Et Alia invites you to follow our "Creative Space" blog series, in which we visit the creative spaces of our family of authors.
Today, you can take a peek at the peaceful spot for The Mud & The Lotus: A Guide and Workbook for Students of Yoga Author Courtney Denise Butler, as well as the second half of a two-part interview with the author. Ready to order Butler's book? Enjoy 15% off, plus one of Courtney's Jumbo Yoga Cards free this week only when you use code CSPACE at checkout.
Courtney, how would you describe your creative space?
The words I associate with it are meaningful and peaceful. In this room, I'm surrounded by things that mean a lot to me, like my mala beads which were blessed by the Dalai Lama, reminding me of the time when I went to see him during his visit to the University of Arkansas in 2011. There's a 3' x 4' space at the corner of the room [pictured below with Buddha and crystals] where I place my meditation cushion during daily meditations. From my desk, if I'm having a moment of stress, I can catch a glimpse of that corner and it sets me at ease. I also practice yoga and exercise here. I can look out at the farm and see all my animals, which right now includes three grazing donkeys. I just adopted a mom, baby, and daddy donkey after their owner passed away at age 92. He really loved them, petted them every day, and it shows . . . they are very affectionate. My buddy Jameson the dog is often sitting behind me as I type, write, or record. At one corner of my desk, you can see my mini recording studio, where I do videos, Skype consultations for students and yoga studios, and audio recordings for the Insight Timer Meditation App [find her by searching Courtney Butler].
What follows is PART II of Et Alia's interview with Courtney.
You can find PART 1 here.
What kinds of changes have you observed in the yoga world over the past two decades?
In the past 18 years I've seen yoga change as something very misunderstood—with only a handful of teachers and schools—to being on practically every corner, with schools and certifications for various styles of yoga all over the place. In the South where I live, until recently there was much misunderstanding of what yoga is and is not, and until the past 15 years or so there were not many teachers in the South. In the early days, I was looked upon suspiciously when I told people that I was a teacher of yoga or a practitioner. I was even called a witch! There were only three of us teaching for many years in my hometown but, in some part due to my owning a yoga school here, that number has grown to at least two dozen in the past ten years.
What led you to write this book?
It was serendipitous in so many ways. We needed a new manual for my yoga school so I was working on updating the old material and creating a new workbook. At the time, I knew IAYT was going to be coming out with yoga therapy credentials, and I was also doing a lot of traveling teaching workshops and taking workshops trying to get as much yoga therapy training as possible. I kept meeting people who had taken teacher training, but they were choosing not to teach based on feeling a lack of knowledge. Or, many of those who were teaching were expressing to me that they were struggling with feeling they were missing some element they needed. I knew I had a strong curriculum and I was often taking teachers who had already gone through a training and retraining them. I was also doing some consulting with studio owners and teachers nationwide who wanted to open schools but were not sure how.
So I thought, “What if I sell my curriculum?” Some people do this but it's often very expensive and hard to find. It's also often very rigid, and doesn’t make for an accessible read. I was noticing a lot of things I was doing were showing up in other schools familiar with mine . . . my curriculum outlines, my schedules—all things I knew I had learned through trial and error or from my teachers, and not things new teachers would simply know easily. but they were on my website. Why not sell a detailed guide with all my experience and help those schools I thought. I was in my Y12SR training and I heard Nikki Myers say "You can't keep it without giving it away," which is a 12-step slogan. That sealed the deal for me. I thought if I create it and sell it at a reasonable price I'll help other teachers, students, and schools keep alive these teachings that seem to be getting lost in our capitalistic society. I've always thought the best way to teach the masses is to teach people to teach rather than trying to teach twenty classes a week myself. In that way, we keep handing it down and more people gain the benefits of this ancient practice.
You are available for nationwide presentations and consulting on many aspects of the yoga business. As you take The Mud & The Lotus nationwide, what are your goals with it, and what doors do you hope it will open in your life?
My sort of life mottoes are "Just do the next right thing" and "let curiosity lead you." I thoroughly enjoy working with teachers, studio owners, and school owners. I love to research and problem solve. Since my experience is vast in the types of positions I've held in the yoga world I'm often able to help solve a variety of problems because I've usually dealt with it myself. If I can help a studio owner stay in business that makes me really happy. In one case I helped a teacher decide to close her studio and go back into teaching for others and she was so much happier and less stressed in the end. That was also amazing.
I would like to write another book on yoga as a therapeutic practice, and hope to have that out in a year or two. My hope is that more schools will seek me out for consulting for their schools as they use the book to teach, because I can almost guarantee I’ll save them money and strife by helping them learn from my own mistakes and experience over the years. It would be lovely to lead workshops and do speaking engagements that help teachers, studio owners, and schools to reduce some of the stress and take some of the pressure off of them. I want to assist those folks in being the best they can be and maybe some of my trials, errors, and accomplishments can serve to make the road a little easier for someone else.
It is pretty amazing that you have every certification available from Yoga Alliance. I mentioned your C-IAYT above, and you also have your 500 E-RYT, RCYT, RPYT, and YACEP, are certified in Yoga of 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR), and are a Prime of Life Yoga® Teacher. What do all these crazy letters mean?
ERYT 500: Experienced Yoga Teacher with a minimum of 500 hours of training and 2000 hours minimum in the classroom.
RCYT: Trained yoga teacher in Children’s Yoga, minimum of 295 hours of required training total.
RPYT: Training in Prenatal Yoga: minimum of a total of 295 required training hours.
YACEP: A teacher who is trained and qualified to give Continuing Education hours. Must have a minimum of 1,000 hours of teaching and 200 hours of training.
C-IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist: 1,000 hours of training, certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. I was grandfathered in, which meant at least 10 years of practicing yoga therapy that I could document. It meant turning in at least twenty case studies of specific clients and what I did for them, how I did it, how long I worked with them and the outcomes. It also meant turning in all my training hours which were well over 1,000. I had to submit a resume with all my credentials, experience, and study.
What is the yoga of 12-step recovery?
We call it Y12SR, and it's amazing. My easy answer is that this work combines cognitive and somatic experience. By that I mean mixing movement through yoga postures (the somatic portion) with breathing and meditation, with discussion and study (the cognitive portion). Sessions include a meeting based on similar methods and the same guidelines used in other 12-step programs, with the addition of a yoga practice of asana with breathing and meditation. The program is worldwide and incredibly popular with impressive outcomes. The founder is Nikki Myers who has an inspirational story, and is a powerhouse of a woman doing great work.
What is Prime of Life Yoga®?
Prime of Life Yoga is what founder Larry Payne, Phd, calls yoga for the age range of about 40 to 70. Of course each person is unique and not everyone fits a perfect category depending on age, but the practice is made to fit people who may not need chair yoga, but also might get hurt in a fast moving class with aggressive postures. Larry often uses “The modern-day teachings of Krishnamcharya” to describe this work, in reference to this style which is adapted to fit the needs of the students. I'm grateful for Larry, his work, and his teaching, and am proud to call him one of my teachers. He was so kind in giving me a blurb for my own book, and I am forever grateful and humbled by his kindness. He is a true yogi in every sense of the word.
What does it feel like to know you were among the first yoga therapists?
The words "yoga therapist" were not even used until the past decade. Yoga Alliance was just being formed when I started teaching, so schools were not as common, and there weren’t standards. It was more a handing down of tradition from teacher to student. I had been practicing for many years when it formed and was mostly self-taught with connection to a few teachers mostly through personal study. I wanted the credentials mainly because to learn as much as possible. I had no intentions of being where I am now with a career in this field. I found two amazing teachers in Robin Johnson and Elana Johnson who had traveled to California to get training. I studied under them and have gone on to study with many amazing teachers, achieving more credentials like yoga for those over 40 and yoga for those with addiction.
In my career I've seen many of the modern-day gurus who brought yoga to the West pass on. I'm so grateful to have been alive when they were still here sharing their work and knowledge. I've been fortunate to be able to meet and work with people like John Kepner, the executive director of the International Association Yoga Therapists, and Larry Payne, Phd, the founding father of IAYT. It's been purely by what I believe is divine intervention that I've had the good fortune to study and train with so many people who trained with Krishnamcharya and his son Deskicachar. I simply loved yoga and especially loved and had a heart for bringing yoga to the general population but also those who needed a more therapeutic practice. My background was in physical therapy. I originally went to college for PT, and put in many volunteer hours in hospitals in the PT departments. Then I worked at the school for those with disabilities in college. I've always had a heart for service and so was simply following my curiosity and heart. I used my experience and adapted yoga postures and practice in this way for my clients.
When IAYT came out with new standards I was asked to do the beta testing. There were 14 of us, I believe, around the world. I wasn't even sure if what I was doing was what they wanted, but quickly became aware that what I had been doing for nearly 15 years at the time was exactly what they were looking for.
I applied immediately when they opened it up to seasoned yoga teachers who had been doing yoga therapy. It was one of the highlights of my career to be accepted to receive credentials based on all my years of work. It was a tremendous honor and I'm truly grateful.