“A little step may be the beginning of a great journey.” ~ Jennifer Denato
I’ve never loved teaching yoga.
The first time I was scheduled to lead a class, I was subbing for a very popular teacher. I barely slept the night before, and I was highly anxious in the morning. My system was paralyzed in fear. I don’t remember how it went down, but I managed.
The next time I taught, it was in an after-school program. I love children, so I thought this would be my niche…not quite. The class derailed. Forty-five minutes in, a girl and a boy were flat out punching one another in the back of the class. These two children owned my energy. I can still hear the echo in the room after I yelled, “Enough!” I went home and devoured an eight-ounce glass of red wine.
My third try lasted almost an entire year. I lined up a group of eight woman and offered weekly Monday morning classes. I had always hated being front and center, but I thought if I forced it on myself, I would wear out my disdain for the spotlight and totally own it. I was wrong. The class made me literally ill. I dreaded Mondays.
I wasn’t destined to be a yoga teacher, although I clung to the idea. I was afraid by not following through with it that it meant I was a failure. I put so much pressure on myself it took me a long time to actually understand that my training wasn’t so much about a new profession as it was about my own personal growth.
These are the three things I learned through my teacher training:
“Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish, and loneliness.” ~ Indra Devi
Some people learn discipline at a young age by growing up in home lives that are consistently structured. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are predictable; homework is always at the same time, and it’s the same sports, same seasons, every year.
That wasn’t my family. We were travelers during the summer months and lived with a sense of unpredictability overall. This lent to informal meals, varied bed times, and a “take things as they come” attitude.
Learning discipline became an ongoing pursuit through my 20s and 30s—one that paralleled my yoga journey. My practice lacked this skill set, which drove me nuts. Months of steady yoga were often followed by months of chips, chocolate, and alcohol.
After decades of getting myself on the mat, I decided it was time to doing a yoga teacher training. The mere act of committing to my training meant I was accountable to someone—and through accountability, I found discipline. It was such a good tool to learn—my life flourished, both on and off the mat. Discipline was like this long-lost friend that leaned into my life to help me meet my goals. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I found it.
2. Strength and flexibility.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” ~ Muhammad Ali
Yogis are often expected to be able to bend and contort in every direction. Throughout my practice, I have wrestled with that expectation many times over. I found disappointment in not being able to achieve peak postures. Not until I took my training, did I realize a powerful tip: Some of us have strength, and some of us have flexibility—and both are to be celebrated.
Being able to move effortlessly from Chaturanga Dandasana through to a handstand, and then, to sit comfortably in Lotus Pose is a dream for most of us. All of our bodies are all different. Our legs and arms vary in length as does our width. A posture that is easy for some can require props and adjustments for another.
Some bodies are strong and can achieve Crow Pose, and some are limber and find complete grace in Dancer Pose. None of us are the same, and this realization helped me to stop chasing certain poses and understand we are all perfect in our own right.
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” ~ Henry Adams
I loved that my yoga teacher grew up in India. It gave me a sense of authenticity throughout the training. He would often relay stories to us about his life. I remember one particular story of a wise old lady who held a tiger at bay with a large walking stick and her willful fierce nature.
Something about the courage that story demonstrated was mimicked in the insights he shared about yoga—particularly when we learned difficult poses. The day we studied headstands, the room was vibrating with nervous excitement; I was struggling, and he came to assist me.
He looked me in the eye and expressed his confidence in my ability, making it seem impossible that I wouldn’t be able to achieve it. Without hesitation, I kicked straight up into the pose. That moment still stands out to me as a reminder that courage is the greatest force to reckon with when it comes to addressing difficult life experiences.
Things don’t always turn out the way we originally foresee. It often takes abandoning our preconceived notions of what we think the end goal will be, in order to embrace the wisdom that is right in front of us. My yoga teacher training didn’t lead me down the path I thought it would, but it did offer me more than I could have ever hoped for.
“Teaching is not an imposition of the teacher’s will over that of the pupil, not at all. Teaching starts with freedom and ends with freedom.” ~ Vanda Scaravelli
Author: Kristen Dobson
Image: Max Pixel
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Callie Rushton
Social editor: Danielle Beutell