Yoga teaches us that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be, whether it means taking a beginner class at the local studio, packing for your yoga retreat in Costa Rica or planning the logistics for your first yoga teacher training.
I began my yoga journey from barely being able to touch my toes. I was in a class with four other people, all of whom were pushing 20 years on my measly 19-year old self. I didn’t understand the emphasis on even breathing, and frankly I acted like I was trying more than I actually tried. I left classes being relieved they were over, but I kept going back every couple weeks.
Later in college, I finally found a studio that I could attend regularly and began to connect to my teacher and her practice. She was effortlessly edgy and played music with a beat. I started to zone out and be present – hearing her directions and moving into them without having to look at the students around me. I found myself crying in hip opening poses and leaving classes with a different kind of relief; like I was leaving something behind.
Over the next few years, college became stressful. Balancing two jobs, a full class schedule and a couple failed relationships affected my mental and physical health more than I realized. I took Baptiste Power Yoga classes every evening to twist and sweat the anxiety the busy days would influence. It was a way for me to let go, leave behind and ensure I could get a deep sleep before doing it all over again.
Before I knew it, I was embarking on my last semester of college. I had made no plans for the next step, but I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down and attempt to start a career. I had traveled to Africa before college, and I knew I was due for a big trip. Yoga had become my biggest priority and hobby. My days would be planned around the evening class and watching Meghan Currie YouTube videos. I didn’t particularly have an interest in becoming a teacher, but I wanted to learn more in an intensive setting to be able to deepen my practice. I wanted to be able to create my own sequences without the direction of a teacher.
On one of those particular evenings watching Meghan Currie’s videos, I saw that she was leading a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training course on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua only a couple weeks after I would be graduating. I had no other options other than to apply, actively save every penny and go; it was the obvious next step. The photos showed beautiful bungalows on white beaches bordering the Caribbean only a matter of steps from our bedrooms. The studio space was set in the jungle, covered with giant lush leaves. I’d be sharing a room with three other students for 30 days, being lead through powerful, flowing classes by one of my biggest role models.
At least, that’s the details they tell you.
My expectations for the yoga teacher training were high. I wanted to focus on deepening my physical practice. I had an ego, and I was ready to feed it with the distraction of physical movement and loud music. After years of practice, I quickly learned that wasn’t yoga.
Even though there are plenty of benefits to exercise and sweating out toxins, it is only one part of the practice. What I thought I would learn about being on my mat wasn’t nearly as important as how I learned to be off the mat. That, is yoga.
What they don’t tell you is that any baggage you come in to the yoga teacher training with will be a prominent part of your classes; that the busy life full of distractions prior to won’t be an option any more. My last semester of college consisted of finals and an unexpected messy break up. One that left me dreading the next chapter in my life and made my once happily anticipated yoga teacher training seem less appealing.
It was difficult to stay positive during a wintery January. In Nicaragua, though, it was warm with new possibilities. The training forced me to give attention to the weight I had been carrying, rather than avoiding it; something that was crucial to my growth as a person. It taught me to stay positive in dark times and to be open to learning from my mistakes. More than anything, it taught me to not fear opening my heart.
They don’t tell you that that studio space was used for hours of personal discussion. Sitting in circles covering concepts more significant in yoga than the asanas, or poses. For me, speaking about vulnerability was too vulnerable. I found myself crying in discussions. I felt comfortable around this group of people, however I came off as seemingly petrified.
Our physical practice was put on hold. It’d be a treat if we were taught a class without breaking into workshops. I started to go crazy without my daily practices like I was used to. I had expected to be spending hours in movement. Instead, we spent hours in what felt like therapy. It was uncomfortable and made me want to find a boat and row my way to the mainland. I dreaded getting up in paradise because it meant another day of being intimate with my thoughts. The voice in my head telling me to run away was proof that I needed to stay.
What yoga tells us is that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be in our practice. During my training, the focus of my practice was taken off the mat. That month wasn’t for burning myself out with complex arm balances or inversions, my practice was in how I needed to be living my life: where it had been full of distractions and protecting myself by being closed off, I was learning to nurture myself and be vulnerable and open to what life brings.
What they don’t tell you is that you come into your yoga teacher training as one person, and you leave as another. They don’t tell you that you learn that your yoga practice is more than an hour in a classroom; you learn that yoga is a way of life. It’s the way you view the world, the people in it and yourself. You learn about compassion, intentions and breaking negative patterns and habits. Those breathing techniques aren’t just for mediating on your mat, they’re for sitting in heavy traffic and heated discussions with your boss.
My bungalow on the beach was just as beautiful as the photos portrayed. Those hours of uncomfortable discussions mended my broken heart and influenced me to grow into a better person. I expected a Yoga Teacher Training, but I received a lot more, and for that, I am grateful.
Ready to embark on a yoga teacher training of your own? Browse options all over the world here.