I’d like to tell you that Yoga Teacher Training is easy. That it’s all about getting that yoga butt and looking fantastic while doing it. That you’ll come in a novice and leave class a seasoned pro. But it isn’t all tofu and Lululemon. I am here to tell you this: from inside the trenches yoga takes on a whole new perspective.
You see, in our Western culture, we like things to be pretty and neat. If we’re paying good money for something, we want it to come easy. We want to feel good while we’re doing it, and we want our stories to come with a happy ending. It’s because we want to know that deep down inside we’re gonna be good at everything we set out to do.
Before I embarked on my Yoga Teacher Training, I was like most students. Eager, proud, and somewhat experienced. I knew a few yoga poses, read some books, and considered myself ready. I even was a little cocky, thinking I was better than my fellow classmates. Even if you think yoga is not a competitive endeavor, experience sure tells another story.
You see, we do funny things when we’re put into situations that challenge us. We sweat, get uncomfortable, and start to act out a bit. Sometimes we get quiet and reflect on our experiences. Sometimes we start to look at the world around us and lash out. Often times, we make excuses, and feel disempowered.
This need not be discouraging. For its part of our culture to believe that we are going to succeed at everything we do. Only if we try hard enough, that we’ll make it. But it’s not always the case, and that’s ok.
First impressions aside, yoga at its core is about growth. And that growth comes with making mistakes, and learning about yourself. It comes with seeing who you really are when you do something difficult. And all those yoga models that look picture perfect, effortlessly moving from pose to pose? Yeah, yoga is not really like that.
Yoga is about uncovering oneself through practice. It’s about letting go of the masks that we acquire over time to find out who we truly are. Sometimes, that’s not easy. No one looks good in a handstand. The blood rushes to your face, you look swollen. You’re a hot mess. But you learn to accomplish something you haven’t done before.
If you haven’t gone through YTT yourself, you think it’s going to be easy. Let’s be honest. I mean, how hard can yoga really be right? But at our school many students didn’t make it. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying, or that our teachers were mean. They were great. But the program was rigorous.
However, people discovered for themselves, through experience, what yoga meant to them. Some might have said, well perhaps this isn’t what I thought it was. Others expected the teachers to wave some magic wand and poof! They were yogis. Over time, reality set in and over half the class didn’t return for the second module.
After that, the class was whittled down further. We had to do projects and presentations. We had to actually get up in front of people and talk. And instruct others. Sounds terrifying, right? Well, you move past that with practice. We had to, in essence, expose ourselves. Laugh, make mistakes, and learn.
By the third module, we were left with only a handful of people. If 100 started, only about 20 remained. Some people just couldn’t hack it. My guess is they felt it was too hard, and didn’t like the feeling of not being perfect at something. But towards the end for those who remained, a transformation happened.
We learned that we had guts. That we could stick through something that was hard, and at times un-glamorous. Sitting in class and sweating does not make anyone look pretty. But we stuck it out. We were among the final few to graduate. And that’s something that no one can take away from you.
Want to know what yoga means to me? It’s about authenticity. Discovering what matters to you. And to do that, find a good teacher. Someone you resonate with. But someone you can learn from and someone who will challenge you.
My teacher was good. No one can replace her. Even with all the other teachers at our school, I knew that I wanted to learn from her. Why? Because she was knowledgeable and authentic. She knew what she was talking about. And to miss a day in class was to miss some great insight.
That’s what yoga is to me. And that’s what I’m passionate about. Go to class. Learn. Make mistakes. Grow. Discover yourself. That takes time. Enjoy the process. If you stick it through, you’ll come out the other side different from when you went in. Funny thing is, most people don’t even teach afterwards. It’s really about the journey.
By Ben Spencer
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