A beautiful friend called me this evening. I was so happy to receive the call and hear that at the end of this week she will be in Guatemala overlooking Lake Atitlan embarking on the journey into her 200-hour yoga teacher training.
Excitement abounded in my heart as she uttered the news. However, my friend had a few reservations about the journey. For example, she wondered: Am I ready, I don’t know Sanskrit, I don’t have a regular practice at the moment and I can’t do a handstand!
All I could say was, “Forget about all the things you think you should have done to prepare and what you think you should be able to do. Do not worry my friend, you are ready.” This is advice I would give to anyone who feels inspired or curious to deepen their yoga practice with a 200-hour teacher training.
Here is why:
Let’s start with clearing up maybe the most common misconception about a 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT). The training is a foundational course into the science and philosophy of yoga, not boot camp.
Yes, YTT will offer time to practice yoga, but more importantly it will offer an introduction into the philosophy of yoga, as well as universal alignment principles, anatomy and physiology, proper assists, how to create a yoga sequence. These foundations come together and make one see the deeper root of yoga.
So, if the thought of practicing for hours on end gives you anxiety, you need not fear, that is not what YTT is all about. Instead, expect to delve into the philosophy of yoga, meditation and proper alignment principles. With these tools, you will feel a greater ease in your body when you do come to your physical yoga practice.
Prior to my 200-hour training, I had taken maybe 50 yoga classes. Most of those classes were taken in San Francisco, and during that time I began to feel an inexplicable pull towards understanding more about yoga. Yet, like my friend, I too thought I was not ready for yoga teacher training.
Despite this thought, I signed up for training, and on the first day I realized that my fellow classmates had varying degrees of experience with yoga.
For example, a couple people were already teaching yoga in studios or to small groups, others had a strong five or ten year practice, others, like me, were just beginning to dabble in yoga and one person had never done yoga in a traditional sense. However, as my training unfolded, I began to see that no matter how much or how little yoga a person had done everyone in the class was there for the same reason; to establish a solid foundation into not only practicing yoga but understanding the history and heart of this sacred science.
As for reservations on not knowing or even being able to pronounce yoga asanas (poses) in Sanskrit, really, don’t worry. Like most things, Sanskrit terms will come to you with repetition. In YTT you will get the chance to hear Sanskrit terms like Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Uttanasana (Forward Fold) and Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) many times.
Sanskrit terms will begin to become more accessible, just give it time. I personally found it helpful after the training to dive into the reading list my yoga training suggested. Books I found and still find particularly helpful are, Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika and Yoga: The Iyengar Way. Also, when I am writing out a yoga sequence for a class I like to put the English and Sanskrit terms for each pose. This simple act helps keep me on my Sanskrit learning toes.
The thought of not measuring up to your peers in a yoga class, let alone YTT, might be swimming through your mind as well. Let that thought slip away as you sink into a deep sea of non-judgment. T.K.S. Desikachar said, “Yoga is the practice of observing yourself without judgment.” I could not agree more.
Liberating oneself from self-judgment can be one of the major challenges a person faces on and off the mat. If this applies to you perhaps make non-judgment an intention for your YTT. After all, yoga provides a nurturing space where you can let go and clear the way for a steady mind, free of criticism.
One last thing I would like to mention is fear of some poses like handstand or headstand. If you think you cannot do these just remember the word, “yet.” You cannot do them, yet. One of my teachers, Peter Guinosso, said that one day and it totally transformed my perspective.
More advanced yoga asanas are just that, they come as you advance your practice. Poses will slowly gracefully unfold within your body with dedication, awareness and time. Let me give you a firsthand experience of this.
My anxiety surrounding handstands arose at YTT as we were instructed to bring our mats to the walls to prepare for some handstand play. “Play?” I thought to myself. Handstands were anything but fun for me. So, as others inverted themselves in the air, I was left hopping on one leg, scared to come into a full handstand.
Needless to say, I left class that day filled with self-criticism and defeat. Yet, the next day I came into the studio prepared to face my fear of going upside down, a fear which had crippled me since childhood. This experience pushed me to practice without judgment and also take a dose of humble pie. I let the rest of the class in on the fact I had never come into a handstand against the wall and my teacher, Chrisandra Fox Walker, assisted me up into the inversion.
After facing my fear, I felt I was ready to practice handstand on my own. As I went to practice, a friend and fellow classmate, Alecia Brantley, suggested I move my hands closer to the wall. With this sound advice and already facing the fear of being upside down earlier that day, I finally came up into a handstand.
It is natural to feel intimidated going into yoga teacher training. However, just know that everyone is on the same page. Also remember, 200-hour yoga teacher training is a foundational course which provides a working knowledge of how each pose should feel in your body. Thus, when you leave training, you will feel confident in guiding yourself and others through yoga sequences and will have a deeper connection to the root of yoga. This is just the beginning of your journey into yoga. So, let go and enjoy the ride. You are ready for your yoga teacher training. Madly, deeply, truly, you are!
Trudy Collings is a student and teacher of yoga at Grass Valley Yoga and is currently studying at the California College of Ayurveda. Trudy believes that yoga and Ayurveda is for every body and hopes to assist people in establishing harmony from the inside out. Before becoming enveloped in yoga and Ayurveda, Trudy received her Bachelor degrees in Anthropology & English from the University of Florida. When she is not getting her asana on, absorbing the 5,000 year old wisdom of Ayurveda or blogging, you can find her whipping up a meal in her kitchen for herself and her husband, Brandt, throwing the Frisbee with her dog, Aiko, cuddling with her cat, Lita, or frolicking at musical gatherings with friends, new and old.
Editor: Sara McKeown