Personally, I’ve completed several 200-hour and 500-hour yoga teacher training programs, from beginner levels to advanced.
I’ve also led several programs. These taught me much about myself and undoubtedly shaped who I am today.
But the first one that I ever did was the one that really destroyed my life.
Let me explain.
Before I did my first teacher training program, I was fairly sure of what was going on in my little world. I was the girl from Japan, who lived in Canada, worked her 9 to 5, etc. I knew the kind of clothes I liked and I knew what was wrong and right. I had a good idea of who I was.
Then I signed up for my first yoga teacher training program. I remember nervously sitting in a circle of yogis as I waited my turn to introduce myself. In that moment, everything changed.
As I learned how to breathe, to meditate, to move my body in a certain way, I also learned how to rethink about who I was, where I was, and where I was going. I learned how to question my thoughts, my judgements, my common sense, my knowledge of the world within and outside of myself. I was introduced to the brand new ideas of self inquiry. The more I breathed and watched my mind, the more I was unsure of myself. I learned that I knew nothing. I started questioning every relationship I had and every word I used and heard.
I started questioning my own happiness. Up until that point, I thought I was fairly happy. Sure, a little more money would have been nice. But I had pretty much everything I had ever asked for. A good enough job, good relationships, a good house and a promising retirement plan.
Then a thought entered my mind:
Was I really truly happy or was I asleep and ignorant?
I felt desperate dread when I thought about working to save money for years to come and some day retire to travel around the world. I started dreading working in an office that overlooked the busy main street of the city day after day, 9 to 5, only to wait for the weekends.
But I wanted to be grateful for what I had. I knew not everyone had that sort of security. I was lucky. So I should have been happy—incandescently happy. And I realised I was not. My life didn’t suck and it was okay, but was I okay with an okay life?Was it possible that I could ask for more, to be truly happy right in this moment, totally fulfilled, satisfied and free? Or was I really to wait until my old age would dish out the benefits I worked for for so long?
My unhappiness became more and more clear to me. Then just as this realization started to hit me, changesbegan to happen, from jobs to relationships to my physical body. Everything that used to shape who I was started falling apart.
I blamed my ungrateful attitude for my misfortunes—I should have just been happy with what I had. There were times I was quite angry. Had I not learned the tools of self inquiry, I would have kept going with the already built up and automatic world I had created.
It was easy that way. There was no suffering, pain or confusion. But instead, my life as I knew it was being destroyed and I was lost.
A Buddhist teacher and social activist, Michael Stone talks about how meditation practice is about finding the moments during which you suspend your Self-Creating machine.
Well, that’s exactly what happened. My self-creating machine slowly stopped working automatically and it was scary at first. For the first time in my life, I felt out of control. I struggled, fought, denied and criticized before I could finally accept that I knew nothing.
Then everything was possible. I felt alive and free. Having the choice to question my thoughts gave me new found strength, freedom and integrity as an honest human being. I felt clean.
So yes, your yoga teacher training will destroy your life as you know it. And thank goodness, it did for me. I hope it does for you, too.
Author: Tomomi Kojima
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: The Yoga People/Flickr