The student becomes the (yoga) teacher

Course enables students to earn 200-hour teacher training certification

Every year, a cohort of Aspen High School students arrive on campus ready to learn the three “Rs”: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic. Well, make that four Rs: relaxation also goes on the list for students enrolled in one of Shannon Worth’s yoga courses in the physical education department.

It’s part of what Worth considers a “magic formula” for a yoga curriculum that includes “breathing, poses and relaxation for self-care,” she said.

“We’re really trying to teach them self awareness and yoga skills that go into the rest of their life … for better relationships, communication, decision-making by being more in tune and present,” Worth added.

Just because it’s relaxing doesn’t mean it isn’t rigorous — quite the opposite, rather, especially for students enrolled in the 200-hour yoga teacher certification course that qualifies them to guide others through the practice in an official studio setting. (Students must first take an introductory course on yoga and mindful living as a prerequisite.)

Four students completed the first iteration of the course last year, two of whom are now teaching assistants for some of the classes; six are enrolled this year, according to Worth. It’s a significant commitment of time and interest — 200 hours over the course of a year is no small potatoes — that Worth compares to the Aspen Mountain Guide School, another program at the high school in which students earn certifications in outdoor recreation fields. (Worth, for her part, has earned a 500-hour teacher training certification through her commitment to the practice.)

The certification is endorsed by Yoga Alliance, a trade and professional organization for the practice that Worth said carries a lot of weight for students who hope to take their certification into the real world.

And some participants from previous years of the program have already put their learnings into practice by leading the “Root Down to Rise Up” series focused on young adult mental health at King Yoga in Base Village.

Worth said she’s “very proud” of her students for taking those next steps, especially while also managing a full course load, athletics and other extracurriculars.

“It’s very vulnerable, and it’s challenging,” Worth said. Still, students have embraced that challenge.

The certification program also involves outside homework and involvement: designing sequences, attending workshops, teaching practice outside of class, reading and writing about yoga. Other coursework helps students develop a “rich understanding” of the practice, Worth said; local yoga instructors Alexa Kubica and Michelle Bersani have helped support the program and science teacher Brent Maiolo teaches anatomy.

“It is rigorous, and, of course, that requires commitment to know that you’re going to read, you’re going to write, you’re going to have homework — it’s not the same as Yoga 1 where it’s really just about their self care,” Worth said.

That’s not to say that self-care falls to the wayside. It’s a throughline in all of the courses and in the practice of yoga at large, and it goes well beyond a bit more flexibility on the mat.

“I get a lot of feedback, like, ‘I love this class so much, because it’s a break in my day, and it helps me de-stress,’ and, you know, they see the benefits,” Worth said.

“OK, now you see them, you have a responsibility to make your own self care plan,” she added. “And everybody’s going to have a different (plan). … Yoga poses might not be the thing for everybody, but if they learned that journaling helps them, if they learned a specific breath work helps them and they put it into their life, then I’ve done my job.”