Important Lessons I Learned During Yoga Teacher Training
I decided to become a certified yoga teacher when I was in my senior year of high school. I had been practicing yoga for two years and I was ready to share my love of yoga with others.
My local yoga class offered a Registered Yoga Teacher Training and my teacher suggested that I try it. I signed up without giving a second thought about balancing it with my schoolwork. I knew it would be difficult, but I felt like I was meant to do it. It was a 200-hour certification that took place over five months. It was one of the most transformative times of my life, and here are the biggest life lessons I learned from it.
I am a very active person and I love high-energy activities. My favorite yoga classes are Ashtanga and Vinyasa because you move through the postures quickly. I hated the days in training when we practiced Yin and Restorative yoga because we would stay in poses for so long. I literally could feel my anxiety building as I would hold a pose for four minutes.
But everything changed during one random Yin class. I was in pigeon pose for what seemed like forever when I suddenly felt my whole body completely relax. All the physical and emotional tension in my body melted away. I realized I had been distracting myself from my anxiety by keeping busy, but I avoided the problem and made it worse. I could only cope with the stress when I let myself sit with my emotions and breathe into them.
Stop Comparing Yourself
"Eyes on your mat" is a saying in yoga. It means that you should stay focused on your practice and not worry about the other yoga students. I only became self-conscious when I started to compare myself to the other people in the class, which applies to all areas of life.
I was lost in high school and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. All my friends were confident in their post-graduation plans and I felt unprepared compared to them. I was angry that I wasn't sure what career I wanted to pursue or where I should apply for college. Yoga helped me realize I only felt like I was behind because I was comparing myself to others. It's human nature to compare yourself to other people, but it only leads to self-doubt and jealousy. When you stay focused on yourself and your journey, you will become more confident.
Take Better Care of Your Body
I struggled with body image issues throughout middle and high school. I didn't take good care of myself because I wasn't happy with how I looked. I didn't eat enough and I ran for at least an hour every day until I injured myself. I began to feel at peace with myself when I started yoga.
The point of yoga isn't to just improve your flexibility or agility. It's about improving your relationship with your body and taking care of yourself in all ways. I felt the most confidence when I was on the mat because it was just me, my body and my spirit moving together. Yoga didn't completely cure my body image issues. Still, it helped me feel more confident in myself. Yoga reminded me that I needed to take better care of myself, mentally and physically.
Meditation is Key
The importance of mediation is well-known. It can increase self-awareness, decrease anxiety, improve memory, aid in a healthy sleep schedule and promote overall well-being. However, it's challenging to maintain a consistent meditation practice.
Part of the teacher training included a regular meditation practice and meditation classes. I learned how to let my thoughts come and go without judgment. It was easier for me to stop worrying about the future and ground myself in the present. The post-meditation glow is not a joke. People have noticeably different energy after they meditate. I try to practice meditation to this day, even if it's just a few moments, because it is beneficial to your health.
Be More Aware
I was not genuinely knowledgeable about yoga's history and significance before my teacher training. Yoga has a rich history with religious and cultural meaning that dates back over 5,000 years to Ancient India. We usually focus on the physical part, the poses, but we miss the other important aspects of the practice.
There are eight limbs of yoga, which form the foundation of a meaningful life. The limbs are ethical standards (yama), personal observances (niyama), poses (asana), breathwork (pranayama), withdrawal of senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and samadhi (bliss and union). It has a vibrant history and a profound spiritual connection. I needed to learn this so I could acknowledge the culture of the practice and avoid cultural appropriation. Learning about yoga's history and spiritual ties taught me to be more aware of cultures and their influences in our everyday life. It's essential to not only broaden our views but to respectfully engage with other cultures without co-opting their traditions.
Stop Limiting Yourself
I didn't think I would be able to balance school and yoga training at the same time. I couldn't imagine having the time or discipline to log 200 hours of yoga practice. It was mentally and physically taxing, mostly when I practiced Ashtanga multiple times a week. Ashtanga was very challenging for me when I started yoga because it's a rigorous practice with 108 postures and a lot of breathwork. It required strength and intention, and I wasn't very flexible or focused. Even though I was discouraged, I attended class and practiced challenging postures at home.
Eventually, I moved past the primary series of postures and began the intermediate series. Ashtanga taught me that I could do more than I thought and empowered me. I balanced my teacher training and school work with more confidence. It's important to remember that sometimes the only limits we face are the limits we place on ourselves.
It's Okay to Make Mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes during yoga teacher training. I accidentally ended the class 20 minutes early. I forgot I was teaching one day and missed a class. I forgot the names of some poses. As a perfectionist, it was so embarrassing that I made mistakes. I always felt like I was letting my yoga teacher down.
However, the more I studied and practiced yoga, the more I realized there are no mistakes. There are only moments of learning. This is something I am still working on to this day. There are times where I am very hard on myself, but I remind myself that just like yoga, life is a practice. If you fall out of a pose, you get back in.
Are you interested in learning more about meditation and mindfulness? Check out this interview with meditation expert Josephine Atluri. She explains how breathing exercises help you deal with stress and suggests meditation tips!