“Dreams that come to fruition take passion, dedication, and good old fashioned hard work.” -- Laura McKinzie
Even though 2016 is coming to an end, SWIHA’s next Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program is just beginning! At Spirit of Yoga (SOY), we are about to welcome a brand new class of students who will embark on a transformational and heart-centered journey to self-discovery, through the study of yoga philosophy, movement through the asanas (yoga poses), and the quest for peace in stillness through mastering the science of breath.
SOY is the educational facility of SWIHA -- Southwest Institute of Healing Arts -- where our mission is to teach our students the importance of an authentic expression of yoga which honors a diversity of practices and belief systems, while being a unifying tool for creating wellness, mind-body balance, and spiritual connection. SOY – Spirit of Yoga -- was voted to be among the Top Ten Yoga Studios in the Valley in 2016. We consider that quite an honor realizing there are well over a hundred yoga studios throughout the Valley of the Sun.
UNITY YOGA has no 'one guru' – rather encourages you to find own individual expression of yoga and the teacher within you!
Behind all great educational programs are exceptional leaders, and our yoga program is no different. Meet Laura McKinzie, Director of the Yoga Teacher Training Program at SWIHA. She is a skillful veteran in the practice and teachings of yoga, in which she still thanks to her husband, of twenty-four years, for giving her an initial $20 yoga gift certificate on Mother’s Day, twenty years ago. Little did she know that this was just the beginning of a lifelong practice and commitment to yoga. Laura reflects, “Yoga was food for my soul.”
Having practiced off and on for years, one day in 2003 Laura received a mailer from a local yoga studio in Phoenix, advertising a 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. The physical and spiritual nourishment she got from yoga became the driving force for her becoming a fully committed yoga teacher. Laura enrolled in the advertised program, spent a year in training, and has never looked back.
In 2011, Laura heard about Spirit of Yoga through a friend who was teaching in one of our programs. The yoga studio, which housed the SWIHA yoga program, had just moved into the new space on Southern Avenue in Tempe. She was impressed with the depth of the curriculum and the new “living-yoga” sanctuary. Shortly thereafter, Laura was invited to teach her first 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. She has now been teaching in the YTT program for almost five years and has been Program Director for half of those years.
As the Director, Laura has fully embraced the principles of UNITY YOGA, which is umbrella name for the Yoga Teacher Training programs offered by SWIHA. This is the way she explains UNITY YOGA to prospective students: “When you choose to do your yoga training at SWIHA, you can expect a very well-rounded education. UNITY YOGA is about honoring the deep traditions of yoga while still understanding that it is an individual practice and is shared as uniquely as the individuals teaching. There is no one guru – rather we seek to honor and unite many teachings and traditions. Students are encouraged to find their own individual expression of yoga.”
At SWIHA we offer day and evening classes, most of which are held at SOY. Some of the morning classes are called the “Fast Track” program, which involves completing the first 200 hours of your Yoga Teacher Training by attending classes four mornings are week for about four months. It’s intensive! It’s an amazing way to immerse one’s self into a new lifestyle and a new potential career. While not everyone takes Yoga Teacher Training to be a teacher, the program is specially designed to prepare you to teach others yoga if that is what you are truly called to do. Some students take the YTT for self-discovery, to improve their confidence and self-esteem, or to deepen their relationship with the Divine.
It should be noted that the “Fast Track” schedule is not for everyone. Twice a year SWIHA offers a two-morning a week 200-hour YTT program and four times a year the 200-hour level YTT program is offered in a two-night a week format. Laura cannot possibility teach all the offerings – She is joined by other highly qualified and passionate yoga teachers. Please ask an Admissions Advisor for details on future start dates, and which teachers will be teaching.
In UNITY YOGA you learn breathing techniques, anatomy, alignment, safety, and the correct ways to lead people in and out of the yoga poses. Our program is designed to graduate exceptional yoga teachers by adding layer upon layer of knowledge, in areas such as pose-sequencing, yogic philosophy, and the appropriate verbiage to lead a class. Laura is especially skilled at pacing and checking in with her students on a daily basis. When asked what students could expect from her as their teacher, she said this: “From me as a yoga teacher, a student can expect unconditional love. You do not have to be any different than you are. Yoga (and me) meets you exactly where you are.”
One of Laura greatest messages is, “Say YES to yourself and to all you have to offer this world. Whether you take the program with the intention to teach or simply personal development, you will connect to something so much bigger. You will connect to your truth, which is peace and joy.”
Laura loves a good quote, and here are two of her favorites:
- When you judge yourself you break your own heart. -- Swami Kripalvanandji (Bapuji)
- Yoga does not just change the way we see things -- It transforms the person who sees. -- BKS Iyengar
There is a reason why we all seek out the experience of yoga, and yet, all the reasons have different details. We are all looking for something. Yoga unifies the reasons we search.
Teaching yoga is very different from taking yoga; teaching yoga gives you the opportunity to share your search and the answers you have found, as well as acknowledge that you are still searching. It’s the search and the sharing, that unifies and gratifies.
UNITY YOGA is a very special approach to teaching, and many of us can say, “I can always tell who graduated from SWIHA – They fully acknowledge the mind-body-Spirit connection!”
I can personally attest that the programs offered at SWIHA are designed to give you the tools to go out in the world in a loving and profitable way.
In interviewing Laura, she shared the following:
RR: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Laura: The most challenging part is saying goodbye to get group of YTT student – actually saying goodbye to each person. I come to love each one deeply.
RR: And the most rewarding?
Laura: The most rewarding part of what I do is when a student finds their voice - - the voice that they shut down because of life’s circumstances. Once they realize and rediscover they have something profound to share – it’s beautiful and powerful!
RR: What is one valuable awarenesses you have learned from your students?
Laura: What I have learned is that every student has a story. We create an environment for them to honor their story, while at the same time, recognize it’s not the totality of them. Once we as humans can realize our story is our strength, we move past the past!