Yoga has woven its way in and out of my life for around sixteen years. During that time, there were occasions where many months or even a year might pass between visits to the mat, but a part of me always new that, when the time was right, I’d dive deep into yoga in a committed manner.
About two years ago I made the decision to drop all other forms of physical activity and commit to practicing yoga five times a week. I’d been a dedicated boot-camper and participated in bodyweight strength building, alongside some running, but it just felt like the time had arrived.
I’d long advocated the mental and physical benefits of practice and they soon became even more apparent in my life. I longed to learn more though – a typical vinyassa class doesn’t afford even the most dedicated teacher much time to go into all of the details I wanted to know.
After six months of dedicated practice, the idea of completing a teacher training began to form in my mind. It so happened that a part-time 200 hour RYT course was starting in March of 2015. I knew of InYoga, founded by Nicole Walsh and Rod Galbraith, by reputation – Nicole had trained a number of my own teachers.
I happily enrolled. People told me my life would change. It sure did!
Here are the major lessons that I learned during the five months of training.
You’ll meet interesting people
YTT attracts all sorts of people, each with their own reason for enrolling. Our class contained ex (and current!) bodybuilders, a couple of dancers, one or two engineers, healthcare professionals, a naturopath, an architect, teachers, entrepreneurs, corporate types looking to mix things up, people of all ages, and myself – a software-consultant-slash-meditation-teacher. The age profile was very wide too!
All of us were united by a desire to learn more about yoga.
Everybody arrived with a different relationship to their practice, and a variety of reasons to be there. Not everybody had the explicit goal of teaching yoga when we started – for some, it was a matter of personal development, for others – like me – the goal was to work on their own practice.
Either way, it was a pleasure to hear everyone’s excitement and reasons as the course started.
You’ll explore your physical and mental boundaries
Our training began with a week-long retreat. Every day started with a two-hour practice – as did the weekend intensives over the coming months. Coupled with intensive workshopping of the physical side of practice, I hit a number of physical and mental walls during teacher training.
I carried a rib injury into the first week of training, which meant I had to be careful. And the hours of practice mean you have to be super mindful of your own body – a habit that most teachers try to encourage. Tired limbs became an ongoing battle.
And of course, real life doesn’t stop just because you’ve started YTT. During the last month of training, with three intensive weekends and a heap of assignments due (for the training), a poorly timed house move sent my stress levels spiraling – a perfect opportunity to practice remaining centered while under strain!
At its heart, yoga is a process of self-enquiry with the objective of personal liberation. Yoga offers a framework for observing and understanding your body, your mind and your behaviors – I found it revealing to observe myself and my responses while facing the many demands of training. If you’re carrying any hidden psychological rough edges, teacher training is sure to shine a light on them!
Your practice goes deeper as you learn to pull back
One of the most interesting aspects of training was the elimination of “short-cuts” in my own physical practice – places in asana where I’d hang out in my joints, or come out of correct alignment in order to go “deeper” into a pose.
A good teacher with an understanding of biomechanics will soon help you learn that this isn’t doing you any good. So I started to shorten my stance in warriors, drop my hand only as far as it would go in trikonasana, bend my knees even deeper in down-dog and forward fold…. And so on.
The irony is that this learning to accept my limits and work just there – not blindly (and potentially unsafely) going too far beyond– has led to significant increases in strength and flexibility. The upshot is that my physical practice has developed to a level whereby it’s not such an obstacle to staying present – which is the true “aim” of practice.
Teaching is terrifying and uplifting in equal measure
The first time you stand up in front of a room full of people to teach a sun salute is nerve-wracking, no matter how much time you’ve spent in yoga studios!
Remembering when to inhale and exhale is hard enough when you’re learning to practice yourself – trying to get the cues for a pose right in front of twenty-seven of your peers and your teachers can make your brain turn to mush!
That said, it was really beautiful to watch the transformation in the group from initial nerves, through practice sessions, all the way through to the assessment classes at the end. Everybody nailed it, and there was such a good vibe in the room.
You’ll teach somebody something about yoga
When I met most of the participants and asked whether they wanted to teach, the most common answer was “maybe”. That was certainly what I thought too!
As the course progressed, it became more and more clear to me that I’d teach in some capacity at some point in my life. You don’t have to be full time or studio based to be a yoga teacher. You just have to take whatever opportunities you can to teach people some stuff you know about yoga!
Personally, I’ve taught many family and friends, as well as a class in the park every Saturday. I’ve taught classes in Ireland, Portugal and here in Sydney. I’ve taught in lounge rooms and in roof top. On beaches and in parks. I’ve even been paid actual, real money to teach yoga and meditation in a corporate environment!
Looking around the group I trained with, many can tell similar stories. Some are already teaching in studios. Others have taught on retreats, or casually. Others might not have taught a class since the final assessment, but they’ll have taught somebody something about yoga in the following months, whether you’ve they’ve known it or not!
Yoga is a complete system for optimising your life
Asana classes hide the subtlety of yoga philosophy. Yoga provides a complete framework for improving almost every aspect of your life. Whether it be understanding how to enhance virtues and mitigate weaknesses through study of the yamas and niyamas, working with your nervous system through pranayama and meditation, or learning how to work with your nutritional needs through the study of Ayurveda, yoga provides a set of tools for making continuous refinements to your experience of the world.
I’ve always considered this experience called life to be a gift. Yoga provides wonderful tools for making sure you get the most out of it while you are here.
Yoga is infinite – you’re a student first
200 hours is enough for you to be able to safely teach some stuff about yoga to people, if you’ve been paying attention. I certainly felt confident enough to start teaching asana classes to friends, family, an open invitation event in the park and even some paid corporate class. That’s quite an achievement after only a few short months.
But every teacher is a student first. There is an infinite amount to learn about the eight limbs. There’s a personal practice to maintain. Meditation to deepen. Every teacher you encounter will gift you with something new.
Your first teacher training might start you off teaching, but you’ve got to remember you’re a student first!
Teacher training is a gift that keeps on giving. Even now, months later, I’m still taking it all in!
For anybody thinking about it, I would just say – make it happen! At the very least, you’ll end up with a practice that suits you better. And at most… who knows where it might lead!