patrick franco, lead teacher at yogarenew
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Meet Patrick Franco, a visionary in the yoga world and the lead teacher at YOGA RENEW.
Patrick’s journey from a college student exploring Zen Buddhism and martial arts to becoming a revered yoga instructor and digital education pioneer is inspiring.
In this exclusive interview, we delve into Patrick’s transformative journey into yoga, revealing how his initial quest for life’s deeper meanings led him to discover his true calling.
Patrick’s path is a testament to the power of yoga as a tool for physical, mental, and spiritual growth, making this a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration or considering a similar path.
Beyond his personal story, Patrick shares invaluable insights into the innovative YOGA RENEW Online 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program. His perspectives on the evolving landscape of yoga education, especially in the digital realm, offer a glimpse into the future of this ancient practice.
Also read >>> Nicolas Goudy Founder at YogaRenew
Whether you’re a yoga enthusiast, an aspiring instructor, or simply curious about the transformative power of yoga, this interview with Patrick Franco brings you guidance and inspiration. Discover how YOGA RENEW is breaking barriers and forging new paths in yoga education, and find out what you can gain from this revolutionary approach to wellness and self-discovery.
Sophie Parienti for YOGI TIMES: Hello, Patrick; it’s a pleasure to have you with us today. I’m looking forward to delving into your journey and the yoga world.
Patrick Franco: Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences.
Background and Teaching Philosophy
SP : Let’s start with your journey. How did you transition from exploring Zen Buddhism and martial arts to finding your true calling in yoga?
Patrick Franco: I started my yoga journey in college, like many people my age I was seeking answers to some of the big questions of life and trying to figure out how I wanted to spend my time here. I started my spiritual journey with Zen Buddhism and martial arts, which were really fascinating, but ultimately not exactly what I was looking for.
Eventually, I wandered into my first yoga class and immediately knew this was it! The combination of the physical + spiritual practice, the like-minded people, and the commitment from the students and teachers was mesmerizing. I felt truly at home.
SP : Can you share more about your initial experiences in practicing yoga, and how your relationship with your first teacher Liz influenced your journey?
When I first started practicing, It was clear that I was committed immediately. I would practice five times a week and frequently stay after to talk to my teacher Liz. Soon after, she would recommend books for further reading or teachers’ classes. She could tell I was inspired and helped point me in the right direction. Soon after, she suggested I do a yoga teacher training. I owe so much of my early dedication to yoga to her, my first teacher, for pushing me forward on what has become a lifelong journey and what has become my life’s work.
I lived near NYC and was fortunate to try as many yoga studios as possible. Ultimately, I decided to take training outside my comfort zone. I found a free-flowing, vibrant, and colorful studio, which helped me find my voice and be confident to use it. At the time, I was quiet, scared of public speaking, and unconfident. Practicing and eventually teaching yoga gave me an inner strength, an authenticity in myself that made me comfortable in my skin for the first time.
I have been teaching for about 18 years, and sitting back recently, I appreciate most the longevity I have had as a full-time yoga teacher. It’s not an easy profession to make a long-term career out of, mainly due to financial limitations. I feel like I’ve been able to do it while still being authentic and honoring the 5000-year-old tradition of yoga.
SP : What specifically drew you to the rhythm and energy of vinyasa yoga classes?
In addition to the rich diversity of yoga styles and teachings I experienced while living in Hoboken, NJ, it was the rhythm and energy of vinyasa yoga that truly captivated me.
This specific style resonated with me deeper because of its fluid and dynamic nature. Vinyasa yoga, often described as a moving meditation, aligns breath with movement, creating a energizing and grounding flow.
The rhythm in vinyasa is not just about the physical sequence of postures but also about the flow of energy and breath. It’s like a dance, where each movement seamlessly transitions into the next. This harmonious balance of movement and breath deeply appealed to my sense of inner harmony and personal expression.
Vinyasa yoga offers a real creative outlet. Each class can be a unique expression, allowing for various sequences and intensities. This aspect of creativity and variation in practice kept my interest piqued and continuously challenged me physically and mentally.
Plus the rhythm and energy of vinyasa yoga classes offered me a dynamic and holistic approach to practice, perfectly aligning with my quest for a balanced and expressive form of yoga.
SP : That sounds like a profound experience. How did you go from being a student to teaching yoga?
Soon after graduating from my 200hr YTT I was offered teaching opportunities in New York City and New Jersey and started filling up my schedule. I had a full time job as a City Planner, but it became clear that my passion was truly teaching, practicing, and living yoga.
I had taught part-time for about 5 years before I felt confident enough to step out on my own and try to teach yoga full time. At the time, my wife and I had just had a baby boy, and most people would have thought it was the worst time to leave a steady job to teach yoga. However, with my wife’s support, we decided that we could make it work.
SP : This sounds like a big leap of faith!
Obviously that was a transformational moment for me! It wasn’t easy to navigate financially early on, but I learned a lot about “the business of yoga” along the way, which lead me to opening my first yoga studio in Hoboken, NJ.
Soon after, I became a 500hr certified teacher, and began leading my own yoga teacher trainings and yoga retreats. The community was growing, and I felt fortunate to be able to do what I love every single day.
SP: Let’s really get to know you. How would you describe your teaching philosophy? Do you have a particular approach to teaching that you can elaborate on?
Patrick Franco: My teaching is deeply rooted in the belief that yoga is a holistic practice. It’s not just physical postures; it’s about connecting the mind, body, and spirit. I focus on vinyasa yoga, which brings a dynamic rhythm that aligns with these elements.
In my personal life, I am easy going, calm, and smiling all the time. This comes across in my teaching as well. As a teacher, it’s my job to make people feel welcome, at ease, and seen in a class. The last thing I want a student to think is to feel that they are overwhelmed or not welcomed. Yoga is for everyone. Rodney Yee says the only things you need to practice are your body and mind.
At the same time, I like to do the work. At the end of the day, the yoga sutras say that the essence of yoga isn’t found in the results but in the work or effort that comes from your practice. So, my philosophy is to approach the “work” with a light-hearted but determined mentality. I love getting on my mat. I love challenging myself physically to see if I can expand my daily boundaries. But it’s also important to remember this isn’t measured by how many advanced poses I can do but by how much effort and focus I put in while practicing.
To sum it up, my teaching is light-hearted but focused.
SP: What are your core beliefs when it comes to yoga?
Patrick Franco: Honoring the tradition, understanding that yoga has been around for 5000 plus years because it works, and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
I dont think “pick a word” and adding the word “yoga” at the end of it makes it yoga. Yoga has certain ingredients and prerequisites that have been outlined by sages and scholars much more evolved than I am. Unfortunately, a lot of the false gurus over the years have tried to bend the philosophy for their own benefit.
All that being said, we live in a modern world that has changed significantly since the yoga sutras were written. Although I believe the human condition hasn’t changed much, which is why yoga still works, it’s application has evolved. One example is that yogi’s no longer need to separate from society and live life as an ascetic. We can apply these practices but have families, relationships, and even live in big cities. The practices still work and can change our life immensely.
Meeting Kate Lombardo, a turning point.
SP: What can you tell us about your partnership with Kate and how it has influenced your journey?
Early on in my teaching journey, I met Kate as a student of mine. She studied with me and did her teacher training in the style of alignment-focused vinyasa that I was passionate about. As she began to grow as a teacher and build her community of students, it became clear that we shared a passion for building community and teaching yoga.
We eventually became business partners and opened additional yoga studios with a reputation for training yoga teachers. We were growing and opening up more locations when Covid-19 struck.
Kate had already planted the seed of expanding into the digital arena, and we had already rolled out an online library of courses and started developing a yoga sequencing course for teachers.
So, we had done much research before COVID-19, preparing us for our complete transition to YogaRenew.
Also read >>> Kate Lombardo Yoga Teacher at YogaRenew
Transitioning form physical to digital
SP : Could we discuss the decision to transition from physical studios to a digital community, and how YogaRenew’s existing network and community foundation facilitated this shift?
We had decided to close our studios and focus solely on building our community digitally with people worldwide!
YogaRenew already had a fantastic network and community that they had already fostered in the years before COVID-19, and we were thrilled to expand upon the groundwork that had already been set. It seemed like obious move!
SP: Additionally, can you elaborate on the evolution and expansion of your online courses and the experience of teaching a global audience through YogaRenew Online?
Since then, we have continued to improve our 200-hour and 300-hour courses by updating new content and producing additional training courses like yin yoga, restorative yoga, anatomy, philosophy, and yoga sequencing.
We filmed over 1000 classes for our online platform – yoga renew online. We teach live on Zoom to people as far away as Fiji, Japan, Morocco, and all across the United States and Europe.
YOGA RENEW Online 200-Hour YTT Program
SP : Moving on to YOGA RENEW, could you tell us its mission?
Patrick Franco: YOGA RENEW is committed to making yoga accessible and profound. Our digital transition, especially during the pandemic, has opened doors to a global community. We focus on creating a comprehensive online learning experience as enriching as in-person training.
Our mission is to bring the highest quality yoga to people worldwide. So, I hold myself to the highest standards. I practice, I study, and I immerse myself in yoga daily so that I can share that knowledge with others. If I don’t know or fully understand something, I have a network of teachers who are the leaders in their respective fields that I can guide my students to for answers.
SP: ..and what sets Yoga Renew training apart from other yoga teacher training programs?
We have the most highly qualified teachers in the world on our staff. This high-level teaching is transmitted to students all over the world, at their homes, for a relatively affordable price.
SP : What does the curriculum of your 200-Hour YTT program look like?
Patrick Franco: The curriculum is extensive, covering everything from yoga philosophy and anatomy to practical teaching skills. We balance theory with practice, ensuring our students are well-rounded in their yoga education.
SP: Two hundred hours must be enough to cover the basics and then some. What sort of topics can students expect to find in the curriculum? Are there any modules that you find especially interesting and valuable?
Yes, the 200-hour program is comprehensive and covers all the topics that the Yoga Alliance requires. However, I think a basic understanding of yoga philosophy, knowledge of alignment and anatomy of the foundational poses, and an understanding of teaching methodology and putting a well-rounded class together are the most valuable for new teachers to gain confidence and succeed early in their teaching career.
SP: Let’s reassure the minds of anyone thinking back to school when they were all textbooks and deadlines… tell us how your self-paced program strikes a balance between theory and practice?
My wife is a high school teacher, and we have this conversation quite often. She often tells me about students struggling with the material and comes up with new ways to inspire and teach them.
One advantage is that most people signing up for yoga teacher training have already been inspired by the practice of yoga in some way. They are already enthusiastic about the subject matter and ready to learn. This excitement goes a long way to be able to share with others what they love so much about yoga.
That being said, the program is a mix of pre-recorded material and live Zoom calls covering the subject matter. It’s the perfect balance because students have lifetime access to the information. They can return to the pre-recorded material or hop into a Zoom call if they need a refresher. It is one advantage of participating in digital training.
SP : It looks like you are part of a pretty spectacular team of instructors. What are some of the qualifications and teaching styles of your fellow instructors that students can benefit from?
Patrick Franco: Yes, we have a fantastic staff that are not only the respective leaders in their fields of yoga but also full-time working instructors teaching in and around New York City. They teach classes in person and online, participate in Yoga Teacher Trainings all over the United States, and lead Yoga Retreats worldwide.
The point I am trying to emphasize is that our teachers, including myself and my business partner, Kate, are seasoned practitioners. Together, we have a wealth of experience, not only in our area of expertise but also as working yoga teachers.
We bring diverse experiences and styles, ensuring a rich learning environment.
SP : It’s no secret that by now, many of us have completed an online course or two. How does Yoga Renew create a rich and engaging online learning experience for its students?
Patrick Franco: We’ve developed interactive elements like live Zoom sessions, and we foster a supportive online community. It keeps our students engaged and connected, regardless of their location.
SP: Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?
First, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to teach yoga for almost 18 years and make a career out of teaching yoga.
My typical day consists of coming to our Headquarters in Hoboken, New Jersey, which includes our administrative offices, recording studio, and in-person yoga studio. The studio has classes all day, so the headquarters is always vibrant and lively. I love interacting with our students, talking about yoga, getting to know them, and generally being around like-minded people. Coming into the headquarters every day is so positively uplifting. We have a running joke that we all have a difficult time leaving at the end of the day because it’s the best place to be.
My workflow consists of teaching in person, teaching on Zoom in our online teacher training, writing blogs on yoga topics, or recording content for our digital platforms (Yogarenew teacher training, Yogarenew online, YouTube, or social media).
Regardless of the format, I practice, teach, and talk about yoga all day, which is my passion. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my professional life.
SP : What about student support? Learning yoga in a digital realm is a hot topic not everyone agrees on; what’s the experience been like for you and your students?
Patrick Franco : Learning yoga digitally has been a unique and transformative experience for my students and me. While it presents its own challenges, like maintaining the personal touch and the communal spirit of a physical yoga studio, it also brings numerous benefits.
We offer mentorship, active forums, and various resources to support our students during and after the program. This approach helps bridge the gap created by the physical distance. The mentorship provides personalized guidance, the forums encourage community engagement, and the resources ensure a comprehensive learning experience.
Moreover, the digital format has made yoga more accessible and flexible. Students from remote locations or those with time constraints who previously couldn’t attend a physical class now have the opportunity to join and benefit from yoga.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many students appreciating the convenience and the ability to connect with a global yoga community.
Ultimately, the digital realm has expanded the horizons of yoga teaching and learning, making it a viable and enriching option for many.
SP: How do you feel about creating a business like YOGA RENEW?
Well, it’s been a dream come true! So I feel deep gratitude. We get to teach people who genuinely don’t have access to yoga within hundreds of miles. Teaching the program digitally allows it to be both financially and geographically accessible.
We interact with students from faraway places, and they also get to interact with each other. The students are so appreciative and willing to learn. I’m honored to get them started on their journey, whether becoming a teacher or deepening their understanding of yoga.
Aspiring Yoga Teachers and Advice
SP : What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in yoga instruction?
Patrick Franco: Be passionate and patient. Yoga teaching is not just a career; it’s a lifestyle. Dedication to continuous learning and genuine care for your students is critical.
SP : What are the common challenges for new teachers?
Patrick Franco: Many new teachers struggle with confidence and finding their unique voice. Our program aims to empower them to overcome these hurdles.
SP : How do you see the future of yoga education, particularly with online learning?
Patrick Franco: Online learning is a game-changer in yoga education. It breaks geographical barriers, making yoga more accessible to a broader audience. The future of yoga education is undoubtedly intertwined with the digital world, and we’re constantly evolving to embrace this change.
In addition to broadening access, online platforms allow for diverse teachings and styles that might not be available locally. They also offer flexibility in timing and pace, accommodating different lifestyles and learning preferences.
Looking ahead, I envision a hybrid model where digital and in-studio experiences complement each other. Technology advancements, like virtual and augmented reality, could further enhance the online learning experience, making it more immersive and interactive.
Furthermore, the digital format opens up possibilities for more personalized yoga journeys. With data analytics and AI, we can tailor programs to individual needs, track progress more effectively, and offer targeted guidance.
The integration of technology in yoga education holds immense potential. It’s an exciting time… for yoga teachers and students as we explore these new frontiers.
SP : Any final thoughts or messages for our readers?
Patrick Franco: Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or new to the practice, remember that yoga is a journey of self-discovery and growth. Embrace it wholeheartedly!
SP : Thank you for your time and insights, Patrick. Before we conclude, are there any upcoming events or new developments at YOGA RENEW?
Patrick Franco: We’re constantly updating our courses and adding new content. Keep an eye on our website for the latest updates!
SP : Fantastic. Thank you again, Patrick, and best of luck with YOGA RENEW.
Patrick Franco: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.