From practitioner to teacher: Local yoga instructors talk about getting trained

  • Kristina Mose-Libon instructs a morning yoga class at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristina Mose-Libon instructs at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristina Mose-Libon instructs at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Yoga instructor Kristina Mose-Libon warms up before a class at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Yoga instructor Kristina Mose-Libon warms up before a class at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristina Mose-Libon instructs a morning yoga class at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristina Mose-Libon instructs a morning yoga class at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristina Mose-Libon instructs a morning yoga class at Burning Heart Yoga in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/6/2020 8:36:47 AM
Modified: 1/6/2020 8:36:17 AM

For Kristina Mose-Libon, becoming a yoga instructor gave her an opportunity to share something that has brought her serenity and self-discovery.

“I think a lot of us teachers do it because it’s meant so much to us,” said Mose-Libon, who became a yoga instructor two years ago. “It’s helped us so much and to be able to offer a space for people to discover themselves and grow … It’s like an hour of just being present.”

Like a vast majority of yoga instructors, Mose-Libon went through a 200-hour certification program that included lessons on human anatomy and physiology, pose sequencing, practicing and teaching, and lessons in philosophies and meditation. She has a mentorship with the Burning Heart Studio, which has studios in Greenfield and Hadley, and is a certified teacher with the Yoga Alliance, an international nonprofit association, and has several other certifications from programs with Baptiste Power Yoga.

Yoga instructors do not register with the state or any other government agency, and licensing through Yoga Alliance is essentially the gold standard in the yoga world.

Yoga is a billion-dollar industry, and as its popularity continues to grow, so has the number of people transitioning from practitioners to instructors. From 2012 to 2016, the number of practitioners in the country has increased from 20.4 million to 36 million, according to a study by the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance. In that same period, spending — on clothes, equipment, classes — has increased from $10 billion to $16 billion.

In the Pioneer Valley, there are numerous studios offering teacher training courses that average approximately $3,000 for 200-hour certification programs. To put that into context, an in-state student at Holyoke Community College pays $3,160 for a semester of classes, or 15 credits, which would include 240 hours of classroom time.

Mose-Libon has practiced yoga since the 1970s but says she became more serious in the past 15 years when she discovered Baptiste Power Yoga, a form of hot yoga which Burning Heart has embraced. She regularly teaches four to five classes a week between Burning Heart’s Hadley and Greenfield locations.

Through the teacher training, Mose-Libon said she learned how to more effectively use her voice to tell people how to move their bodies, also known as giving cues. Through teaching, she said she can share with people the feeling she gets from yoga, sometimes called the “it” factor in yoga.

Describing the Baptiste methodology, Mose-Libon said, “It gives you a strong inquiry into who you are and what you want in life. And how to do self-care with breathing exercises and meditation. It’s a combination of physical, self-inquiry, and meditation that is really unique.”

As an instructor, Mose-Libon said she is able to “translate that feeling that I have when I experience poses and breath and meditation.” And, she said, “by watching people and really listening to where they are at, I can help them from wherever they are at and that’s where we start.”

Burning Heart owner Ellen Abraham offers a teacher certification program and her classes typically have six students. About 15 people have become certified through her teacher training course. Even after a yogi becomes certified, however, their training is not over.

“As an owner, I am expecting my teachers to be in yearly ongoing training,” Abraham said. “One of the biggest disconnects with teachers is when they come in, they teach their class and they are not embodying the work of yoga. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about an ongoing inquiry.”

Mose-Libon is taking virtual yoga classes through the Baptiste Foundation to attain a tier 2 Baptiste leader certification that requires 500 hours of training, which she expects to complete by the end of next year.

Abraham said that the 200-hour teacher certification is considered the minimum requirement to teach in yoga studios across the industry and Mose-Libon agreed, saying that she was “so green” when beginning her mentorship at Burning Heart.

Not all who go through the teacher training course end up becoming instructors themselves, according to Abraham.

Avalon Simmons completed Abraham’s teacher training course not to become an instructor herself, but to further that inquiry into yoga.

“I had no intention of teaching, I just wanted to know what was going on,” Simmons said. She would have questions during classes about proper techniques for poses and wanted to learn more about improving her own practice.

It can be common for people to go through the course simply for their own benefit, Abraham said.

“I’ve had people who have gone through the training and they are not teachers and I think that is absolutely normal,” Abraham said. “You are in a life journey and looking through the lens of [yoga] philosophy.”

When Mose-Libon began a mentorship and instructing classes with Burning Heart in April 2016, she began transitioning to freelancing as a graphic designer. After working full-time for 35 years in the corporate world, she decided to spend more time practicing and teaching yoga.

For most yogis, unless they own a studio, teaching yoga is a side job. Generally, instructors have full-time jobs and supplement with teaching a class once or twice a week, Mose-Libon said.

Looking towards the future, Mose-Libon said she would like to bring Baptiste-style yoga to new audiences and described it as an outreach effort for that particular methodology. Among her many certifications, Mose-Libon said her social impact leader certification will help her bring yoga to the world in a community service format.

“My direction is to be a full-time yoga teacher, and I hope to have several situations where I am teaching with a community that normally does not have access to yoga,” Mose-Libon said.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com


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