There’s always a moment at the end of every yoga teacher training program when a key life learning hits me square on the head. Hard. You’d think after shepherding hundreds of individuals through the process that a day would come when I’d have gotten all there was to get from it. Not yet. Training in this way is like life and purposeful work and anything else that makes deep meaning: it’s a process. You don’t have to be anything (flexible, book smart, holy) to enter into it, and you don’t have to be anything (guru-like, perfect, flexible) when you come out. The only thing required is a willingness to participate, a willingness to be there and be vulnerable.
This is both the surprise and the magic of a yoga teacher training. At first glance, it looks like school, and it certainly is, but it’s much more. Students learn anatomy, philosophy, Sanskrit and so on and they are tested on it. They have homework and reading and they complete it. They learn to direct a group and they practice doing it. But the part that makes it worth their time, energy and effort is their willingness to step into a group as an adult and to openly learn about their differences, similarities, and pre-conceived notions. This is all happening underneath the book learning. It is not something we as the temporary shepherds coordinate. That’s why I called it magic.
Just like the practice of accentuating the pause between the out-breath and in-breath, the course is a dedicated pause. Just like the practice of watching the mind, the course is a compassionate glance at what lies beneath the surface of our daily, pre-packaged selves. Most of us don’t afford ourselves ten minutes of checking in per day but when we do we call it life changing. Well, imagine allowing oneself 200 hours to tune in as opposed to out, to feel rather than numb, to look in the mirror rather than hide under the covers mumbling, “I don’t have time to really see myself today.” It’s no wonder that lives are elevated, redirected to a healthier course, or dedicated to the service of self-care and connection with others upon leaving the studio on the last day. I’ve seen a glint return to the eyes of hundreds of people from different countries, backgrounds, ages and stages. It’s an honor to see and it lights me up again… because I too forget.
We all need this, to be hit on the head with life learnings once in a while. I read a lot, think a lot and spend a fair amount of time in quiet but I still find that the key elements to deep understanding and potential change as a participating member of society (and not a hermit) lie waiting in a combination of physical movement, breath, focus, challenging work and community support. People find this through team sports, mission trips, family rituals and other activities. Yoga teacher training is another highly effective way to find this flow. Those that are a match for this kind of self-inquiry tend to have an inner hint that it’s right for them when they take a moment to listen.
No matter how often I complain or reassert that it might not be the path for me, yoga practices always find me at my lowest and are always a part of my path when I’m operating at my best. I automatically use the breathing tools to calm my mind when I can’t settle. I naturally put my legs up the wall after a long day on my feet. I repeat soothing phrases when my thoughts go reeling like a big fish on the line. It works. It takes me home wherever I may be. This is the heart of the trainings I lead with Ana. The goal is always to educate individuals so that they can safely teach these tools to anyone, from a hyper-active teen to a bedridden elder. It is also my intention that the students in training be able to adapt the tools to themselves across their own lifespans. That way when their lives gets busy and cluttered, loud and messy, they too can always tune in and find their way back home. Magic.