DU students achieve personal growth during rigorous yoga teacher training

DU students practice the Vinyasa style of yoga in Child's pose.

DU students practice the Vinyasa style of yoga in Child’s pose.

As the practice of yoga becomes increasingly popular among students on the DU campus, several students are taking their passion for yoga to the next level and becoming certified instructors through a demanding training process. From Bikram, a hot yoga intended to flush out toxins from the body, to Vinyasa, a style focused upon synchronizing movement and breath, these students are proficient in the various types of yoga practiced today.

Steph Winsor, a junior at DU currently in the middle of her teacher training, believes that yoga is about much more than physical exercise.

“Yoga is a way of life. It’s a spiritual practice,” Winsor said. “I can feel it in my body and my mind when I miss a class.”

Certification requirements

Winsor, a busy student double majoring in public policy and biology, is four weeks away from completing her teacher training for Vinyasa yoga, through the Yoga Alliance program. To achieve certification, Winsor must complete 200 hours of training, which includes listening to lectures, team teaching and observing other teachers.

Like Winsor, Katie Elles a senior at DU, who completed her training in 2011, was required to do much more than simply attend yoga classes. Her training involved writing essays, reading novels and attending an anatomy lab to become certified in Bikram yoga.

“I basically lived and breathed yoga,” Elles said, of her time during training.

Elles originally began practicing Bikram 10 years ago to help with her Kyphoscoliosis, an abnormal curving in the spine. She decided to become an instructor because she loves to read about meditation, yoga philosophy and wanted to teach others about body awareness and acceptance.

Upon completing her certification, she went directly into an extensions program, in order to teach at CorePower Studios. This required attending more lectures, observing more classes, and participating in an internship, during which she taught 30 classes for free.

Benefits of the training program

As Elles looks back on her teacher training, she can easily identify what she gained from the certification process.

“I feel stronger as a female, and am a better public speaker,” Elles said. “I have a way better understanding of the physical practice of yoga and I am able to communicate that with people in a variety of ways.”

She also believes that the teacher training taught her to become more mindful, and to focus more upon the present.

Winsor is also gaining more than she expected from the intense training. Winsor’s yoga friends and teachers constantly push her out of her comfort zone, and encourage her growth.

“My intent upon taking the training was to deepen my own personal practice,” she said. “I wanted to gain confidence and knowledge to practice at home.”

Winsor’s decision to undergo the rigorous training of becoming a yoga instructor was not based upon wanting to teach. Nearing the end of her training, however, she has gained a newfound desire to not only instruct, but also to help introduce others into the practice of yoga.

Winsor teaching a free yoga class outside of the Delta Gamma sorority house.

Winsor teaching a free yoga class outside of the Delta Gamma sorority house.

“I think even when I started teacher training, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach,” Winsor said. “So, I think it is something that has evolved out of taking the training for personal reasons.”

Earlier this month, she began offering weekly yoga classes for free at her sorority house, Delta Gamma. Anyone, not just members of the sorority, are welcome to attend.

Alise Bailey, a sophomore at DU, who has practiced yoga for more than four years, recently attended one of Winsor’s Vinyasa flow classes.

“It was really fun,” Bailey said. “I love smaller classes where you can kind’ve play around with it.”

Bailey felt that Winsor provided useful advice, and was comfortable demonstrating her knowledge.

“Steph was really helpful at performing hands-on adjustments for certain inversions, like headstands,” she said.

Looking towards the future

Not all people who become certified to teach yoga actually intend to teach as a career. However, many yogis, or yoga practitioners, realize that the training process is personally enriching and spiritually beneficial.

Beginning to think about her life after graduation, Winsor hopes to possibly teach yoga in Denver, study abroad and work in a resort, or apprentice under a master teacher. Nevertheless, she’s confident that yoga will serve as a springboard for the next step in her life.

As for Elles, she currently teaches two classes permanently, and substitutes once or twice a week. Although she plans to pursue a career in public health policy and management, Elles believes that she will never stop teaching.

“Yoga will always be a part of my life,” Elles said.



One Response to DU students achieve personal growth during rigorous yoga teacher training

  • Lauren Poore
    Lauren Poore says:

    I like the angle you took on this story. Instead of just plainly saying how rigorous the training program is for yoga, you got more insight into the girls who did the training. I also liked how you focused on how the instructors-in-training view their practice as much more than just a job but a “spiritual” process and how it enriched their lives. Good job!

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