Yoga Training: Done!

Earlier this year, I set a goal to complete yoga teaching training. Check! 20131212-095513.jpg

Here's what I learned after nine long, wonderful weeks:

1. Community is crucial.

I feel super blessed to know each and every one of my new friends, and I have learned something from every single person in my training. My fellow teacher trainees (TTs) are all passionate, thoughtful, funny, smart, dedicated and strong individuals. It's so neat that each of us felt called to explore teacher training, and no matter our differences of personality or opinion, we all share that special feeling in common. Now when I head into a yoga class, I feel fortunate that one of "my people" will likely be there. It's an instant sense of connection, a powerful bond of shared experience.

This experience also reminds me that community can always be built, wherever you are. It's unrealistic to assume that all of us TTs will remain in the same city or at the same studio; it's likely we will all move on at various points to new and different endeavors and locations. Before yoga training, I didn't feel like I really belonged anywhere in Des Moines. Because of yoga training, I now benefit from a sense of belonging, but I'm also aware that it's up to me to build friendships with the people around me in all of my settings.

2. Everyone is stronger than they think.

Strength shows up in different ways during a yoga class. Yes, the person who can do a million crazy poses is strong. So is the person who decides to take a class for the very first time. And the person that rests in child's pose half of class. And the teacher that gives, gives, gives throughout class, being thoughtful about every aspect: the assists, the flow, the music, the temperature, etc. I mean, I could not do a real push up before yoga teacher training, and now I can knock out ten. That is such a small thing, but it makes me feel strong and badass. All of us in training went to two or even three classes a day at times, and we survived.

I'm feeling pretty damn strong, emotionally and physically, these days. And it's because of my yoga practice.  I was a little overwhelmed at how much we were required to practice during training, but I see now that it encouraged us to be focused, committed and dedicated to our physical practice. Even when we didn't feel like it. Especially when we didn't feel like it. By practicing yoga daily, I practice mindfulness. I take deep breaths, over and over. I listen to my body to decide when it feels right to power through and when it feels best to take it down a notch. I try new things, I play. I fall down, I reach my limitations. There are yoga practices where I'm counting down the minutes, annoyed by the heat, frustrated by my inability to get this or that pose. And then there are days when I venture outside my comfort zone to find success, I discover freedom in the flow or my stress melts away as sweat. Just like the ebb and flow of real life.

3. Commitment comes at a cost.

I read this quote recently: "We change, but always at a cost: to win this, you lose that." (Geoffrey Wolff, A Day at the Beach).

It has always been terribly difficult for me to accept that reality, the fact that commitment to anything or anyone is both difficult AND wonderful, and with change comes loss, sometimes unpredictably so. When you fully commit to something--whether it be a physical practice, or a job, or a person, or a location--it's really hard. Growth and honesty can be painful or uncomfortable. You don't always know how something will turn out, you make mistakes along the way and you often have to trust your gut.

By delving deeper into my yoga practice, I faced some of the costs of change and commitment. Money, for sure--teacher training is not cheap. Time for relaxation. Opportunities to travel to see friends and family. Sleep. Most of all, I think teacher training awakened certain parts of myself that had been pushed aside or left dormant, and that caused me to get back in touch with what really mattered . . . and that's not always easy. All of us TTs were repeatedly asked to make choices with integrity, and many of us realized that we needed or wanted to reevaluate aspects of our lives. I had to let go of some old thoughts and stories about myself, as well as people that no longer had a positive role in my life, and goals that no longer served me. I had to move forward to let go; I had to be vulnerable and take chances. Essentially by committing to my mat on a daily basis, I am able to be more committed outside of the yoga studio in all areas of my life.

4. The truth of yoga inspires me to share it with others.

I've encountered some folks who have made comments like, "Oh, you've joined the yoga cult?" or "It's a phase, yoga being so popular." And . . . I don't really care if it's trendy or not. It works. I have seen the transformation on people's faces--the scrunched up tension at the beginning of class that slowly shifts to a peaceful release. I have heard friends, post-class, talk about the way their body feels and how their mind responds to their practice. The fact that I'm just at the very beginning of this teaching journey is actually pretty exciting, because there is so much more to learn and so much more to share with others. Learning about the composition of various poses, how they each potentially flow together in sequences, as well as how the body is affected -- all of that is so, so interesting. I admire the knowledge of my leaders and teachers, and I hope to join them in the ranks someday.

One of the most powerful things about teaching yoga, to me, is finding a way to make it accessible for someone else--the person that says, "I'm not flexible, I'm not strong, I'm not athletic," etc. I want to help people realize that practicing yoga is about so much more than the poses themselves. It's about body awareness and strength and commitment to taking care of your body. It's about forgiving and loving yourself for who you are, right now in the present moment--instead of focusing on the person you used to be or think you should be in the future. It's about the fact that you can take your yoga practice with you anywhere you go, and reap the benefits over and over and over again.

The end! I'm happy to be done, and have a little more free time, but I look forward to the journey ahead. Namaste.