5 life lessons I learnt on Yoga Teacher Training
Revolutions in life may occur overnight or at a single point in time. Evolutions however are a process. A process by which it takes some time for whatever life-transforming event has occurred to plant its seed within and germinate…
It’s been just over a month since I completed my yoga teacher training (YTT)… and three weeks since I’ve put on my suit again and got back into my ordinary life – chopping wood, carrying water I am indeed again.
I’m glad I’ve taken the time to let it sink it in and observe the world around me. Jules, one of the training organisers, said to us by email afterwards:
“Take time to let everything that you learned and experienced settle in, it’s a process”,
and its true. I could’ve written at the time and described the incredible highs I felt, the downright lows and that ‘get me out of here’ feeling, and everything in-between, when things were just ‘fine’. However that wouldn’t be fair – those are simply emotions that come and go. Yes, they are real, yet they needed to be let go…
I was told by our yoga teacher that all I ever am is that ‘I am’ (?). Puzzling eh? Whilst this lends itself to an interesting philosophical discussion about the nature of human exisstence and who we really are, what’s even more important is to look at what has really happened to ‘me’ on YTT.
Here’s 5 things I learnt from my yoga teacher training in the month of October in Bali.
1. I Found My Voice
During the training, the expression ‘pineapple’ was shouted by people as a polite way of saying:
‘I can’t hear you!‘
It was quite a coincidence then that I just happened to have a tropical t-shirt covered in pineapples.
Speaking up and being heard had never been one of my fortes. I’ve never been the life of the party. In fact, I’ve actively avoided situations where I’ve had to speak up in front of others. It’s not something I’m naturally gifted at. In the workplace, being amongst senior people I have often reserved my thoughts to myself. I’m not the only one – they say that giving presentations is one of the biggest fears that people have in life. It’s about being exposed, your ego at its most vulnerable.
In a new environment on a teacher training, full of people I had never met before, this was not easy for me. The great thing about teacher training is that it forces you to find your voice. There’s no hiding places, no corners, no bullshit, no nothing. It’s just you, your prospective teacher buddies and our master, together in THE Shala.
This new voice I’ve taken with me – I find it in the office place, in meetings, in social gatherings. It’s clear, it’s articulate and it knows what it wants. When I want courage to draw upon and speak up, I go back to the training. It is my “Rock of Gibraltar”.
2. Where There is an Obstacle, There is the Opportunity
When people ask me how was the training, I respond ‘incredible’. I feel reborn, a new perspective on life and the new opportunities that I now have. However, I also note the enormous challenges I faced and the difficult times I endured in order to finish the training. I look back and think “I did that” – I feel different on the inside. Yet, during the process it was anything but a smooth ride. In fact, it was downright “torturous”. Our teacher described it as “suffering in paradise”; and we were. By a beautiful tropical beach, but physically and mentally going through so much.
The lesson then is simple: where there is resistance, gravitate towards it. Because the reward is far greater than the suffering you endure going through it. ‘To the other side’ as I liked to refer to the prospective transformation I knew I was about to witness before going on the training.
3. Safety is Everything
If you have no mobility, you have no yoga practice. It is as simple as that. What then encourages us to try to push ourselves to the limit, all in the name of a pose? In general, what makes us do crazy shit, sometimes all in the name of a photo or to get attention? It’s madness..
What I learnt is that the practice of yoga is rich and diversified enough without wanting to compromise my own health and safety. By all means push yourself, but do it within your own limitations, Have a spotter, know your boundaries, find your edge, but do it safely. The same goes with life really.
When I see people on Instagram in advanced poses, and their body is dangerously out of alignment, I shudder at the thought – that used to be me. Now I think otherwise: Tripod, crow sequence, is definitely off the agenda, for now.
4. I’m Free
When you find your dharma, you find your raison d’être. I don’t know if teaching yoga is it for me, but I know that I enjoy it. I have rediscovered the art of learning, and above all, I have a subject matter about which there is endless knowledge across so many traditions. I also have a choice of a new career, or two careers blossoming into an interesting proposition: A life long fascination awaits me.
5. We are just ‘Beings’
In my deepest, (and sometimes) darkest moments on the training, I often sat on some swings which were opposite the beach, close by the Shala.
After our last session of Yin Yoga, which finished at 9:30PM, I would often watch the stars sparkle in the clear skies, free from light pollution frequently suffered by large cities. I would listen to the sound of the ocean sweeping by me – there was movement, there was sound, and there was just me. Amongst nature and on a deep period of introspection, I realised that our real purpose in life is to just be. Our worlds may be transformed by technology – some say we are in the ‘Age of Babylon’ where the mind is our master, but nothing will eclipse what makes us truly what we are: Living, sentient, human beings.
There are other lessons I learnt: I didn’t tell you that my biggest fear materialised when I got sick as a dog for almost three weeks with a whooping cough to match (the irony being that I spent months preparing myself NOT to get sick, I guess my subconscious didn’t hear the ‘NOT’ part), but I just kept going because I wanted it so badly.
I didn’t tell that I cried like a man, but I knew that I had to get it out of me and turn up to graduate.
I didn’t tell you of the fears that I faced, but that I soon realised nearly everyone else had those same fears: Fear of failing.
What I have told you about my yoga teacher training experience is straight from the heart. It’s an incredibly challenging, daunting ordeal to go through. But at the same time, incredibly rewarding too.
Special thanks to our teacher, Nico Luce who skillfully guided us for the whole month and brought the teacher out of me and to Jules and Rachel from Exhale Yoga Retreats for being incredible, caring hosts and making our teacher training experience, whilst daunting, a hell of a lot of fun as well – ‘Jungle Dance’ will stay with me forever!