My journey to becoming a yoga teacher with Universal Yoga is nearly at an end, and it has been a busy year, so busy I have hardly had time to update my blog! I have practised more consistently than ever before, read a library of yoga books, written reflections and assignments on every aspect of the course and planned my weekly classes. I am now teaching a lovely class of eight people in a beautiful studio space, something I didn’t imagine would happen so soon. (On top of that, I have been writing a book, working full time and looking after my family, but that is another story…)
Yoga teacher training is bound to be an interesting and at times challenging journey, and I feel very privileged to have been able to take the time to dive deep into my own yoga practice, and to share the journey with such a wonderful group of people. Of course, I was practising yoga already, but now I have established a regular meditation and pranayama practice to supplement my asana practice. I have started practising early in the morning, something I had resisted for a long time, and this has helped me to be consistent rather than miss days of practice when I am busy.
I have done a few challenging poses that I didn’t think I could do, but more important, I have got better at listening to my body and adapting my asana practice to my own needs. I am coming to terms with the fact that my way forward with yoga is no longer doing challenging poses, but more about maintaining good health and slowing down the more negative effects of ageing. Meditation and asana have become my yin and yang – one is not complete without the other.
One of the real joys of this course was studying and discussing the Bhagavad Gita in a way that made it really relevant to every day modern life. At times we must all feel like a warrior on the battlefield who no longer wants to fight – all those doubts about whether teaching is the right way forward – and Bhagavad Gita is full of pearls of wisdom to help with living a wiser life. Having the opportunity to explore the history and philosophy of yoga has helped me to identify the values that I want to incorporate into my yoga practice and teaching, and my life.
Anatomy and physiology has been one of the most challenging aspects of course, and a subject that I feel I have only scratched the surface of. It’s definitely high on my list for continuous professional development. There is so much to learn, and every body is different.
Chanting has also been quite challenging for me. I have never felt confident to sing or chant without the safety of a group, and to lead the chant was quite daunting. But like many things in life, once I got over my initial self-consciousness, it became something I enjoyed doing.
I have made very special friends, and felt part of an amazing community of like- minded women who gave me the space to just be and offered me endless compassion and acceptance. I have unravelled and cried and felt energised and powerful, and I have also given myself permission to not feel energised, to rest and say no to work, to stop driving myself so hard (that is my toughest challenge!).
So I am nearly ready to be a fully qualified yoga teacher! It’s a time to reflect on why I started this journey and what I wanted to get from it. If I’m honest, I was never all that fussed about the teaching part of it, I just wanted to study yoga more deeply and improve my own practice, finding more tools to help in my own life. However, yoga has changed my life in many ways and I have enjoyed sharing that with others.
One of the things that has really surprised me is that teaching yoga gives a lot of the same benefits as practising! I teach on a Wednesday evening, and I often get to the end of my working day on Wednesday feeling tired, not really in the mood for teaching, but then when I teach, I get so absorbed in the class that all the tiredness and petty irritations drop away. By the end I feel as relaxed and energised as if I had practised the class myself. I am not sure why this is, because I don’t generally do the poses in the same way that the class do; I am moving around assisting or giving verbal instructions. I think, however, that teaching yoga requires a high level of mindfulness – both inner awareness and awareness of what every student is doing. The intention that I bring to teaching is very similar to the intention of my own practice, so the overall effect is very similar.
I love to share my interest in yoga with others and see them coming to that same place of peace, stillness and self-acceptance that I find on my own mat. Community is very important to me – I love being part of my yoga teacher training community, and I love the community of advanced practitioners that my old yoga teacher created (shame he moved to Brighton!). Now I am creating my own little yoga community on my doorstep of people who share the yoga values of cultivating compassion, inner peace , truthfulness, self-study and contentment through practice.
My aim is to create a group where people feel connection with each other and with the teacher, where they can experience peace, self-acceptance and self-nurturing, and where they can explore their potential – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As a careers professional, I have always been interested in how people can achieve their potential and I find so many parallels in yoga, which is also a technology for living well. I want to keep my class small, so that I can interact with each person and personalise their practice. I also want it to be a place where people talk to each other and know each other, rather than entering and leaving in silence (silence is lovely, but community is also important).
As I move forward with my yoga teaching, I want to make sure that I keep my own core values at the heart of what I do – creating community, helping people achieve their potential, sharing my love of the whole of yoga, accepting people where they are and helping people come to self-acceptance and self-compassion. I don’t want to get to the point where I no longer enjoy teaching yoga or it feels like a burden, or the point where I am so focused on teaching that I no longer enjoy my own practice.
Om shanti shanti shanti om!