Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Yoga Teacher?
If you have ever practised yoga, remember the very first time that you stepped onto the mat and held a posture for what felt like 20 minutes, but was actually only 30 seconds. How did it make you feel?
If you have never practised yoga then try to imagine focusing on the union of your breath and movement, using mental strength as much as physical strength to hold you still. How do you think it would make you feel?
If you are a yoga teacher then remember the first time you taught a class. Bring back those emotions that were flowing through your body the moment you instructed 25+ people to follow your lead of creativity and inspiration.
If you are not a yoga teacher then imagine what it might feel like for 25+ people to be watching your every move, listening to your every word and counting on your knowledge, love and wisdom to benefit their health and well being.
To make all of these emotions my reality I went to the land of holy cows, organic chocolate coconut balls, and where the sun has no mercy: India.
I’ve dedicated my life to continuously broadening my horizons by practising yoga and meditation in any nook and cranny of this beautiful planet. In January I entered my 50th country, India, to study multi-style yoga. Some of my friends said I was crazy for doing something so absurdly opposite to what I ‘should’ be doing. But I believe in the value of embracing life in all its shapes and forms. And what better way to do that than teaching yoga in India?
A brief explanation of yoga
The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ – to join, to unite, to yoke. Yoga means both union and separation: union of breath and spirit, and separation of reality and non-reality. It’s an ancient Indian practice originally created to allow people to sit in meditation for long periods of time.
Yoga is considered a path to freedom, self-realisation, and liberation, known as ‘Samadhi.’ According to Patanjali, the ‘Father of modern yoga,’ the full definition of yoga is ‘cittavrttinirodah,’ which translates into the halting of behavioural patterns of the conscious mind in order to obtain complete control of the mind; to reach Samadhi, enlightenment and eternal bliss.
Don’t have a cow
India is a place of extremes: extremes of smell, heat, and contrasts. My school was located close to three beautiful beaches where we could relax on weekends. It was also home to cows that kept us company while we practised headstands in the uneven sand to strengthen our balance.
The food was delicious, usually consisting of a local curry and chapatti bread. Small children wandered the streets asking for money while rickshaw drivers vied with local shop keepers for your attention. The smell of pollution mixed with incense in the roaring heat.
A day in the life of a yogini in training
I had 24 yogi sisters, all of us studying ten hours a day: four hours of physical practice and six hours of theory. I studied multi-style yoga to broaden my teaching horizons in the future. Styles include Ashtanga, Hatha, Hatha Flow, Vinyasa Flow, Sivananda and Yin. However the larger focus was on Ashtanga, Hatha and Vinyasa Flow. The daily schedule was from 7am to 7pm:
– Two Hour Morning Practice
– Indian, Yogic Philosophy
– The Art of Teaching
– Adjustment and Alignment
– Two Hour Reflection and Evening Practice
The two hour morning practise alternated between Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, and practicums. Evening reflection focused on Sivananda, Yin, and meditation. We were taught by a high class Brahman who spiritually delved into the eight limbs of yoga. Muscles, body systems, bones, and effects on the physical, emotional, and psychological dimensions of the body are also taught, along with correct alignment and what it really means to be a teacher, on and off the mat.
Faith in intuition
When I flew to India I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I knew it felt right. The month of teacher training turned out to be one of the most intense months I had experienced in a long time. But it was also overwhelmingly touching, inspiring, challenging, and humbling.
It made my heart jump, made me sweat in places I didn’t know existed, and allowed me to witness the inexplicable forces of nature between strangers. Living, eating, learning, practising, sleep, and socialising with the same people, 24 hours a day for a whole month, resulted in smiles, tears, laughter, and a great deal of sweat. Sometimes we hugged, sometimes we had to get away from each other, and sometimes being surrounded by such love was a healer for all the challenges we faced.
Is It worth It?
People want to become yoga teachers for various reasons; to heal others, or sometimes to heal themselves. You can train to become a yoga teacher all over the world, but I wanted to go to the mother land of this ancient tradition to explore Indian philosophy and traditions at their source.
In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. It all started from following my heart, having courage in my intuition, and taking a chance.
Have faith in your thoughts. You never know what may come of it.