Reflections | Brian Hagar-McKee on Yoga Teacher Training
Name: Brian Hagar-McKee
Occupation: Elementary Music Teacher
Lauren: Did you decide to teach yoga following graduation and if so, were you planning to when you first enrolled?
Brian: No, teaching wasn’t my primary goal, although I haven’t ruled it out. Recently a couple of co-workers asked if I would be willing to provide a class or two after school. I’m thinking about it! If I do seriously pursue teaching, it will be in retirement (at the end of next school year). Most likely I’ll take another YTT before moving forward as an instructor, for my own confidence.
What made you want to take a yoga teacher training? Has it changed your practice?
What I wanted was a deeper understanding of how the poses are meant to move and benefit the body. I’ve always been fascinated by anatomy and physiology. Knowing the instructors and their passions for (among other things) alignment and function were inspirational. I was hungry for more.
Since YTT I’m more receptive to modifications, more likely to use props, more likely to listen to my body than push myself into a pose simply because it was cued, more willing to back off from sensations that are too intense, better able to interpret what my body is telling me. I think I settle more quickly into breath work and stillness than I used to.
Has anything you learned in YTT translated to other parts of your life?
It informs the vocabulary I use when working with children. I view, train and correct their posture from a yoga perspective. Healthy singing is a direct consequence of proper alignment: lengthened spine, neutral shoulder placement, a well-balanced stand or sit that can be maintained without effort. I talk to students about their core, how they can modify a seat on the floor if they’re rounding too much. We focus on breath control both as an expressive tool and a means to bring down their level of excitement before starting a new activity, at the end of a class. In my school they have had some exposure to basic asanas in PE class, so they enjoy recognizing poses that appear in a movement lesson.
Yoga is part of the warm-up/cool-down I do at the gym. What I learned about sequencing allows me to create flows specific to the work I’m going to do with weights and target stretches after. It has also shifted how I understand movement with weight; it was surprising how many exercises are more efficient with a stronger plank, external rotation of the shoulders or isometric activation of the abductors. My barbell back squat is a little deeper and more upright than it used to be.
Has the meaning/significance of yoga changed for you since training ended?
I was never a big meditator. Now I sometimes do meditate-ish things, like a 5-minute breathing break when I need to focus. Since YTT, yoga happens at every rest stop on long drives. Car doors and hoods make excellent props! In ugly weather I’ll be in an indoor corner doing some kind of modified warrior or tree. Yoga continues to be how I manage chronic vertigo and balance issues. When my practice is consistent the symptoms are mild enough to be unnoticeable.
What hasn’t changed for me is what hooked me in the first place: the community at this studio and the space to simply be for an hour and breathe.