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The Mentor Sessions

Author: Francesca Cervero

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With amazing guests or solo, I explore the craft of teaching yoga, as its own practice. I’m seeking answers to the questions about why we teach something the way we do, how we could be more expansive and inclusive in our teaching, and how we can continue to grow and evolve in our teaching practice.

I’m so glad you are here because I believe the depth that arises in teaching comes from inquiry and relationship. Join me as I offer nourishing support to help you feel more confident in your teaching and realistic strategy to help you find more clarity on your career path.

Francesca Cervero (she/her) has been a full-time yoga teacher since 2005. Her teaching is inspired by her foundational training with Cyndi Lee at OM Yoga Center, the years she spent as a dancer and the subsequent years she spent in physical therapy. Her teaching is also influenced by her love of Buddhist teachings and a constant curiosity about anatomy and biomechanics. She is in private practice teaching a full schedule of 1x1 clients, mentors yoga teachers in The Science of the Private Lesson™, hosts the podcast, The Mentor Sessions: Support & Strategy for Yoga Teachers and is the founder of the adjoining community, The Mentor Sessions Sangha.
133 Episodes
Today on the podcast I am introducing you to someone very special to me: one of my most important teachers, Sara Avant Stover. I started studying with Sara privately in the fall of 2012 and what I learned from her radically altered my life path. I went on several deep, immersive retreats with her, the last one in 2016.  Since the last time we saw each other Sara has suffered several very intense heartbreaks and gone deeper into her practice than ever before. Surviving these challenging times and coming out more whole and happy than ever before has expanded her teaching immensely and I’m so honored to share her deep wisdom with you today.  Sara Avant Stover (she/her) is a Certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) Practitioner and teacher and mentor of women's spirituality, empowerment,  and entrepreneurship. She's also the author of The Way of the Happy Woman , The Book of SHE , and Handbook for the Heartbroken.  In this episode you’ll hear: about the heartbreak journeys that led Sara to write this book the the aspects of Sara’s heartbreak journey that she struggled with the most a deep dive into Internal Family Systems and how it helped both Sara and I heal from trauma what Sara has seen change in the landscape of online yoga and meditation and teacher trainings since she started offering them in the early 2000s advice from Sara about building a career as a yoga teacher right now Learn More From Sara: her Self podcast Handbook for the Heartbroken Sara’s LinkedIn Sara’s Instagram Sara’s YouTube  
I believe the invitation of life is to become ourselves, live fully and freely, and then, if you are a student of yoga, to extend that full, free, safe living out to all beings everywhere. But how often do we get to see someone really do that?   Today I have a treat for you: a person who is doing just that. Becoming. My friend Miles Borrero (he/him) has survived fronting a Latin rock band, riding horses competitively, acting on various stages across the US, and nannying a six-year-old. He has been Catholic, Jewish, and a frequent guest at Krishna’s house, and has lived life as a boy, a girl, a woman, a man, and something in between. Now a senior yoga teacher who leads retreats and trainings all over the world, Miles is passionate about dismantling the systems within ourselves that keep us small. And he has written a beautiful book called Beautiful Monster: A Becoming. The book reads like one long dharma talk, full of creative writing and yogic wisdom. In this episode you’ll hear: how Miles was Rodney Yee’s best student even though they never met why was it yoga teaching that really stuck for Miles, despite having so many jobs and creative endeavors  what it was like for Miles to teach in his native language after learning to teach yoga in English first all about Miles’ teacher Raghunath and what Miles learned from him what changed in Miles’  asana practice after his top surgery and taking testosterone   Learn More From Miles: Website Chant Your Way to Freedom (Course) 100 YTT with Miles Miles Book, “Beautiful Monster:  A Becoming”  
In case you don’t know, Jivana is the founder and director of Accessible Yoga, an organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings and supporting yoga teachers. He’s the author of the books: Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body; Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion; and a new book, The Teacher's Guide to Accessible Yoga: Best Practices for Sharing Yoga with Every Body. His books, classes, and trainings offer support to yoga teachers and yoga therapists in finding ways to bring creativity and collaboration into their teaching while still respecting the ancient yoga tradition. Check out the other two episodes with Jivana: 70: Yoga, Human Rights, and Accessibility with Jivana Heyman 105: Yoga And Social Justice with Jivana Heyman In this episode you’ll hear: how Jivana recommends we balance  tradition and innovation in asana how teachers can innovate in a way that honors the roots of yoga some thoughts on the abuse present in so many lineages and why ethics creates accessibility the specific skills that yoga teachers can learn to make their offerings accessible to everyone the inherent power imbalance between student and teacher how we can use language to make the practice invitational AND clear the kinds of support Jivana recommend yoga teachers find the recurring teaching nightmare that both Jivana and I have!! Learn More From Jivana: Instagram Facebook Accessible Yoga School The Teacher's Guide to Accessible Yoga Book
The brain and the nervous system play a HUGE role in how we integrate sensory information, experience pain and create movement patterns but this topic is not often covered in foundational yoga teacher trainings. That is why I’m so excited to introduce you to Missy Bunch (she/her), a multi-certified movement therapist who has been educating and coaching for over 14 years. As a young professional dancer, she battled many injuries over her career and one day she found someone who studied neurology (the study of the brain and nervous system). After one session with this person, her 4-year knee pain was completely gone. She knew she wanted to teach this approach to the world. The importance of brain function and using the nervous system to rapidly “debug” movement patterns, decrease pain and increase performance, has led her to teach and create lightning-fast improvements with people from all walks of life. Her specialties include injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, joint mobility and decreasing pain, holistically.  In this episode you’ll hear: a deep dive into assessments including how to cue them and what are we looking for when we reassess what it mean to move into a shape “reflexively” how can we work with the brain to decrease pain the role of the nervous system in integrating inputs and creating motor output all about the opposing joint theory and how to use it with 1x1 students an overview of cranial nerves and how and why to stimulate them Resources Mentioned: Missy’s website Missy on Instagram The Science of the Private Lesson The Mentor Sessions Sangha
Today I will answer a bunch of questions that you all have sent in about teaching private lessons! In this episode you’ll hear: suggestions for helping a student establish a neutral pelvis in daily life advice and guidance for hands-on work in private lessons tips for finding private clients outside of the studio tips for when you need to make some money fast support in lightening up a teaching schedule how (and why!) to raise your rates help for a  private student who wants to learn to meditate, but always seems agitated when practicing  Resources Mentioned: 37: Q + A About Private Lessons with Francesca 62: Q + A About Private Lessons with Francesca #2 92: Planning And Progress In Private Lessons (Q+A!) The Mentor Sessions Sangha  
Well, this is an unusual episode!! Since I released a podcast episode last year about my group class planning process I’ve been getting more and more questions about my unique teaching style.  It’s been described as Buddha Dharma Meets Corrective Exercise With A Little Vinyasa In The Middle For Some Fun. It’s a specific style that has been cultivated over almost 20 years of very full time teaching, and I especially love the way it lands online and in an audio format.  So this episode is a short explanation, and then a full length practice! You might find it interesting to listen to even if you can’t or don’t want to do the physical part of the practice. Resources Mentioned: The Mentor Sessions Sangha The Science of The Private Lesson Training 115: The Case For Teaching Leveled Classes 116: Integrating Buddha Dharma and Asana with Meredith Witte – Live Mentoring Session 118: My Group Class Planning Process
I’m sure you’ve noticed that many stock images and illustrations of yoga practitioners show a very narrow representation of bodies and abilities. Harmony Willow Hansen is a freelance illustrator, graphic designer and yoga practitioner who creates beautiful images that represent the true diversity in the student body of yoga practitioners worldwide. She created a beautiful book called You Are Strong And Worthy that showcases these images. Willow also has lots of resources available for yoga teachers and studios who want their images and branding to reflect the beautiful multifariousness of their students. In this episode you’ll hear: what Willow saw in the bodies around her in class that inspired her to start making art what she hopes people take away from seeing the images she created all about the custom art and images she has created for yoga studios and teachers Learn More From Harmony: Website Instagram You Are Strong and Worthy (Book)  
Teaching teachers how to teach yoga is a massive responsibility. (How many times am I going to write the word “teach” in this intro???)  Many people who listen to this podcast either already are, or are hoping to be a teacher of teachers. I get asked all the time for advice on creating and leading a teacher training. I have created a very successful speciality training, The Science of the Private Lesson, and a big part of my business is mentoring yoga teachers. I have supported teachers in writing their own 200 hour teacher training, but I have never actually created or led my own foundational 200 hour teacher training. So to have this conversation I asked my Yoga Mama, and the ultimate Teacher of Teachers Cyndi Lee, to join me and walk us through how to create and lead a teacher training.  In this episode you’ll hear: how to decide what to cover in a teacher training since yoga is so vast and expansive what is most important to consider when you first start to write the manual or syllabus for your teacher training how to teach sequencing and class planning to future yoga teachers what Cyndi thinks about marketing a teacher training as a way to "deepen your practice" without an intention to teach how teacher trainers can stimulate creativity and confidence in their learners Learn More From Cyndi: Website SUBSTACK: Drip, Drip, Drip Instagram Facebook  
In today's episode, we have a very special guest, Anjali Rao (she/her). Anjali is a yoga teacher, writer, and podcast host who offers profound insights into the often obscured stories and histories of yoga. An Indian American immigrant and cancer survivor, Anjali beautifully integrates yoga philosophy and history with storytelling, imagery, and poetry.  Anjali and I had a thought-provoking conversation about the sociopolitical context of yoga and its historical beginnings. We delve into topics such as the caste system, the intersections of power and access to knowledge, and the erasure of South Asian teachers in modern yoga spaces.  In this episode you’ll hear: all about Yoga's relationship with the caste system a deep dive into Yoga's relationship with hinduism and other religions how Anjali recommends we can teach and practice yoga with integrity about the political nature of yoga and the connection between spiritual teachings and the pursuit of social change a conversation on ahimsa and its active role in disrupting harm (rather than passive inaction)  the importance of self-reflection and understanding one's positionality as a yoga practitioner and teacher Learn More From Anjali: On Instagram At her website On her podcast “The Love of Yoga”  
I have wanted to have a teacher on the podcast to talk to us about The Yoga Sutras for years, and I finally found the teacher we needed! Vikram Jeet Singh is here today to share an exploration of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that is both accessible and deep. Vikram is a certified yoga teacher with over twelve years and 11,000 plus hours of teaching experience. Besides asana, Vikram also teaches courses and workshops on classical yogic texts such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Additionally, he runs mentorship courses and workshops for teachers and practitioners to help bring yoga in every aspect of their lives. A strong advocate of diversity & inclusion, Vikram consults yoga teachers and studios on cultural appropriation, decolonization and inclusion in yoga and related spaces. Having moved from Toronto three years ago, Vikram and his family live in Goa.  In this episode you’ll hear: what has shifted in Vikram’s teaching as a result of his study of the Sutras the main differences between some of the popular commentaries and the ones he recommends what is most important for yoga teachers to know about Sutra 1.2 how the Sutras define practice the main differences between the first and second books a deep dive into the Kleshas how free will plays out in terms of Kleshas and Karma  
Back in February of 2018 I shared an intimate view of a full week in my teaching and work life. I shared my daily habits and routines, the things I was working on in my group classes, and how I met each of my private clients. (Listen to that episode here!) Well, the world at large, and my little world too, has changed drastically since then, so I wanted to share an updated version!  In this episode you’ll hear: how I’m managing parenthood while keeping my business afloat what has shifted in my mindset around business growth since having a kid how I make time for my own practice in the morning what’s been working well in my group classes lately specific things I do with private clients who work with chronic pain Resources Mentioned: 15: A Week In the Life (A Peek Inside My Daily Schedule and Rituals) The Mentor Sessions Sangha Ethan Nichtern (my teacher)  
Today I’m here to share a vulnerable update of my life lately, and some tools I’m using to teach great yoga classes even though I’m in a very challenging season. I’ll be honest, there almost wasn’t a podcast episode this month. This has been one of the hardest summers of my life and I’ve been feeling totally under water. I realized the middle of the month had already passed and I had no interviews scheduled and no ideas for a podcast episode.  But then I remembered... I’ve been teaching through it all! And I’ve actually felt great about what and how I’ve been teaching. So today I am sharing a few ideas that I hope support you if you’re struggling to find inspiration for your teaching.  In this episode you’ll hear: how to  identify why you are not feeling inspired the difference between private clients and group classes when you’re lacking inspiration why being gentle with yourself is always the first instruction how to come up with dharma teachings when you’re struggling how to freshen up stale sequences why taking a class without the intention of actually taking it is a good idea! Resources Mentioned: 115: The Case For Teaching Leveled Classes 116: Integrating Buddha Dharma and Asana with Meredith Witte – Live Mentoring Session 118: My Group Class Planning Process 119:  All About My Morning Routine (And Suggestions For Yours!)  
Are there poses you used to love and teach, but have recently stopped teaching for some reason?? It turns out we all have a long list of poses that we find ourselves leaving out of our classes for a multitude of reasons. We recently had a super interesting conversation inside The Mentor Sessions Sangha all about this! And on the podcast today I’m sharing an edited sneak peak of that discussion to get your creative juices flowing! In this episode we discussed: our priorities and choices in teaching the importance of getting clear on the intended benefits of poses varying perspectives on poses like headstand, arm balances, and lotus pose why personal preference is a great reason to avoid certain poses AND why it’s so important to understand the reason behind those preferences  
I feel a little shy sharing this intimate view of my morning practice, but when I asked y’all if this topic was of interest I heard a resounding YES. As yoga teachers I think it is important that we make time to engage with our practice and take good care of ourselves so we can be of service to our students and communities.  But like, WHEN ARE WE SUPPOSED TO MAKE TIME FOR THAT?  Life is so full for many of us. We have work and caretaking responsibilities that fill every waking hour (and some of the sleeping ones...). Before the birth of my son I had a two hour morning routine that I did every work day, even though most days I started teaching at 7am. After the arrival of my son in spring of 2022, the availability of that morning time totally disappeared.  But after more than a year in this new life, and after lots of trial and error, I have found a way to have a morning routine that sets me up to be the best teacher and parent I can be. It took me a while to figure out how to manage it, but I feel really good about where I’ve landed and I’m excited to share it with all of you! In this episode you’ll hear: some questions to ask yourself when thinking about your own morning routine the purpose of my morning routine all seven things I’d like to do every day how I manage the morning routine even with unpredictable baby sleep schedules  what time I get up and how long I spend with each part of my practice how I prioritize to scale down my morning practice how to manage if you have inconsistent time available in the morning  Click here to see a video version of my morning routine! Resources Mentioned: Stillness + Movement Studio The Mentor Sessions Sangha  
In January I started sharing my group class planning process in short videos on Instagram and y’all had questions! The more I shared, the more questions I got! So today we’ve got a solo episode on the podcast where I am answering all your questions about my group class planning process. In this episode you’ll hear: how I try to bring recognizable sun salutation templates AND sequences that vary into each class why a thread of physical and emotional consistency woven throughout class makes it memorable to students a deep dive into the template I use in every class I teach what I recommend for teachers who often run out of time in class different ways to get inspiration for a theme a discussion on whether to create new sequences for every class or recycle old class plans what to do when the class you planned won’t work for the students who showed up *After I recorded this episode, I taught four classes that are perfect examples of the things I discussed in the episode.  Click here to buy this bundle of four classes at a discount. 
Many yoga teachers in our community either already specialize in teaching seniors, or would like to. Yoga can be a wonderful practice for older people and it is important that yoga teachers consider what is most helpful when working with this population.  We are so lucky today to have Yoga for Seniors expert, Chintamani Kansas, walking us through this conversation. Chintamani has been teaching Yoga for over 20 years and has studied Meditation, Embodied Anatomy, Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy, Thai Massage.  In 2020, Chintamani launched a series of daily therapeutic yoga classes via Zoom for a community of committed Yoga Lovers, many of whom are active older adults. Yoga for Strong Bones and Core Yoga for Strong Bones classes are designed to stimulate bone density in key areas of vulnerability and eliminate movements that are potentially injurious to people with Osteopenia, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, and back pain. People of all ages attend the classes for joint mobilization, stretching, energizing yoga, strength, balance, and relaxation. In this episode you’ll hear: common injuries and conditions our students might have three rules to keep in mind when teaching people with osteoporosis some thoughts about twists in a Yoga for Seniors class how to make a “flowy” sequence without the forward bends of a classical sun salutation step by step cueing for Downward Dog and why it’s so helpful for seniors the kyphosis controversy around bridge pose and how to work with that working with hip replacements and how it shows up in Garuda the controversy around Side Plank and who it might be good for a deep dive into the biomechanics of Child’s Pose and how to make it accessible how using empowering language makes you a better teacher for all populations Learn More From Chintamani: Website:  Instagram:  @yogawithc Private Yoga Info: Other Episodes and Resources Mentioned: 98: Trauma-Conscious Yoga Is A Philosophy, Not A Specialty Class with Hannah Davis 85: The Trans* Yoga Project with M Camellia + River Redwood Bone Health And Osteoporosis Foundation Yoga-Grip Wrist Alignment props Wrist Buddy Yoga Blocks  
Many of the yoga teachers I’ve worked with feel more comfortable and confident teaching asana than they do teaching the other seven limbs of yoga. This was true of me as a new teacher also! Questions about how to skillfully interweave dharma and asana come up frequently with the teachers in our community.  I’m so happy to share with you this Live Mentoring Session with longtime listener of the show and wonderful yoga teacher Meredith Witte, of The Playground App. Meredith brought excellent, thoughtful questions that inspired an in-depth conversation about finding my voice and integrating dharma and asana. Show Notes: Meredith on Instagram:  Meredith's website:      
The thinking behind this episode has been a long time in the making. I haven't talked about this much publicly, but If you've done 1x1 mentoring with me, if you’ve taken my group classes, if you're in The Mentor Session Sangha, or if you’ve taken a teacher training with me, then you’ve heard me talk about it.... ...and today I’m publicly making The Case for Teaching Leveled Classes.  I haven't talked about it publicly because it's nuanced and complex and challenging to present in a one-sided conversation. So what I hope to share today are some questions to help you reflect on your teaching as an individual, some questions to help you reflect on the institutions you are teaching at, and some some questions for us as a wider yoga community.  In this episode you’ll hear: why I think leveled classes can be helpful for both teachers and students how to create leveled classes and still dismantle the notion of hierarchical progress in yoga the different language we use to talk about “Open Level” classes, and what actually happens most often what I think belongs in an “advanced” yoga class  how leveled classes have the opportunity to be more accessible, not less why a beginner’s class is not the same things as a gentle class how to support a student who has been in a Level 1 class for many years the difference between something being taught or “offered” where to take this conversation deeper!
Our students' movement patterns directly impact their pelvic health, and their pelvic floor impacts their movement patterns! With those two aspects of our students’ health so intertwined, it’s really important that yoga teachers understand the nuances of that relationship. We are so lucky to have longtime yoga teacher, teacher’s mentor, and yoga for pelvic health expert Shannon Crow on the show with us today!
Ariele Foster is a doctor of physical therapy and the founder of Yoga Anatomy Academy, a no-nonsense, evidence-based resource for learning yoga anatomy and movement science. She runs an integrative physical therapy clinic in Washington DC (and via telehealth). In addition to teaching online courses and an anatomy mentorship through Yoga Anatomy Academy, she has also taught online courses for and written for Yoga Journal on hip stability and fascia release. Ariele began teaching yoga in 2001 and her grandmother was also a yoga teacher.