Making Friends with Fellow Trainees.
In 2010, I along with 15 other people in my area decided to enroll in yoga teacher training. Over the next several months, I trained alongside and got to know this group. Overall, it was a positive experience and I truly enjoyed meeting them. I am still in touch with many of them or at least I’m Facebook friends with them.
Yet, for many who decided to enroll in teacher training, you may find that you have little in common with your fellow trainees other than the fact that we all decided to enroll in the program.
The types of people who decide to enroll in teacher training varies greatly. However, over the years, I have spoken to other friends and fellow instructors who have gone through training, and whether they did their training through big corporation yoga programs or small independent schools, there seemed to be certain kinds of people who popped up in teacher training time and time again.
With tongue firmly planned in cheek, here are some types of people you may encounter if you decide to take the plunge and get your certification:
1. The former corporate executive/high power professional
These tend to be middle aged people who, for years, worked the corporate grind. Financially speaking, many did very well or well-enough to eventually leave and do something for less money, but is far more “creative/liberating/fulfilling” than their old life. Usually, they first came to yoga because they heard it might help with a back injury, old sports injury, and/or just help with the strain that comes from sitting at a desk for the majority of a day. They will often say that yoga changed their lives for the better, and they could never dream of returning to their former lives. Many of them will go on to become successful instructors and/or studio owners, thanks to their corporate backgrounds.
2. The trophy spouse
Most of the time these are women, but a few men pop up from time to time. Many try to downplay their one percenter status, but it inevitably comes up when they discuss their holidays on St. Tropez, the trips to other places via private jet, or the multiple homes around the globe. You may be able to spot them because they tend to be clad in head to toe Lululemon and are the ones who will actually seek out a guru or star teacher as their primary teacher once training is over. (It makes sense, as they have the time and money to actually go and study with them for months at the time.) Typically, the spouse who foots the bill will not share their partner’s deep enthusiasm for yoga. Rather, they see it as a “hobby” and reason it’s cheaper than, say, sailing. It’s not usual for the other members of the group to never actually meet the spouse, as s/he is too busy working.
3. The young professional/spiritual seeker
This type tends to work in non-profit organizations. Usually, they are deeply spiritual and mention their difficulty with trying to combine work with trying to carve out time for a steady yoga practice. When asked if they plan to teach after practice, they may express a desire to teach free classes for low-income people, teach at a homeless shelter and/or eventually open a non-profit wellness center. Most people cannot help but like them.
4. The “my life is amazing” trainee
This sort will constantly tell you and everyone who will listen how amazing their spouse, children and lives are. Unlike the trophy spouse, most of these people are not very wealthy. However, they will share that they just got the kitchen renovated, bought a timeshare, or are planning a trip to Europe in the summer. Also, if Apple releases a new product during the training time, this person will get it and bring it to class. It’s also not uncommon for their “perfect” spouse or child(ren) to make an appearance, and for many to silently wonder if this person has a secret family they are talking about because said spouse and children bear an uncanny resemblance of an animal with its paw caught in a trap who is mulling over whether to chew it off and try to make a run for it or stay and endure the pain. Several hours with this person may cause one type to snap which brings me to #5.
5. The “I-Ain’t-Drinking-the-Kool-Aid” trainee
This person is usually very good at the physical practice and can perform all the asanas like a pro. S/he is usually certified in Pilates, aerobics or some other area of fitness. They view yoga primarily as a way to stay in shape. Usually, they will tolerate the chanting, philosophy discussions, but they may snap towards the end when many nerves are beginning to fray. Look for them during the open discussions when people are talking about the spiritual things they love about yoga muttering, “Man, do people actually believe this stuff? Really?!” Or when the “My Life is Amazing” person is discussing the fabulous, upcoming birthday party they are planning for their spouse and asks what to give them, they will reply in a serious deadpan, “A divorce.” Some people find this person humorous, others rude. Often they are a mix of both.
6. The New Age guy who secretly is there to pick up chicks
Most yoga trainees are women. This sort is the kind of dreamy, sensitive guy that most women go nuts over but especially the sort of women who typically get seriously into yoga. He usually is part of men’s group or a devotee of a popular form of self-help. He’ll talk about both a lot. When he thinks no one is looking, he’ll be checking out all the women under 40. Towards the end of training, he and another trainee may announce that they are dating and marvel how amazing it was that their paths came to pass here. He’s usually the man who loves the hands-on adjustment segments of training.
In a nutshell, yoga teacher training can be an amazing experience or it can be one of those things one looks back on and while they are glad they did it, have no desire to ever do again. If you end up being friends with your fellow trainees, then wonderful. If not, then don’t be disappointed. It really is luck of the draw in many cases. However, if you end up in a group with some or all of the people like I described above and they end up grating your nerves, just take some deep breaths and know training won’t last forever. You may even use it as a true indication of your yogic self and see if you can approach it with love, compassion and a sense of humor.
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Ed: B. Bemel
Photo: It’s Yoga Thailand