I blame it on the rain. A magnificently timed storm that forced my sister and I to change our plans from heading out to the Whitewater Center and watch the fireworks ahead of the July 4th holiday. Instead, ensconced in my apartment, surrounded by thunder and gloriously cooling droplets, we settled in for an episode of House Hunters International, set in Bali.
A newly certified yoga teacher was on the path toward finding a new home after a breakup left her so devastated she had to move across the ocean to start fresh. During the commercial break, my ever-blunt sister turned to me and said: “you love yoga, why not become certified and see where it takes you? Teaching on a beautiful tropical beach isn’t a bad life.”
It was one of those moments where the clutter in your mind suddenly parts. I turned to her and simply said: “you’re right.”
Being new in town, I’d been searching. Like the teacher in the episode, I was looking for a place to belong, a voice of my own, a spiritual path to follow. I started asking my coworkers where they practiced and whether they knew about teacher training. As the universe conspires to provide once you set your intention, a friend’s wife pointed me to Be Yoga’s Be Inspired teacher training. I started taking classes at the studio, which of course, was conveniently close to my apartment. The first time I walked in, Allison Modafferi Brewster talked about saucha, or purity. I had just had a difficult day and listening to her theme, working through my issues using my body, breath, mind, transported me to a different state. I knew this was the right place for me. While in janu sirsasana (seated tree pose), I felt that I’d come home.
Though while I found comfort in my initial classes, I also found discomfort in yoga’s signature pose: downward facing dog. It would be a harbinger of things to come. As I walked in to the first teacher training session I was equally excited and nervous: would I measure up, would my practice be strong enough, would I find my voice?
I thought I knew what I was signing up for. I figured it would be a spiritual learning – meditation in movement. What I learned on the first night surprised me. The awareness my fellow trainees already had (and we had such a long way still to go), the issues we were confronting and the sheer amount of knowledge we agreed to take on threatened to overwhelm. Still, like any asana practice, we settled in to a theme, a sankalpa (intention) and a breathing exercise that helped us understand we’d attempt this one pose, one task, one concept at a time.
My struggle came midway through training. We’d started teaching the familiar Sun Salutes. Those fabulously welcome heat-building sequences that make so many of us strong from the inside out. Stressed out that I had to get up in front of an accomplished group of women and lead them, I came up with all sorts of scenarios I’d rather go through. I’d prefer to give a presentation to my corporate partners, I told my coworkers. Anything but stand, no props, vulnerable, with my voice and my brain as my only crutches.
I had to trust that it would all come together. The mind, body, breath connection we’re so fond of doesn’t just work while we’re on our mats. If we’re truly living our yoga, it finds us in our most vulnerable moments. It’s what helps us get through those sheer terror situations and what helps us appreciate the times of pure joy in our lives. I’d never felt as if I’d been more present as I have since I’ve embarked on my training.
My instructors, Greg LaBarbara and Marcia Brown, are fond of saying they wish we had another term for teacher training. And I agree with them. While the aspects of ingesting material and learning applications is very much part of the process, what we’ve truly experienced is a life change. I’ve been able to tap into layers so deep because I felt that for the first time I gave myself permission to see myself for who I am.
Shedding my branded skin, I’m able to see who I’ve always been on the inside. To connect with the innate qualities that make me who I am and to work on those that need improving. Not because they’re not good enough, but because I’d like to breathe more life into them, become a better human, connect more.
I recently shared with my teachers and mentor that I’ve learned more about life, myself and my path, in the last 10 months than I have in the whole time I’ve been alive. My motto for the past few years – and especially through this training – has been “just say yes.” As I graduate, I take with me two concepts that will serve me as I walk further down the road: learn to be comfortable in your discomfort, because it’s in this space that growth truly happens. When we are open to exploring we can come to deeply insightful realizations.
And as I roll up my mat for the last time at studio air and bid farewell to my Svadhyaya sisters, I leave them with this thought: as we go on with our lives, run from appointment to appointment and the mat feels far away, remember that we’re all just a breath, just a thought, just an asana away from our connection. “The pose never ends.” – Rolf Gates.Check out our 2015-2016 Be Inspired Teacher Training