Teaching Flexibility of Body and Mind

Kate Healy Dykes outside Martin Yoga studio, downtown Martin, Tennessee.

   -Kate Dugger-

Many yoga teachers can fold themselves over, tie themselves in knots, and balance in positions that would likely cause most people to tumble over in a tangle of arms and legs. But flexibility is not created equal among yoga teachers, and mental flexibility is another matter entirely. As with teachers of anything, some teachers only know one way to teach. Others use many different ways to explain or demonstrate their lessons. Mentally flexible teachers are what Kate Healy Dykes of Martin Yoga LLC hopes to train through her yoga teacher training program.

Upon relocating from the northeast to Martin, Tennessee, in 2013, Dykes found a virtual “yoga desert.” She chose to trek down to the land of Dixie with her young son to get a fresh start after many personal struggles. Also, she said she wanted her son to grow up in a place where he would learn to say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir.”

Girls Yoga Club practicing Partner Yoga.

A longtime practitioner of yoga, Dykes has been teaching since 1985. Before coming to Tennessee, she owned and operated two studios in Pennsylvania. She has been training and certifying yoga instructors for 15 years. She is an E-RYT 500 (experienced registered yoga instructor 500+ hours), registered with the National Yoga Alliance since 2001. Also a licensed massage therapist, she holds over 5,000 hours of combined massage therapy and medically oriented yoga training.

Kate Healy Dykes with student in Supported Headstand via the yoga Ropes.

When Dykes first opened the doors of Martin Yoga in October of 2015, she was already teaching quality, health-oriented, therapeutic yoga in our area. She was mobile, taking her classes to many locations seven days a week. But it was time for a permanent home so that she could start teaching yoga instructors through her rigorous training program.

She was not about to sit back and let her student teachers get by with the bare minimum. The national minimum standard for yoga instructors through the Yoga Alliance is 200 hours, of which only 95 hours must be in the presence of the lead trainer. Martin Yoga’s program requires teachers to complete 230 hours or more, and 220 of them are under the direct supervision of Dykes herself. Sixty of those hours are spent in the classroom co-teaching. “I do not know how to train a yoga teacher unless I am right there with them as they are struggling to help real-time, stiff, ‘un-bendy’ bodies get into a forward bend in a meaningful and healing manner.” The teacher training program at Martin Yoga became part of the Yoga Alliance National Registry in March of 2016, and is the only Nationally Accredited Program in an hour’s radius.

A Google search revealed many yoga instructor classes that required only attendance at a two day workshop, an email address, and a valid credit card number. These workshops all require trips to places like Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. This arrangement would work well for students looking for quick certification. Reading over the requirements, I think I could pass these programs, even though I wake up most days feeling like the Tin Man without his oil can and knowing only a modicum about anatomy and physiology.

Dykes thinks it is vital that Martin Yoga’s instructors be well informed about the human body and have hands-on experience. Many of the students these teachers will be instructing have back pain, knee trouble, high blood pressure, and any number of other maladies. They turn to yoga for relief and therapy. In the wrong hands, these troubles could be compounded by an instructor who is not properly prepared or capable of modifying yoga instruction to suit individual needs. “Over half of our students are referrals from area doctors: general practitioners, orthopedists, and pediatricians (for ADD/ADHD and more).”

“If a yoga teacher does not know how to demonstrate compassion and clarity, or know how to offer a yoga posture in a vein (through modifications) that can make it accessible to the stiffest or most uncoordinated person in the room, then I have not done my job in training them.” The program takes 18 months to two years to complete. Student teachers must complete a practical exam and a written exam to successfully complete the program. These are not required by many other schools. The first graduate of Martin Yoga’s training program was Morgan Insco, who graduated June 30, 2016, and is now a teacher at Martin Yoga. She began practicing yoga with Dykes in 2014. Two other students are on track to graduate in November 2016 and four more in June 2017.

 “It is my experience, over many decades, that one cannot properly train more than six to ten yoga teachers at one time. There is no way one can give the one-on-one time, attention, and instruction to a class of 30-50 trainees.” Martin Yoga’s teacher training program has been capped at eight students to ensure maximum one-on-one time.

Martin Yoga students and student-teachers after a workshop on Creating Your Own Home Yoga Practice.

“When I began teaching here, the opportunity to leave an imprint for quality yoga instruction was not lost on me. I sorely wanted to make an imprint on the region for good with quality teachers.”

For more information on either Teacher Training or Yoga Classes visit www.martinyoga.wordpress.com or (731) 699-0509