“Do you remember that yoga teacher training of which you got kicked out in your early thirties?” it said, “Well, you’re ready now – so go for it”. I sat down with a spreadsheet, because that is what we scientist-types do, and I calculated. I told my heart, “I hear you, Love, but this plan of yours is going to ruin me. It will max out my credit card and completely deplete my savings account, and still I’ll be short”.” Your task here is to have faith and trust”, it answered, “faith and trust that I will not lead you astray”.
Once I accepted that this is really what I was going to do – reason be gone – I meant to research this plan thoroughly, but the Universe already had a school in mind for me. From the first time the page came up, I knew it had to be the Tribe Teacher Training program in Rishikesh, India. There is nothing reasonable to which I can point as evidence that this program is better for me than another, except that my heart beats faster when I read about it. The schedule, philosophy and methods are not significantly different from other programs. It is not cheaper. The venue is beautiful, but so are others. The final certificate I will earn is the same. There are hundreds of other doors of similar shape, size and color, but for some reason of which I am not privy, this is the one inviting me in. So, I am going to India, to the shores of the sacred Ganges, to be guided by the Tribe team on my path to become a yoga teacher.
The path that has led me here started as a very small inconspicuous trickle. In 1992, I bought a Power Yoga video by Bryan Kest. I actually bought the video because I thought the guy on the cover was cute; I knew nothing about yoga. At the time I played hockey, rollerbladed to work every day and lifted weights regularly, but that video worked me. The more I did it, the more it worked me. I loved it, but it was several years before I realized the more subtle, profound effect yoga was having on me. Every time I practiced, I was given permission to be myself. “You do what you can, you rest if you need to, this is your own yoga”, “It isn’t about being stronger or more flexible than another person, it is about finding your edge and working there”, “It’s okay to fall, we all fall in life, but we can learn to fall with a little bit of grace, a little bit of equanimity”.
I found I lived by these teachings off the mat as well. I bought three more videos (two by Bryan Kest, one by Shiva Rea) and one book (by Baron Baptiste) and used these as resources to create my own practice. I was not bound by any knowledge of what yoga is supposed to look like. I just listened to my body and had fun. My yoga practice became a sanctuary, a space-time recharge socket that powered me through three careers, one marriage and approximately twenty moves.
By the time I signed up for Ela McDaniel’s yoga class and, shortly after, her yoga certification program, in 2004, I had been practicing “Melissa yoga” for 12 years and not once in a class or with other people. I was eager to deepen my practice through the teacher training, but not yet open to receiving Ela’s gifts. I wanted to hear about proper positions; Ela spoke of chakras and other ethereal concepts. I was eventually dismissed from the training on the grounds that “I was too stuck in my ways”, which was absolutely accurate. Because I recognized that it was accurate, Ela and I remained friends and I continued to attend her regular yoga class for over a year, until I moved again. Her class brought me such joy. It simultaneously grounded me, set me free, empowered and humbled me. I started to listen.
What I heard when I started to listen was how opinionated my heart is. It has been bossing me around ever since, although it is true that it has not led me astray. In parallel to my worldly-life, the life where I get degrees in geophysics, I have been led on a spiritual quest. In the past few years, I have experienced a complete readjustment of my worldview, one in which my place has become infinite yet insignificant. I have learned to meditate. I have forgiven myself and others and freed myself of past hurts. I have sought and found stillness. Then, one day, while wandering alone in the desert during a 4-day fast, I felt my center of being rise from my solar plexus to my heart chakra. It is now from that place that I practice yoga.
I know that the next step in my journey is outward. I have been drawn to partner yoga and acro-yoga lately, at the polar opposite to my solitary practices of early days. I can feel during these classes how nourishing the contact with other souls is. This is where I need to go next: to a place where I can share all the gifts yoga has brought to my life with others. Whether as a workout, a personal sanctuary, a means to achieving a little bit of equanimity in an insanely busy world, as a link to our own heart or to some other grace I have yet to discover, yoga is a gift worth sharing. That is why I wish to teach yoga.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Melissa Park
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