Yoga teacher training. I've been trying to think of a way to adequately summarize my experience but it's impossible to put into words the magnitude of the training on my life. I came into this as a sometimes practitioner of yoga classes. I loved the mind/body aspect of yoga but knew nothing about the broader spectrum of philosophy. I had no idea what I was about to get into.
I had taken a handful of classes at Be The Change and while looking at my email one night, I discovered that they were offering a free class before a preview of the teacher training. I called Donovan and asked him to come home a bit early. I went to the class thinking "if nothing else, I'll get a free 45 minutes of yoga. Plus by the time I get home, Donovan will have put the kids to bed. #winning"). (Ummm....I guess I think in hashtags now?)
The class was wonderful (Katie and Allison are kind, thoughtful and encouraging teachers) but it was the program overview that stuck with me when I left the studio. I related to everything that they were saying. I felt like I was struggling to find my place in the world, struggling to see where I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to feel and what I was supposed to be doing. Their description of yoga and the program felt like an opportunity to find guidance in my life.
So after a lot of debate (mostly internal), a sleepless night, some anxiety about the cost, and some scrambling to figure out who would watch the girls during all my classes - I dove in head first.
I came out the other side changed. Completely in love with yoga as a philosophy and practice, overwhelmed by the community I've found, and grateful for this amazing opportunity.
I've learned so much more than I ever expected. I could probably write a novel about it :) This list won't be comprehensive as I'm doing this off the top of my head. I figured I could look back through my notes but I really wanted to focus on what feels most relevant to me right now in the course of life.
- Hope comes from an understanding that people are capable of change. That's probably my biggest takeaway. From our class notes (okay, I did look back at my notes a bit), "the Yoga Sutras outline a mechanism for positive and sustainable behavior change, starting with self-reflection and prompting people to think critically about their lives." I thought critically about my life a lot but I tended to stop the process here. I also tended to be more critical than constructive. I would look at what I didn't like and think it was such a shame that I was the way I was. I felt stagnant and constrained. But there is a second step that is just as important as self reflection. That is "to create a goal or intention and then to make a deliberate effort to move in that direction." Of course, this can relate to anything. I can think of so many examples in which the tools of yoga can help you change your life to create habits that are beneficial for yourself.
- What I described above? Basically kriya yoga. Kriya yoga is the yoga of conscious action. First you set a new practice aimed at refinement. After starting that practice, you sit back and observe what happened. Asking yourself questions like "how did that work?" The third part is letting go of the results. Realizing that there is something bigger than us and that we're not capable of controlling every aspect of our lives. You use discernment to discover what is in your control and you let go of the outcome. This last part is pretty darn hard and I could see how I could focus a lifetime just on the honing in my ability to let go of the results.
- Another good one? Replacement theory. So you don't just quit an old practice or habit cold turkey and expect to live in a state of bliss. Nope. Say you want to quit drinking coffee. First, you move to half caffeinated coffee and then decaf. If that's working for you (after reflection, right?), maybe you move to black tea and finally green tea. You de-link from an old practice and link it to something new. (Yoga Sutra 1:12 talks more about this).
- Your breath has the ability to radically change your physical, mental and emotional bodies. I've always loved the website Zen Habits and on the top of the page is a link to the word BREATH. I understood the power of the breath but now I have solid tools and a lot more practice deepening my breath. It's amazing how making your breath conscious and deep can stretch the muscles between your ribs, lower your heart rate, calm your mind, relieve stress, strengthen your diaphragm, create more room in your lungs, etc. This can be hard. I tried breathing when feeling stressed for years. My advice? Practice breathing when you're not feeling stressed. It's much easier that way and it allows you to tap into your practice when you really need it.
- The asana practice or the physical practice of yoga is a small component of the eight limb path. I didn't realize what a small component it was but out of 195 sutras, only three discuss asana. The biggest takeaway I've had regarding my physical practice is the importance of linking movement to breath. Additionally, I've become much more in tune to what feels good in my body. I don't push myself past a point of comfort but find the happy place that balances sthira/stability with sukha/ease.
- I'm so much more mindful about everything. Training has left me much more observant about what feels good in my body. I'm not always good at this but I try to ask myself the question "is this going to give me energy or deplete it?" before doing something. Just that simple question might make me choose a smoothie over a handful of crackers for a snack or might encourage me to set my phone down after climbing into bed at night (scrolling through Facebook doesn't give me energy ever....and yet the struggle rages on).
- I actually love anatomy! Because I didn't love science while I was in school, I thought that I would hate the anatomy portion of class. So not true. I actually loved knowing what was going on in my body and I plan on spending a lot more time studying it. I'd love to be able to help people who struggle physically with issues like back pain or knee pain find relief through yoga. Anyone is capable of doing yoga - we learned how to teach yoga in chairs, against the wall, and every single pose can be modified to meet the needs of the practitioner no matter their age, flexibility, strength, etc.
- Can I talk about the yamas? Kindness, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation, and non-attachment. Amazing ways to implement small changes in life. These are another blog post entirely.
Mostly though, I've realized that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The philosophy and practice of yoga is something I can take with me for the rest of my life. It gives me a positive place to focus both on and off the mat. I'm so grateful (that's santosha, right there :) ) for the teaching we received from Katie, Allison and Kathy at Be The Change Yoga. I'm thankful for the thoughtful advice our mentors gave us throughout and for the wonderful group of yogis I met during the training. It's true that the people who surround us can also give us energy. What a positive, lovely group of people.
If you have any questions about the training or about yoga, don't hesitate to ask.