Updated: Feb 4, 2019
I began yoga teacher training last January with an open mind but clear, pragmatic goals. I wanted to learn to teach so I could confidently be a substitute teacher at our studio, and to provide more knowledgeable, compassionate support for our wonderful teachers.
I got much more than I bargained for. I got something of a brain rewiring. And I’m grateful for it.
I don’t want to sound overdramatic. The rewiring process is going to take years. Actually, it’s going to take my entire lifetime. But I now feel I’ve got something of a blueprint for living a good life. That’s something, isn’t it? Implementation, now, that’s another story…
The teachings on the foundational classical texts of yoga have been powerful. Although I’ve heard it before, I think it’s finally sunk in: the only way to alleviate the suffering that comes with living a human life – with all of its inevitable change, loss, pain, and stress – is to learn to control the mind. We create our own reality, in many ways. We can choose to identify most closely with loss or we can identify with the joy. I’d like to choose joy. And endless gratitude.
I’m in the infant stages of learning to quiet my mind. Like maybe a three-month old infant. I can’t/don’t meditate for very long or every day. I don’t always practice my breathing exercises, that are so helpful in focusing the mind. I don’t always remember to stay in the present moment. But I am a true believer that presence and mindfulness are freeing. And that yoga is a wonderful way to practice embracing these qualities. Not the only way by any means. But a beautiful way to train the mind to be present that also honors and promotes physical wellness.
Contrary to what I expected, I did not learn to do more technically complicated poses (asanas) during teacher training. Rather, I gained a much deeper appreciation for the richness, depth and complexity that can be found in seemingly simple poses. This lesson can be extended to all parts of life. I have often in my life moved fast and unconsciously, trying to get to the next goal. I’m trying to slow down, and appreciate everything. Notice more. Do less. Just be. And above all, Be. Here. Now.
As far as my own practice, I love learning from other teachers more than ever. I have a new appreciation for noticing the words they choose to explain a pose, or their choice of sequences, or how they begin or end a class. That awareness can actually distract me from the “true” purpose of practice, though! It’s a little ironic: all that I’m learning about yoga is increasing the chatter in my mind during a yoga class right now, not helping me decrease it. I’m pretty sure this is a temporary condition. I welcome it in, accept it, and continue practicing with the joy I’ve felt on the mat for so many years.
At the moment, my richest times on the mat are at home. When I just move with my breath, in any way my body wants, those are the moments that I can come closest to being truly present. As a yoga studio owner, I always want to promote the idea of practicing together in community! A good yoga class creates a beautiful shared energy that is supportive and enriching. I treasure, absolutely treasure, our community at Yoga Garden PBO. But a home practice is just as important because it’s so different. I highly recommend that all yoga students also take time to just be with yourself on the mat at home and let your body tell you just what it needs.
Teacher training has helped me to be more conscious of my thoughts, words, and actions. It’s made me much more discerning about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. It’s helped me to remember to be grateful and present.
Learning to teach is humbling. It’s so much harder than it looks. Yoga students, doesn’t it all seem rather straightforward and natural when your teacher is queing a pose, telling you confidently where to place your right foot and your left hand and to engage your core while also helping you find the right rhythm to your breathing? It seems easy because your teacher has studied and practiced for many, many, many hours. It’s really challenging!
I’m not a teacher by nature. I’m pretty reserved. I’m confident about what I know, but I’ve never cared much whether other people know what I know, if you know what I mean. I’m still finding my “teaching voice.” My students in the Lunchtime Express class I teach on Tuesdays have been kind and supportive as about being my learning lab! We are learning together. It’s humbling and wonderful. I love the challenge of planning a class, trying to figure out which poses will go well together, how to make transitions, how to explain things clearly. I’m trying to learn to teach more spontaneously, letting my body and my body of knowledge guide my teaching in the moment. I’m told that will come with confidence and time. I believe that. And I do have something to say. So there is challenge in figuring out how to incorporate a little of myself into my classes. I love it when teachers share themselves, their personalities and experiences and wisdom in their classes. It’s a richer experience.
There is a good reason why our teacher training is called Live Your Yoga. Some of our classmates will become yoga teachers, others will not. We are all learning to live our yoga.
In August when I became certified as a yoga teacher, it felt like a beginning rather than an ending. A kernel of an idea of how I want to proceed with the rest of my life, things I’d like to learn in the future, ways I’d like to be. As I said in the beginning, a blueprint. A roadmap. The journey is actually ahead. And, at the same time, it is right here, now, as it can only be.
Gratitude to Dharma and the goddesses who shared this very personal journey with me. Love to you all.