles available and have found the one style that speaks to them, may be well served to train only in the method of their choice. However, many people find themselves teaching classes in places with a diverse population such as an office building, gym, recreational center or vacation resort. 

In these circumstances, students will arrive with varied experience and expectations. If a teacher recognizes and understands both the differences and similarities among various yoga methods, they’ll have a broad base to draw from. This prepares the instructor to teach a variety of levels and types of classes to support varied yoga paths. Most importantly, people come to teacher’s training with certain assumptions, but as their awareness and skill set grows, they discover yoga might take them directions they never expected. The broad-based program leaves them open to new possibilities.

“They say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. And, while many people are becoming yoga certified, not all of them are finding jobs because they lack a unique and strong voice that others can relate to or want to follow. I believe each one of us has something special to offer the world, and there is no one-size-fits-all preordained series of poses or words to define yoga. 

“Therefore, I’m careful not to create teachers who are carbon copies of me, going through the motions of my classes as if that is the one true way of teaching yoga. I present a wealth of information and differing opinions, and I encourage everyone to embrace only what rings absolutely true to them personally. Each aspiring teacher is encouraged to develop his or her instincts, then consider their life experience and special gifts while developing a class. Only if you have conviction and trust in your knowledge and skill, will you be a truly dynamic teacher,” explains East Shaddock.

Many graduates of the Heartwood Yoga RYT-200 program have gone on to teach traditional Hatha yoga classes, both privately and in local studios, but just as many have chosen to tap into their personal skills and experience to create unique classes that define their niche in the business. Graduates include teachers now offering classes in circus and aerial yoga, Christian yoga, yoga for addiction recovery, yoga for weight loss and hybrid classes, such as yoga/pilates or yoga/dance.  

This attitude that the wider the umbrella of knowledge, the stronger a graduate will be has inspired the program directors at Heartwood to include a great deal of additional trainings to their program. The entire course covers all the required basic training defined by Yoga Alliance, but also includes Reiki Level 1 certification, aerial yoga certification, and Ayurveda basics in order to make the program as inspirational and fun as it is educational.

“We believe this course is so life-altering that everyone should go through it, whether they have aspirations to become yoga teachers or not. The journey changes people from the inside out,” notes David Shaddock, RYT-500 teacher.

Making yoga accessible to all is an important part of Heartwood’s mission statement, so the school offers RYT training for far less than the cost of other similar programs in the area. Plus, tuition includes the extra certifications, 20 complimentary classes and several additional perks. The summer immersion course features the shortest time frame for certification to accommodate those who want an intense experience, but the school also offers a seven-weekend summer course, and a once-a-week daytime course will be offered this fall for people who can’t make weekends or evenings.

If students do not feel ready to teach at the session’s end, they are welcome to continue in future sessions, free-of-charge. Some graduates return to reinforce their understanding of one facet of the training such as anatomy or yin yoga, while others have chosen to take the entire course a second time to gain a stronger information base before they begin teaching on their own.

“If you trust us to help you become a yoga teacher, we’ll do whatever it takes to get you there,” assures East Shaddock. “No one should invest money and time into yoga training, then walk out the door ill-prepared or lacking confidence. We work with our students until they’re truly ready to share their yoga with others. Yoga training connects the people involved on deep levels, so our students are also our friends. We will always support our friends and help them walk confidently in the direction of their dreams.”


The summer Immersion RYT-200 at Heartwood Retreat Center begins June 22.  For more information, call 941-359-9642 or 941-745-5719. Visit to read about the program and watch a slideshow, featuring highlights from former sessions. Heartwood is a Yoga Alliance certified school in RYT-200, RYT-300 and Children’s Yoga Certifications.



Natural Awakenings of Sarasota April 2020 Digital Edition