It’s really only been in the last five years that I’ve started to understand yoga asana more fully. But until recently, I remained very unsure of myself as a yogini.
I can’t really explain why. I think that unlike RB sticking her hand up, my tendency has always been to shrink into the corner.
Around the time I took initiation into my Guru’s lineage, I decided I wanted to deepen my knowledge and ability with asana. But it still took me a while to do something (anything) about it.
As previously mentioned my therapist H, prompted me on what I’d like my life to look like at a time where I couldn’t see fifty meters in front of me. And surprisingly I found myself telling her I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I’d never told anyone that. Not even myself!
I signed up for the Hatha Yoga Studies Certificate course instead of the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) even though I wanted to do the latter because I still didn’t feel ready (oh ye of little faith in oneself).
But for once I felt like I was in the right forum to ask those burning questions about asana I had trouble with. After all, I’d paid for the privilege of being in a small dedicated class where it was all about breaking down each pose and working through our challenges. For once I felt okay confiding my imperfections and getting the advice I needed to resolve them.
It was heavenly! Four to five hours of yoga – practicing asana and talking theory = my idea of a good time. Oh yeah baby!
Actually, it was only by doing the course that I realised I was ready for YTT (the two courses are identical until half-way through, so it wasn’t a hassle to switch). Still, I’m not sure I would’ve switched if I hadn’t been encouraged.
I’m deeply grateful for a number of things about my YTT.
First up, it was a 500 hour course. Not that there’s anything wrong with shorter trainings, but I really liked how that extra time allowed us to delve into some of the more esoteric aspects of yoga: the sort of stuff I’ve been studying for years and really enjoy.
Secondly, the course was paced out over almost an entire year. I know of others that are completed much more quickly! Some people even asked me why the course took such a long time to complete?! BUT there’s so much information to take in, and not just trying to memorise the Sanskrit names of asanas, or perfecting your practice (you never will!) or learning a little anatomy and physiology. Becoming a yoga teacher or any kind of teacher really… is a process. And the one important thing a process needs is time – to gestate, steep, mature, transform, explore, grow.
Also, I’m so glad I did my training at a school with heart. The heart very much comes from the woman who runs the school – M. She’s a great example of a yogini who takes her yoga off the mat and into everyday life. Not only did she help out many students who struggled financially last year (including me), but she also has a habit of donating to those in need. Something that is very close to my heart. And it shows in how she treats her students, as well as the quality of people who support her and teach there.
I learned many yoga-ish things (of course) in YTT, but also discovered a bunch of insights along the way, including:
- Flow in your yoga practice comes from confidence and self-knowledge. It’s not just about understanding how to sequence your asana. You’ve got to get a feel for what your body needs. Then, it can almost look like you’re dancing.
- Teaching yoga isn’t just about standing at the front of a class and giving instructions. It’s about making sure your students get what you’re saying. And sharing your love of yoga, your experiences and insights (where appropriate) and offering challenges for students and for yourself, too. In fact, it’s about being a human being, relating to other human beings.
- Without doubt, teaching is a learning experience. A reflection on your ability to be in the moment and put aside your issues with yourself. Because it’s not about you, the teacher, and you can’t be worried about your physical appearance or anything else while you’re teaching.
- That old maxim “those who can’t do, teach” isn’t true at all for yoga (and probably many other disciplines, too). Yoga teachers must practice yoga, must understand what they are asking others to do before they can even think of approaching the front of the room.
- Then, a yoga teacher must continue to practice – it’s not like you finish your YTT and you can suddenly do every asana perfectly! Or that once a pose is perfected, it will stay that way without effort. No way!
- Becoming a yoga teacher does not automatically make someone a perfected yogi or person: there will always be something that’s hard or seemingly impossible. Yoga teachers are simply sharing the teachings in the best way they know how, which is (hopefully) always changing and growing.
- To really teach yoga, one must attempt to remain humble and open at all times. It’s not about being an authority figure!
As well as facing down my depression and PTSD, the training also made me take a look at my self-confidence. Like… when I was first asked to practice-teach a class, I was terrified. Even if I was only working with one other person!
I was afraid of listening to my own voice, to be honest. Of sounding/feeling confident in leading someone through a sequence of poses. And of feeling comfortable enough to look someone in the eye while I instructed them in how to move their body.
It felt so intimate, and that’s because it is. It’s an extremely intimate and sensitive activity and it requires you to forget about yourself. Put aside your issues and whatever negative self-talk you usually spruik. After all, how can students in your care do the same thing for themselves if you’re busy giving yourself a hard time?
Also, putting aside your ‘stuff’ creates space for miracles to occur both for the teacher and the student. Miracles of love, of being able to master physical movements that have previously been out of reach. Allowing that open space to be free of self-doubt creates possibility…
Most of all, I think I’ve learned how to make yoga practical and doable for myself and others. YTT helped bring into focus something my Guru would tell us repeatedly: yoga isn’t about perfect form; it’s about synchronising your body and mind.
I feel that the repetition YTT over the course of an entire year is what sealed it for me. The fire was stoked in the first half of the year, lit when I switched to YTT and finally, turned into a brilliant source of light, warmth and refinement.
And now it’s up to me – what will I do with that flame? What fuel will I use to keep it alight?
That’s where I stand right now: one foot firmly on this brand new path with an open heart and a desire to share…