One year ago I was doing an Astanga Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teacher Training at Kranti Yoga in India. I settled here for my YTTC after two months travelling, practicing and studying yoga in Hampi, Mysore, Gokarna and Goa. I’ve always loved to travel, and have been all over the world but for one reason or another I found myself back in my home town this year in my first year as a Yoga teacher. Applying everything I have learned through the practice of Yoga, originating in ancient India, to revisit the place of my past has been an absolute blessing and I now feel like the next time I go on an adventure far away I’ll be travelling a little lighter. To celebrate one year on here are my reflections on my life as a Yoga teacher so far.
5 things I have learned in my first year teaching Yoga:
- I LOVE TEACHING YOGA! It fills me with so much joy and allows me to be fully present in the moment. I trust 100% in the practice itself, which is over 5,000 years old, and believe wholeheartedly in what it can do to help deal with trauma, physical ailments, mental health conditions and more. Yoga has played such an integral role in my own wellbeing and healing journey. It is simply beautiful to see other people come to the mat for all their own personal reasons, whether it’s for one class or regular sessions. People come to class for all kinds of different reasons such as wanting to get flexible, looking for a way to quiet the mind, to build strength, to help deal with emotional difficulties and the list goes on. Whatever their reason, I consider it an absolute honour to be able to hold space for others to enquire into what Yoga means to them and how it can help to cultivate balance in mind, body and soul.
- It’s not easy but it’s totally worth it. Logistically it can be difficult. I work as a waitress in two different cafés four days a week and I teach yoga on average about six times a week at the moment plus covering other people’s classes and running one-off workshops / helping to organise community events / sometimes volunteer teaching. This means that I never actually have a day off. I always seem to be running about the place from one thing to the next! Because I love teaching Yoga so much, I don’t really consider teaching “work” just yet so am happy to be doing it as much as I can but I realise it’s important to have days off and find time for myself so I’m hoping to give myself a day off soon. Waitressing tires me out so much that I could really do with less café work and more free time to put into lesson planning / developing my Yoga career. However I need the stable and regular income that waitressing provides because income from teaching Yoga varies and is unpredictable. For example one week I might get 10 people to class and make a good amount of money, another week I might be alone in an empty studio with no students and make nothing! The money I do make teaching even on a good day rarely covers the real cost of being self-employed (planning, travel time, setting up and closing down at different studios, costs of further training, teaching resources etc.) However, like I said, because I LOVE Yoga and am so excited to be sharing this practice, all of the above is definitely worth it to be able to teach Yoga and it’s still early days for me.
- Self – practice is essential. Finding the time for self-practice has become non-negotiable since I first committed to daily Yoga practice in October 2016. It really can be fit into any day, sometimes I just grab 20 minutes in an empty studio in between teaching and sometimes it’s a full hour or more at home. The type of self-practice I choose on a day to day basis becomes in line with what I need in that particular moment. When I connect to the breath, the past slips away, thoughts of the future loosen their grip and I am brought home to the here and now. Monday could be a 30 minute Savasana, Tuesday Pranayama & Meditation, Wednesday the full Astanga primary series, Thursday a set of restorative floor postures, Friday dancing through a creative flow…whatever self-practice ends up being on each different day it’s always a way to listen to my body, hear her needs and show up to take care of them. Now that I’m teaching Yoga, self-practice is an integral part of my work and I wouldn’t be able to teach classes without it! It both inspires my lesson planning and also keeps me well so that I can show up for my students.
- Yogi’s are human and just as messy as everyone else! I recently read a quote about this by Iyengar teacher Nanda Peek, she writes “Good yogis are not perfect human beings but people who have recognised their patterns of suffering and are putting energy into breaking through those patterns.” I think I used to assume that there was this end point where you suddenly are fixed and are no longer triggered by anything and have just reached this perfect place of peace. Now, I realise that we are all dealing with our own Samskaras (mental and emotional patterns that we are prone to be in a cycle of repeating over and over again) and each of us are doing our best to transform our destructive habits or patterns of behaviour. Healing is not linear. What inspires me so much about the Yoga teachers I have been taught by, young and old, from all walks of life, is that they are human too and they have their own personal issues yet all that messy human suffering begins to melt away when they step on the mat. They find a way to remain present, focused and committed to the practice and the students throughout class. Those who attend my own classes probably would have no idea that I can be prone to incredibly high levels of anxiety. Or that sometimes I have had to calm myself down from a panic attack struggling for breath after a terrifying sleep paralysis hallucination earlier that day to then arrive at the studio smiling, confident and ready to lead everyone through a set of postures / breathing exercises. We are all working with different challenges and Yoga helps us to navigate our way through.
- There’s still so much to learn. I knew when I first came to Yoga 10 years ago that I would be a lifetime student. This path is one I have chosen for life and I am very aware that I am so far from really knowing anything at all, despite calling myself a “Yoga Teacher”! Some students ask questions that I simply don’t know the answer to, or have particular injuries that I haven’t heard of and don’t have an in depth knowledge of how to work with. I will continue to study the body, anatomy and all the key alignment of different Yoga postures but I am not an expert. I’m in further teacher training now and am eager to learn. With time, experience and committed study I will have much more to offer in terms of Yoga as Therapy but it is important to highlight that whilst there’s a lot I do know, there is also a lot I don’t know! To some extent this will always be the case, and that’s what’s so empowering about Yoga is it teaches you to listen to your own body and be your own healer. My therapist said to me once “the only expert on you is, you”, and that’s why as a teacher it’s not my job to diagnose or push people one way or another, but to hold space for them to come to their own conclusions.
This barely even scratches the surface and there is so much more to be said, I could write a whole book but for now, here is one brief blog post highlighting some of the key things I have learned a year on from doing my first YTTC. If you’re thinking of becoming a Yoga teacher then I hope it has been helpful and I feel it is very important to say that I write this from a place of privilege and am only able to travel freely because of my British passport and other privileges. Of course, a lot of people don’t have this freedom of movement due to a number of different factors such as border restrictions, socio economic position and/or political unrest in their country of birth. Travel enabled me to study Yoga in India, and coming from a middle-class background with a network of friends & family who could offer support in different ways meant I had the time and energy to focus on developing my own business back home instead of being pre-occupied with making ends meet to survive on a day to day basis. It’s really important to acknowledge this and use such a position to work towards a more equal society. One very small way to do this is to offer classes for free to those who are unable to pay.