The opportunity to participate in yoga teacher training this year has been a transformative experience for me. When my teacher, Martha, approached me to join the class, I was overwhelmed first with surprise, then gratitude, and finally, not a little bit of trepidation. The thought that she saw the potential in me to teach yoga myself was a shock; it was like she saw right into my secret hopes and dreams – the ones I was afraid to admit even to myself, let alone pursue at the time.
For the past ten years, yoga has been an anchor for me throughout both the hectic and calm periods of my life. I discovered yoga at one of the most challenging times in my life while teaching middle school in Northeast DC. My friend and co-worker was training to become a yoga instructor and offered free lessons to teachers once a week to practice her craft. It was a life raft in a sea of stress. From then on, I was hooked, even pursuing work-study options at a studio so that I could swap my time instead of money for the ability to take classes. When my career choices took me to my current employer, I was overjoyed to find that yoga classes were offered at an affordable price right on-site at lunchtime. I have taken advantage of this benefit for the past four years, never losing sight of what a gift it truly is.
At the time Martha first brought up the possibility of joining her teacher training course, I was at a crossroads in my life. I had recently given up the pursuit of dieting to lose weight and was working on making peace with my body and healing my battered self image. I was making progress but was still mired in self-defeating thoughts about not being the “right kind” of person to be a yoga instructor. What if the teacher training was too physically demanding for me? What if, once certified, my students questioned my legitimacy based on how I look? In the end, I decided to take a leap of faith and trust that this was the right thing at the right time for me. I could not be happier with the decision.
Throughout the training, my understanding of yoga has grown and evolved. Although I always knew that yoga was much more than just the asana postures, I must admit that my interest had mostly focused on the physical, mental, and emotional benefits I received during classes. I didn’t really delve into the spiritual aspects or even seek out chanting or mediation on my own. Teacher training has not only broadened my undertanding yoga but has also introduced me to the power of positive thinking. This, in particular, has helped me tremendously in my personal life. Anytime I find myself dwelling on the negative, I can hear the narrator from the Yoga Life CD telling me to change those thoughts around before they begin to spiral. I have been working to cultivate a more satvic approach to life, which has encouraged me to be more circumspect and balanced in my interactions with others.
I also am extremely grateful to have participated in this training with such a varied, compassionate, and supportive group of people. Learning alongside Luke, Satya Deva, Ananda, and Ram has not only been a joy but also an eye-opening experience in seeing the full range of possibilities of teaching yoga to different populations. Luke’s work with the elderly and those with physical limitations has shown me that yoga is not only for the young and extremely fit; it’s for anyone who is open to exploring its benefits. Satya Deva’s classes with his students really illustrate the power of yoga to reach even those you might least expect to want to sit still or have the attention span to focus the mind on asana for an hour or more – yoga can be for everyone (including teenagers!) Ananda’s full-hearted compassion for those she works with is heart-warming and an excellent example of how to share ones love for humanity through our practice and teaching. Listening to Ram talk about his gym based classes gives a real-world perspective on one option for teaching in the future; I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the apparent flexibility and creativity he is able to employ in his classes within the gym culture as well as his ability to appeal not only to the stereotypical yoga types at the gym, but also some of the more muscle-bound weight lifters and others you might not expect.
My mission going forward is to bring this deeper understanding with me to each of the classes I will teach. I now have a base of knowledge gleaned from study coupled with first-hand interactions with my fellow trainees and wonderful instructor to guide and support me every time I step on the mat to share my love of yoga with my students. This training has imparted me with a firm grasp of the asana to competently instruct the class on how to do each pose as well as the benefits and contraindications for each. Even more importantly, I feel empowered to take the experience to a deeper level in a way that gives those in my classes a glimpse of the greater meaning of yoga along with the confidence and information they need to practice yoga in the best, safest way for them to feel great about themselves and their practice of yoga.