During my yoga training we have been warned on several occasions that there is a very high likelihood for Yoga Teachers to neglect their own practice of yoga. I didn’t think much of it, because I was getting my fair share of yoga at that point. We were meeting once a month for the entire weekend and we not only practiced yoga 2.5 hours at a time, but we also studied the philosophy and in between the monthly meetings I was also spending a fair bit of time reading, researching and writing assignments. So, I felt that, even though my physical practice was limited to about a total of 10 hours monthly, I was doing other yogic things that more than compensated for lack of daily practice. Now that I have started teaching, I find that my own practice has definitely taken a back seat and prepping for a class takes precedence. Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because I’ve forgotten what yoga did to my mind and my well-being. Let me explain.
I’m a born worrywart. My mind is instinctively concerned with something going wrong. At a slightest indication of trouble my mind will dwell and analyze the situation until I literally become sick with worry. I tend to overanalyze the situation and try to find out every single scenario of any given issue, concentrating my energy on the worst case scenarios. This makes for a very unpleasant existence. It makes me unable to go to sleep easily, because my mind will be constantly on overdrive. Long story short, there is too much happening in my mind. And you ask: “What does that have to do with yoga practice?” Well, I say A LOT. When I first started practicing yoga I have learned to let go, to surrender. I took on the attitude of : “What will be will be and unless I can change the outcome, I should not stress my mind with it.” This was very difficult for me to accomplish, being a person that tended to worry so much. But with practice I did conquer my innate propensity to busy my mind with unnecessary thoughts. After all, that’s one of the objectives of yoga – to quiet the mind, to stop constant vacillations of the mind, to surrender and be in the moment rather than everywhere else. There have been many situations since in which I had employed this philosophy of detaching myself from the situation and letting things fall where they may without worrying. And without exception my mind was at peace whatever the outcome.
Last night I realized that this surrender, this quiet mind was no longer mine. I lack my practice and as a result I lack a quiet, peaceful mind. I was on the way home from work last night and as I was turning onto the street I live on, I heard an unfamiliar sound coming from somewhere in the car. I immediately tensed up and thought to myself : “Please! Not another issue with the car!!” (I’ve had quite a bit of going on with my vehicle in the past year or so). Later on that night I had to leave the house again to go teach my yoga class and again I heard the scrapping noise. May I just say that my night was not exactly peaceful. I could not fall asleep as my mind was racing with worry and worse case scenarios. I did manage to sleep, but it did not come easy. I left home this morning and I noticed the noise was gone. I came back home without hearing the noise again and soon I started putting 2 and 2 together and it suddenly hit me that I have lost my yoga mind. I created a problem with the car in my mind not knowing what was happening. I reached into my reserve of worst case scenarios like I used to and let my mind run amok with worry! To what end? To lose several hours of sleep? Worrying about what might be did not fix the car, in fact I don’t know if there is or isn’t anything wrong with it. The point is, I have forgotten how to quiet down my mind and how peaceful it can be once I release it from the responsibility of analyzing, speculating and worrying. I have neglected my yoga practice. I no longer sit and breathe, there is NO meditation, there is NO practice.
So the moral of this story is that my teaching cannot interfere with continuation of self study, as that would mean teaching something I no longer practice and that’s not who I am and that’s not what yoga is about.
It’s been almost 2 months since I had received my certification as a Yoga Instructor. I spent a tumultuous year with lots of ups and downs training to be a Yoga Instructor. There were moments on this journey when I had my doubts about my resolve to complete it, there were moments when I was 100% convinced that this was it for me. In the end I did stick to it and now I have another piece of paper defining me. Do I feel like this is where I belong? No, I have not started using my knowledge to lead others into self exploration yet. Heck, I still feel like I have a lot to learn myself. Yoga is a never-ending journey that people spend lifetimes to explore. So, no, I have not finished learning. But here I am, on the brink of a Yoga teaching career.
Tomorrow is my first real practice that I’ll be leading. I say “real” because I have taught my fellow yoga students before, but for some reason those practice teachings did not feel quite real to me. They were certainly beneficial, but somehow they felt like play rather than the real thing. Tomorrow I’ll have a class of people I don’t know who will want me to lead them to discover yoga. This in a way feels exciting, in a way frightening and a bit empowering. That’s a lot of contradicting feelings, I know. I know what teaching feels like from years and years of language teaching. The difference is that teaching languages came easy, because the knowledge is somewhat finite; teaching yoga scares me because one can never truly learn everything there is, it’s too complex and it’s not concrete and finite like languages.
So in order to work on my first sequence I rose today at 4AM as I feel most productive when everything is quiet and peaceful. I decided on simplicity and clarity rather than fancy, elaborate words and movements. I went back to my most favourite yoga book I own, “How Yoga Works” .
It’s a story of a girl who ends up in prison and teaches people around her how yoga works. It’s a simple story but it resonates with me on so many levels. It teaches the reader the importance of kindness, understanding, forgiveness and justice through exploration of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The simplicity of the story makes it accessible to any reader without a prior knowledge of yoga. And that’s what I want to bring to my yoga classes – simplicity and ease. We don’t need fancy, overcomplicated yoga poses to say we are practicing yoga. Yoga can be as simple as sitting on the mat with your eyes closed calmly breathing in and out. It can evolve, that’s for certain and it will evolve if you keep your practice going. But to begin with you can perform simple movements and if you are present in your practice, that’s all that matters.
Update: It’s way past my bedtime and I have just returned from my first class. It has greatly exceeded my wildest expectations! It was calm and peaceful regardless of the traffic behind the window. I felt comfortable with a small private group of students who without hesitation followed my instructions. It was to be expected that my plans went astray couple of times, but that never threw me off my game. I carried away as if it was my plan, to go astray 🙂 . I’m yet to find my yoga voice, but I would not have expected it to be there waiting for me the first class I taught. I know it takes time. I’m happy to say that my teaching stamina that I had experienced years ago came back to me. All day today and prior to leaving for class I was in a nervous “it’s-an-exam-day” kind of mood. However, when I came back I greeted Randy with a big smile on my face and tons of tidbits to share. It’s a game!
About a year ago I set out on a journey of training to become a yoga instructor. It never occurred to me back then that starting a blog would have been a good idea to document this journey. So, as a result I’m a year behind on journaling about it. But as they say: “It’s never too late.” So I decided to do it from the end, because I’ve just graduated!
This year long adventure started quite abruptly and at 200% capacity, like everything in my life. I either go in full speed with my iron foot on the gas pedal pressed all the way in or not at all. Yoga was not any different. Back in the summer of 2013 I had just joined this hip and hot yoga studio and fell in love with group yoga classes. Prior to joining this yoga studio I had had only home yoga experience, I would practice yoga along with a DVD, but it wasn’t the same as committing to a 60-75 minute yoga class. Somehow it seemed more serious.
By the time September came along I had started researching Yoga Teacher Training courses and by October 2013 I had committed to follow a year long Yoga Teacher Training Program with Shakti studio. In January 2014 our classes had commenced and I wanted to read everything at once and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the reading list. And once I got it I used every single waking free moment I had to read and study. There was a period of time when I’d wake up before everybody else and go at it. I remember it as the Yoga Sutras period. I’ve looked at different translations and tried to analyze and dissect them Sutra by Sutra. It was not by any means an easy text, but the premise was quite accessible: Quiet the mind by detaching yourself from earthly preoccupations – the way to succeed at yoga. Of course this is a gross oversimplification.
I picked up a non-curriculum text about yoga called “How yoga works”. It is a story of a girl on a journey to find her guru. She ends up locked up in a jail and teaches yoga to co-prisoners and the guard. It’s the most accessible text I have read about what yoga is because it is written as a story. It integrates tremendously well the main subjects of Yoga Sutras in an everyday manner. Anybody can read it, understand it and relate it to their own lives. Unlike Bhagavad Gita, which also tells a story, but is much less obvious. Reading Bhagavad Gita you do need a commentary (same for Yoga Sutras) from somebody who can explain historical references etc.
I don’t feel that I’ve done everything that I need to do in terms of educating myself as a yoga teacher. Quite the contrary, my bookshelf still contains an array of texts that I’m happy to get my hands on to learn, relearn and polish my skills. Now, that the formal training is over I feel it’s a great time to refresh and read for the sake of reading rather than because I have to. I’ve always been like this, having the feeling of urgency while in school and once I would have graduated I’d feel I could really devote myself to study.
So, we had a potluck on the graduation day and there was such a huge variety of yummy foods!