Over the summer, I filled out the application to be a part of Kula’s 200-hour teacher training program. One of the questions that the application asked was, “What are you expectations of this training?” My answer was the following:
In many ways, I don’t have any expectations for this training in that I don’t have a checklist that I expect to accomplish by the end of the training. I know that it’s a process and I am excited and open to where the process will take me.
And it’s true. I didn’t have real, concrete expectations for the training. I knew that it would be challenging – physically and mentally – and that it would help me grow. In general, I expected to come away with a solid foundation for my teaching career with an understanding of anatomy, yoga theory and philosophy.
But aside from those building blocks, I learned 9 really important lessons during the past two months of yoga teacher training.
1. Asana is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga.
I mean, I knew this – that yoga is more than just the physical practice. But this experience has taught me that it’s about breathing. It’s about learning to stand with your two feet firmly planted on the ground. It’s about learning to see the connection between your physical body and your inner body. It’s about your connection with yourself and with others. It’s about learning to be kind. It’s about being in the moment right now.
2. I am an anatomy geek.
I was premed in college and this brought be right back to those days of studying anatomy and physiology. But what I loved most was learning about anatomy in the context of movement and not just as isolated systems, bones and muscles. Human bodies are pretty amazing and dynamic things.
3. I really like teaching.
When I started training, I knew that I wanted to teach…sort of. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. But learning to teach spontaneously helped me to be more comfortable with stepping into a teacher’s shoes. For my teaching final, I practiced my class over and over, reciting it as I walked down the street and on the subway (it would have been amazing if someone actually started doing my class on the subway).
I was nervous during the first few minutes but then everything clicked and the class just happened. Next thing I knew, an hour had passed and it was an incredible rush.
4. My teaching voice will come with time.
I’ve struggled with finding my teaching voice. But the thing is that all of that didn’t seem to matter when I was actually teaching my class. The process of finding a teaching voice is just that – a continual process but it’s one that has helped me to think about who I am, what I care about, what are my strengths and weaknesses and who I am/am not in the role of a teacher, which also translates to life outside of the studio and classroom.
5. Critical skill – how to adapt and edit.
As a teacher, your role is to create and hold space for the students. While you come to class prepared, you also have to be prepared to adapt and throw that lesson plan out the window, which is also an important tool for life in general – to be able to read and adapt to the situation in front of you. You also have to be able to edit, to be able to discern what’s important in this moment.
6. There are four locks and there are four keys.
The overall goal of yoga (and I would say of life really) is to have a calm mind. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Sutra 1.33) posits that there are four types of people (i.e. locks) and if you have the right key i.e. approach to interacting with each type of person, you will retain an open heart and peaceful mind.
- Kindness to those who are happy
- Compassion to those who are unhappy
- Joy to those who are virtuous
- Indifference to those who are wicked
Easy right? This simple framework has been tremendously helpful in providing a structure and filter for my thoughts.
7. Don’t forget to breathe.
I need to do it more and do it more fully. We tend to not make full use of our breathing capacity but often limit ourselves to breathing just in the belly, chest or collarbones. Breath should encompass all those spaces and when it does, your body truly feels more buoyant.
8. Breathe into the discomfort.
I have a tendency to duck and cover, to push things away that don’t make me happy or comfortable. It’s easier that way, right? Just keep moving forward.
A lot of the work for me over the past few months and really the past year or two has been to learn to sit with the things that make me uncomfortable and breathe into it. In doing so, I’ve 1) given myself permission to feel whatever emotion arises, and 2) learned to look inward to understand my reactions and thoughts (and whether or not they are true).
9. Things aren’t always as they seem.
One of the concepts that has stuck with me the most is the idea of Avidya which loosely translates to ignorance. It’s the idea that our perception and interpretation of the world are colored and influenced by our experiences and the stories that we tell ourselves (or have been told) – I can’t be a teacher. I’m not a good runner. I don’t have what it takes to be successful. – and how that impacts how we do or do not act.
This has helped me to look at my life, reality and self in a different way and to begin to see that there may be other possibilities out there aside from those that I’ve limited myself to. It has allowed me to become more open to those possibilities.
The crazy thing is that I’m leaving this training wanting to know more and to learn more. I know that this journey has just started and that it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Thank you all for letting me share this journey with you. Now back to your regular programming.
More about my yoga teacher training experience:
- Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend 1
- Yoga Teacher Training – Week Intensive
- Teaching Voice
- A Day in the Life of Compassion
- Teaching Final
- Final Weekend and Graduation!
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