Yoga Teacher Training & Making Peace with Process

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Hello readers! Over a month ago I promised you regular updates about my experience in Yoga Teacher Training, and I’m sorry to say I’ve failed miserably at providing you with those. I think one reason I’ve found it difficult to write regular updates is because I actually needed a bit of a break from processing. See, I have to write journal entries after every yoga class I take (often more than one a day), and after every training session we have. That’s a lot of written reflection! So it felt challenging to figure out a concise way to discuss it in a post.

But I’m making this a priority, because it is just too wonderful not to share with you! First, I’ll just give you a little snapshot of the logistics: we have training 3 times a week, and are required to take at least 5 yoga classes a week, two of which are “C1” classes (a beginning Vinyasa Power Yoga class, the style we’re being trained to teach). Our early training sessions focused mostly on teaching us the basic sequence of a C1, getting familiar with the poses, and the method of instruction (“Verb, Body Part, Direction!”). More recently, we’ve started delving into some of the juicier aspects of yoga: the philosophy of yoga, Ayurveda, anatomy, hands-on adjustments, etc. It’s 8 weeks long, and by our graduation day on August 5th, we’ll all have 200-hour Yoga Alliance certifications!

So how am I liking it? Well, at the risk of being totally predictable and utterly cliche: the experience I’ve been having in teacher training has been truly transformative. But before you roll your eyes, let me explain what I mean by that. This doesn’t mean I feel like a brand new person, or that I necessarily had any life-altering epiphanies, but it does mean that I am more in tune with my body, with my emotions, and more comfortable with the fact that “transformation” is a process. Thus, I’ve started to realize that even these subtle changes I’ve seen take place in my life are actually kind of a HUGE deal because they are shaping me on this journey that is a never-ending process, a never-ending practice. Training has ingrained in me more than ever that what we do in the yoga room translates seamlessly into the real world.

Let’s take my headstand practice, for example. Getting my body physically and emotionally ready for the challenge of the headstand inversion was a slooooow process. The first several months of my Vinyasa yoga practice, I totally peaced out during “inversion playtime.” While experienced yogis around me seemed to float their legs effortlessly above their head, I would either resort to child’s pose, or maybe play around with my crow pose. Several months in, I had a teacher insist that we all practice our inversions against the wall. Of course, my ego had been too large to go to a wall without the direct command, and so this wall headstand was the first time I ever had my feet above my head, and ever got to experience the sensation of the posture in my body.

And I sort of fell in love. So, in every class after, I would attempt the pose. Fortunately, in the beginning, I struggled so much and so obviously that many teachers would come over to spot me, giving me the confidence to take the pose. Now, almost a full year after I first attempted an inversion, I’m able to hold the pose on my own….

Sometimes.

Some days, it’s just as scary. And one time, after a week or so of strong headstands, I ended up falling over and hitting the floor with a startling, hard thump. That scared me off of trying them for several weeks after.

And that’s just like life, isn’t it? Teacher training didn’t turn me into Kris Carr–(for those of you who don’t get that reference, just fill it in with “a glowing goddess who is always positive, never eats anything “bad,” and is just overflowing with good vibes”). But teacher training has taught me that, really, Kris Carr probably isn’t always Kris Carr. And that’s neither good nor bad, it just is, and whatever “is” is exactly as it should be.

That doesn’t mean that if we’re not happy with what “is” that we can’t work to change it. On the contrary, yoga gives us the tools to do exactly that. But part of that tool box includes forgiveness and compassion for ourselves and for others if when we mess up. And by accepting that, I’ve found it a lot easier to succeed at being the kind of person I want to be in the world. I keep thinking, “I want people to meet me and not be surprised that I’m a (soon to be) yoga teacher.” And that motivation makes it easy to walk through life with more loving energy.

Of course, I have been learning these lessons as a student of yoga since my first Bikram class in 2009. But teacher training has provided my “Type A” personality with a framework that better enables me to internalize them. I respond well to structure, so having assignments to read yoga material, write yoga reflections, and practice even more than usual has been incredibly helpful for me. And the grad student in me is just sooo stoked to get to study for our upcoming test! Yes, in addition to demonstrating our ability to teach through instructing a mock yoga class, we also have a written test that will cover all of the amazing material we’ve been learning.

And as I’ve discovered as a professor, there is no better way to learn something than to teach it. And who better to teach than you, my lovely blog readers who might actually be interested in it!  So, in the next two weeks, I’ll be doing posts that will also act as study-guides for me (in addition to my usual recipes, Friday Fives, etc.). The first one on deck: the philosophy of yoga, “the Eight-Limb Path.”

I’ll post that later this week, but check back before then for a recipe! : )

Any readers out there thinking about teacher training? Any questions you’d like to see me address in future posts?

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8 thoughts on “Yoga Teacher Training & Making Peace with Process

  1. Lou says:

    Oh I LOVE this post…. I’m aiming to start my teacher training this coming January…. I am so so excited, so I really appreciate you posting your experiences/reflections here.

    One question…. is there anything that you have REALLY struggled with in the course? By that I mean, a certain asana… your own body’s limitations etc, etc?

    Sounds fab, I’m sure you will make a kick ass teacher :)

    • raechel says:

      Oh, I’m so glad you like! And I’m so excited for you to start training! You won’t regret it! :)

      That’s a good question….The things I’ve struggled with….In terms of asanas, because we’re learning to teach beginning yoga, the poses themselves aren’t terribly challenging for most of us. That being said, we are encouraged to take modifications during the classes we take on our own so we learn to better prepare ourselves to teach those modifications. Restraining myself from my usual desire to push myself to my edge has actually been a big challenge! It allows me to practice “tapas,” or, the heat of restraint (part of the 8 Limb Path!)!

      It’s also so physically demanding (so many yoga classes, on top of my usual HIIT exercise), that I can tell I’m not always nourishing myself as well as I should. Especially in the summer heat, I sometimes feel worn out. BUT! Being more in tune with my body, I recognize that very early on, and I find ways to fix it. : )

  2. Beth @ Tasty Yummies says:

    This post made me soooo happy. I too am considering getting my teacher certification, but it is going to be a year or two off for me. I need to save up some money and wait until we have the made the big move to California since life is up in the air right now.
    It is definitely nice to read a real opinion of the process and I look forward to reading more. I have been practicing Vinyasa yoga daily for over 2 years now and I have fallen in love with it and I too, just from my practice, have felt a massive transformation and rebirth of myself. I feel like I am able to look at life in a whole new way, all because of yoga. I honestly cannot wait for the day that I am able to go through this process. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, what an honor to be able to read a first-hand reflection on the process. Namaste.

    • raechel says:

      I’m so glad you like the post! And I’m excited for you to go on your teacher training journey when it’s a good time! I guarantee that all the amazingness you feel as a student now will be heightened through training. (Which doesn’t seem possible, right?!). Namaste to you too! : )

    • Lou says:

      What an awesome comment…. Beth – you wrote what I was thinking and too clumsy to put it so eloquently! Namaste to both of you lovely ladies :)

  3. Gabby @ the veggie nook says:

    I love this post too :) I am considering getting my teacher training when I’m done my Holistic Nutrition course in a year so this post is so inspiring! It just makes me want to get my certification more!

    Since I started yoga I have felt a huge transformation in myself in that I am a much more compassionate individual- towards myself and others. I am more likely now to not become frustrated by my own limitations or those of others. It’s such a refreshing outlook on life I find so much more enjoyment from life because of it!

    I hope you keep updating us on your journey!

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