Sunday School Yoga is a teachers community that aims to help support, guide and mentor new and developing yogi’s as they find their hands, feet and voice as teachers.
SSY isn’t about ‘right’ and ‘wrongs’, rather it’s about sharing experience, opinions and different perspectives from senior teachers and mentors while providing a space for continued learning and community as they build their confidence as new teachers.
If you’re intrigued about what a Sunday School meet-up is like, here’s my run-down of our September meet up, at the awesome Move Your Frame, Victoria.
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I’m still a newbie to the yoga teaching world, but as this was my sixth time at a Sunday School Yoga monthly gathering I was told on arrival that I had triumphantly achieved the status of ‘old-schooler’.
September’s SSY was held at Move Your Frame in Victoria, hands down one of my favourite group of studios in London and somewhere where I’m now lucky enough to teach. There were so many lovely smiley new faces this month – all who reminded me of when I tip-toed into my first Sunday School gathering at the very beginning of my teaching journey here in London. I’d just returned from my 200hr training and subsequent nomadic travels – I didn’t know any other yoga teachers in London at the time and the idea of even just practicing in a room full of teachers, let alone teaching other teachers, made me break out in a cold sweat.
I remember feeling terrified of going anywhere near Michael or Emily-Clare (I think I was worried they would quiz me on my sanskrit or notice that my yoga leggings were from Primark revealing that the closest thing I owned to Lululemon was a mouldy piece of fruit in my fridge) but of course I quickly realised I had nothing to be afraid of. From first meeting the whole SSY crew I immediately felt welcome and accepted into the family. Returning now months later as an ‘old-schooler’, with a few teaching posts under my belt, a load of yogi friends to call on and bags of extra skills from recently completing the 50hr SSY CPD course, the fear was replaced with epic levels of gratitude and love for the support and help of this community.
And on the subject of fear, this month’s theme seemed to rumble up this emotion pretty heavily, as the workshop was themed on teaching methods for… duh duh duhhhhh…. inversions! Turns out getting upside down isn’t just something which makes our yoga students want to hide in child’s pose, we teachers actually find them pretty daunting too. After a short, grounding meditation led my Emily-Clare, one by one, we each opened up to the circle of 30 teachers about our love, worries, passions and uncertainties about both getting ourselves and our students upside down. Everything came up, from fear that we haven’t yet mastered the most instagrammable handstand, to worries that our cues will go all topsy turvy, to safety concerns and of course there were plenty of face plant stories to swap too.
So with all our worries well aired, we got stuck in with a fun and energetic icebreaker (SSY mentors know you can’t keep yogis sat still for more than 10 minutes…!) to help everyone get over that awkward ‘hello’ moment and, most importantly of all, to hug it out. You’ll have to come to the next gathering to get the full experience, but it was basically the most epic tournament of rock, paper, scissors imaginable.
After we’d all hugged and high-5’d and managed to sit back down again, we got to the serious business of standing on our hands. Emily-Clare and Michael led the way with their many insights and tips on how to help people gather the strength and confidence to to fly. Having been to their handstand workshops before, I knew there were going to be some seriously precious pearls of wisdom about to be shared, so I cracked open my notebook and got ready to learn. We talked assisting dos and don’ts, discussed questions, brainstormed challenges and then soon enough we got back to playtime again, this time, upside down style!
This was not an inversions workshop however, we weren’t there to learn how to crack out the most perfect pike, we were there to help each other brush up on how to teach inversions.
So as a tonne of knowledge was laid out in a digestible, concise way – going level-by-level, from middle of the room to the wall, both with and without hands on assistance – we tried out the methods in pairs, continually changing partners to make sure everyone got a chance to chat.
This is one of the most golden parts of Sunday School – being in a safe space to ask someone you’ve only just met if you can try lifting them up from behind the thighs with their head between your legs. Trying assists on your other half at home on a Monday night when they’re trying to catch up with The Bake Off is never quite as effective has having a fellow teacher there as your guinea pig. A guinea pig who replies with really useful feedback so that you get to really understand how effective your cues and assists are. This is the space for all those questions you can never usually ask, all those assists you never get to try and all the whys and hows you wish you could ask during workshops and classes.
After countless bunny hops, presses, kick ups, squeals, laughs, wobbles and a few moments of flight, the workshop part of the evening began to wind down. We all shared notes, asked our final questions, took photos of our favourite assists and began to set up for the final practice to close the evening.
The final practice of every Sunday School is always taught by 5 schoolers, relay style. It’s not mandatory to teach and you only get chosen if you volunteer your name forward, but as an ‘older-schooler’ I had been a little too jammy thus far by managing to avoid teaching. This was no accident. I am completely open to admit that teaching other teachers (especially in front of senior mentors whose classes I love and regularly attend) scares the bejesus out of me. So, in keeping with the theme of fear, I figured it was time to grab mine by the balls. I put my name forward and yet still almost swallowed my tongue when I was called up to teach first.
However having got to know so many of the lovely yogis in the room by this point, stepping up to teach I knew that I was in the safest and most supportive place possible. The words flowed, I remembered how to cue postures and before I knew it I was back on my mat being taught by the next brilliant teacher in our little SSY relay. And surprise surprise, I loved every second of it, both teaching and practicing.
After practice any remaining fears were dissolved by encouraging, constructive feedback and even more hugs, followed by SNACK TIME (everyones favourite part of any day) which this month was provided by the awesome people at MornFlake who had sent us over enough granola to feed an army of yogis! Clearly one thing that yoga teachers love more than geeking out about yoga on a Sunday night is pigging out on breakfast for dinner! After lots of chats, promises to catch each others classes and EVEN MORE hugs, it was time to leave Frame in peace for the night.
I left, as always, beaming ear to ear full of love for this amazing community and already mentally planning in some epic inversions playtime for my unsuspecting Monday morning yogis as I carried on filling my face with granola on the uber ride home.