If you would have told me a year ago that what just happened would happen, I probably would have told you to go namaste yourself. But, alas, it DID happen.
I have just become a yoga teacher, diploma and all. After completing a quasi-sadistic Ashtanga teacher training course in India, (a country which had been quite low on my travel bucket list, but which I have now fallen in love with), I am now basking in the afterglow, tired limbs and all.
Which just goes to show that life has its own way of keeping you on your toes, even if you’re no ballerina.
I can hardly believe we got through it. It was touch and go there for a while, and I must admit I had more than a few moments of doubt.
To say that I am elated would be the understatement of the year. I’m too fundamentally tired (and sore) to PHYSICALLY do the dance of joy, but trust me when I say that mentally, I’m jumping off the yoga compound walls. My emotions have been on such a crazy ride over the past four weeks, that my current contentment seems almost like a flatline compared to those peaks and valleys.
In fact, I peaked two days before graduation, floating on an emotional magic carpet ride leading up to, and following my last full-class teaching practicum. I won’t go as far as to say I was enlightened, but I certainly WAS elated.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had to teach increasingly longer and more elaborate asana classes to our 30+ fellow classmates (while being thoroughly evaluated by our teachers). Let me just say that I have a new appreciation for every yoga teacher I’ve ever had.
They make it look so easy! I thought that being used to speaking/presenting in front of people (having taught people who didn’t speak English for three years in Korea, and in recent years, being accustomed to countless client presentations in my current advertizing/communications profession) would mean that teaching yoga would be a cakewalk.
I very quickly realized that teaching while (sometimes) standing on your head is definitely NOT the same as presenting creative concepts in a boardroom. Once again this yogabender showed me how much I DIDN’T know.
I never knew how much preparation, knowledge and vigilance it takes to teach yoga, and how many things you juggle at once during a class filled with actual people!
Getting up there and knowing your class sequence, communicating entrance /exit cues for 30-50 asanas, (while keeping your students safe, motivated, energized, adjusted and informed), demonstrating postures and modifications, circulating around the room providing props, checking alignment and doing physical adjustments, constantly surveying the class and keeping a steady, seamless rhythm and flow while never appearing as if you aren’t 200% confident in what you’re saying, well… it’s not such a cakewalk after all.
Rattling off anatomy terms, sanskrit words, physical/mental benefits and keeping breath counts so your students don’t hate you for making them stay in painful poses for excessive amounts of times, NOT so easy.
Oh ya, and trying not to face-plant while you’re blabbering away balancing on your arms, head or hands, trying to maintain eye contact? Much harder than it looks.
Who knew that teaching a yoga class would entail multitasking like a champ? Not I!
In fact, I was surprised how nerve-wracking the first few times up there were. There were so many verbal components we needed to include in our class sequences, that we naturally had no choice but to develop our own creative learning methods…
I was also surprised to see that other people, well weathered in challenging careers such as reporting, producing, directing, consulting and lecturing were also scratching their heads trying to figure out WHY doing our practicums was more unnerving and stress-inducing than any presentations in our professional settings. We’re still scratching.
Of course, being evaluated on your every gesture, micromovement, vocal tone and verbal tics (my favorite apparently seems to be “we’re gonna…”), as well as a million other factors while you’re up there doesn’t make it any easier, nor do simultaneous critiques from four teachers in front of the entire class.
Being called out on every little slip-up or missed breath in front of 30+ people not only makes you humble, but it puts you in an unfamiliar and vulnerable situation you most likely haven’t found yourself in since elementary school.
Like it or not, these critiques were invaluable, helpful, and necessary. Our teachers were so thorough, knowledgeable and motivating with their tough love, that we benefitted immensely from their meticulous (and sometimes harsh) feedback. By the end, we were sailing.
It makes perfect sense, since you are, after all, dealing with people’s bodies and minds; not only are you trying to keep them from getting injured, but you are also trying to have them leave your class a little better off than when they came in.
After 200 hours spent absorbing, studying and practicum-ing, by the time my final teaching session came, I felt nothing but excitement and eagerness to put everything I learned to good use one last time. I felt beyond ready. To my great surprise, I was no longer nervous…
I woke up that morning in an oddly unfamiliar total-zen state, and was so comfortable with the sequence, that I was able to get up there and just be me.
And when it was over, I wanted to do it again.
The chatter in my head had fallen silent. There were no internal voices telling me what I had to do. Everything just flowed out naturally. I don’t quite remember it, but I got wonderful feedback, so it must have been okay.
It was an amazing feeling, and beyond rewarding to realize that going forth, there is such a sense of meaning, connection and sense of pure joy in sharing this wonderful practice with others.
There was such a vibe of mutual encouragement, understanding and support among the yoga teachers-to-be, that by the end, we all looked like cracked out ecstasy junkies with silly perma-grins on our faces. It’s a hard feeling to describe.
As it all began gradually sinking in, (the realization that with each passing day, class, hour and minute, we were were inching closer to the end of this yoga bender), we used our last bursts of quickly-dwindling energy to ride the adrenaline wave towards the finish line.
As our energy levels became increasingly higher (borderline manic, to be more precise), it seriously felt like being in an Ibiza rave, but without the drugs. The silly perma-grins on our faces, mixed with our aching-body grimaces, would have probably made for an interesting reality TV show, but not very flattering selfies.
When all the aspects of our rigid month-long routine became lasts (as in “last written assignment, last workshop, last meditation class, last anatomy class, last student-led class, last carb breakfast, last ceremony, and FINALLY (my favourite) LAST CHANT!!!!! , the nearly there post-yoga school high really kicked in.
Still, even with diploma in hand, I couldn’t REALLY believe that it was over.
Until today, the morning after. The fact that we DIDN’T have to wake up at 5:00 am and spend the morning in silence got my attention. Putting on my bikini (instead of paper sac uniform) and leaving the compound for an egg breakfast on the beach (instead of carbs, carbs, and more carbs served with a side of carbs) drove it home.
The realization that for the first day in a month, my body will not be doing yoga for hours on end, REALLY REALLY gave me something to chew on.
Every bone, muscle and joint I own hurts. My brain is mush, she needs to rest. I’d be lying if I said that I was sad it’s over, because I’m not. I’m done with it. I’m so happy I had this experience, but now I’m more than ready to enjoy my post-yoga vacation bender in my own way.
In fact, at the end, Stacy and I were so utterly braindead and oversaturated with human interaction, that we opted out of the post-yoga drinking party and instead celebrated THE END with an antisocial sunset and cheap beach bindis, followed by massages.
Mandrem was starting to feel a bit clausterphobic. I’m over it now.
So, for the next week, I’ll be sleeping, reading and stretching out my achy body in Aswem, a beautiful little beachtown twenty minutes away from where we’ve been yoga-ing.
It’s time to process this experience, and I’m so happy to have time here to digest the life-changing lessons of the past month’s yoga vortex. It’s been the most surreal, challenging and profound 30 consecutive days of my entire life. Now that’s something for me to chew on, aside from all the protein I plan on consuming.
Before signing off to go mull over all the wisdom I acquired in yoga jail, I’ll leave you with this: I take off my proverbial hat to all the yoga teachers I’ve ever had.
Now I get why you’re all so frikkin’ blissed out all the time.
Regardless of how they got to that place (I hope not all had to get there through as much difficulty as our Indian yoga compound threw at us), becoming a yoga teacher entails connection: to yourself, to others, and to a new way of thinking.
And then you get to share (in however big or small capacity) this gift with others. For me, this experience forced me to change the way I perceive and construct my reality. And that’s a lesson I’d never trade for the world.
P.S. My previous posts describing my honest, uncensored view on yoga camp are back online. Hopefully they won’t take my diploma away, since it’s too late for me to get banished. Riiiiight???