A Quest to Become a Yoga Teacher
Having spent the last nine months living, breathing and immersed in yoga teacher training I have come to the end of my journey with an overwhelming mix of emotions. Joy, empowerment, relief and a great sense of accomplishment together with a sense of loss and slight bewilderment at “what now”? Whilst contemplating my experience and “what next” I felt compelled to write it, to share it with others who may be considering starting a journey of their own. So here goes a tale of ups and downs, of trials and tribulations, of brave forays into teaching yoga, of loyal supportive comrades and a fearless leader who guided our merry band of teacher trainees in our quest to become enlightened …..Well a fully qualified yoga teacher at any rate!
“I’m training to be a yoga teacher”
A statement I never thought I would hear myself say. After all as a child who aspires to be a ‘yoga teacher’? An astronaut, a Librarian or maybe even Supergirl yes but a yoga teacher?? Huh?
It was a decision that came later in life and not one taken on a whim. The journey to the start of yoga teacher training can be a fraught one. But for me and 16 other potential yoga trainees whatever our personal circumstance that led to this point we had all benefited from the wonder that is yoga, be it overcoming physical injury, emotional pain or a feeling of disconnect from the world and ourselves. Yoga has been the salve which guided us like a loving parent to become better and whole again. To remember the beauty and contentment of our True Self and help in our journey back to this through the debris of Life. So after many years of our own personal battles we arrived at the start, to develop the skills and knowledge to impart the magic that is yoga to others.
It has not been easy. It has taken time, reading, study - actual essay writing! And at the end of the nine months of hard work an actual exam to top it off! Having not sat an exam in over ten years this was a daunting prospect. Without doubt my peers who joined me on my adventure were invaluable. Such a variety of backgrounds and personalities yet all so open minded and accepting. I have never felt such love and support from a group with bright ideas and opinions combined with lots of tears, fears and laughter.
The long weekends spend in a quiet village hall were tiring but diverse. My brain flitted between discussing the philosophy of yoga to learning the mythical history of yoga. Sweeping away the shroud of mystery surrounding this five thousand year old practice. Let us not forget the anatomy…..Muscles, bones, joints, myomeres, and sodium channels, there were points where I wondered when it would end. But there is something deeply satisfying about the challenge and the acquiring of new facts and new ideas. Picking up little hints and tips, the fine nuances of the art of teaching yoga. Because it is not just learning the asanas, the postures, though learning the alignment and English and Sanskrit names is a challenge in itself. It is the deeper level. The use of pranayama the breath to further enrich the teachings for the student, this is what changes yoga from an exercise form to something else, something more. Using the subtlety of verbal cues, of voice and language to portray the theme of the class. Encouraging students to challenge themselves yet stay true to themselves listening to their own body without putting undue pressure or stress on going deeper / harder / further. After all this is yoga not CrossFit! It is not about competition with others it is about learning to be kind and being content with you as you are with Santosha and Ahimsa. We were lucky enough to have experience of practical teaching with large community classes from month one. This is vital, after all you cannot learn a practical skill from reading a book or talking about it, the real learning comes from actually doing what you want to do, so to be a yoga teacher you must teach yoga! With up to 30 students in a community class it was an unnerving experience but we could not have wished for a better audience they were without exception so supportive, willing us to succeed, invested in our progress and played such an important part in our development. Giving us praise for the clear improvement in our teaching over time as well as constructive feedback to help us progress, bolstering our confidence whilst gently refining our skills. After 8 months of intensive book learning and practical sessions peppered with little nuggets of knowledge from our highly experienced mentor we felt a little better prepared for our week long intensive finisher in Spain. My thoughts that this would be a nice relaxing holiday interspersed with a couple of teaching sessions and an exam were quickly scuppered when I saw the timetable - the word ‘intensive’ was apropos. 6am starts and a 10pm finishes furnished with amazing nourishing meals and snacks for brain and body fuel. My brain was overflowing with information, my body exhausted from doing yoga. But the moral of the group was upbeat, still eager to learn with wonder. Particularly as most of the day to day basic teaching knowledge was already under our belts, this was just icing. An introduction to deeper levels of yoga should we wish to explore it - dosha types, the Koshas and Chakras. Some exciting (kind of scientific) experimentation with a dowsing tool to see if our chakras were aligned.... Apparently mine were all aligned which has never happened before so I am like a chakra miracle! There were also oodles of fun moments, with learning about Thai massage techniques to show each other a little love and care, channelling our inner yogi supermodel with a Best Yoga Pose photo shoot in the surf! And a little play time with a test of trust in partner work with Acroyoga!
But there was a constant low level tension as we were all aware we each had a practical exam to teach to our teacher and peers which somehow makes it more intimidating. Put me in front of a group of strangers and I am all good but in front of peers and my teacher who I obviously do not want to not let down after she had given so much time, energy and herself into teaching me was something else entirely. It is quite unbelievable how much pressure and stress this caused everyone in a group of well-balanced intelligent adults and not just adults, yogis at that!
There were numerous discussions on anxieties and sequence no no’s. Feelings of agitation and wanting to get it over! Sleepless nights before, heart racing, breath shallow, a million butterflies swirling in the stomach. What if I forget the sequence? What if I forget my words? What if I get my lefts and rights wrong? To music or not to music?!! Overthinking, sweaty and anxious, surely this is the antithesis of what being a yoga teacher is all about? What happened to my visions of a Zen calm person sitting in lotus pose with a serene smile whilst bathed in a soft warm glowing light?? Instead a bleary eyed, tired, shaky trainee.
The day of the exam I was surprised to find as soon as the last person settled on the mat….Ahhh there it is. That inner well of confidence, of calm, of “hell yes! I love yoga and I am going to show you why and teach you to love it too!”
In the end the exam was the best part, a culmination of all the hard work all that thought, effort and emotion I had devoted to learning this skill and my peers, my companions were the easiest, most compassionate and appreciative class I will ever get to teach. The feeling at the end was indescribable my heart full of a sense of accomplishment and success peppered with relief. I felt so nurtured and supported. The course was an emotionally labile rollercoaster with tears of sadness as we each explored and opened up our inner self as we learnt, matured and dealt with our inner demons. But there were also so many tears of joy and love and pride in what we each achieved for ourselves and seeing our peers overcome fears and obstacles to become the incredible teachers they are.
My biggest thanks to Laura Green for being our guide and being the most invested supportive teacher / mentor one could wish for as well as all my grateful thanks to the beautiful yogis who travelled this journey with me.