‘And suddenly you just know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.’- Meister Eckhart
“My first few yoga classes I was quite frankly, bored. So I tried the complete opposite style: a hot yoga class – I walked outta there drenched in sweat, but also with an unmistakable feeling of being on a high and completely blissed out – ‘yoga stoned’. Sure, maybe it was the endorphins – but it hooked me and put me on the path. Maybe you’ve had a similar feeling?” – Kat Clayton
But practicing yoga also gave me more than just give good stretches and exercise. I discovered something that felt truly aligned deep within my body, mind, and soul. It ignited a feeling of coming home. This feeling spawned the humble beginnings of not just yoga as exercise, but a lifestyle and a career.
What was your first experience with yoga like? What drew you to it? And more importantly, what keeps you on the path? Perhaps you’re also wondering “Where to from here?” The possibilities are endless!
I know that when I made the first big leap and signed up for a yoga teacher training at BodyMindLife, little did I know that I would end up moving across the world, teaching yoga, and end up leading the very program that sparked the humble beginnings of my own and many others’ yoga journeys!
I hear from many of my students, going to yoga is literally the best part of their day. And who wouldn’t want live and breathe it on the daily, “live the life” by helping others, and not have to endure the demands of 9-5 corporate life? Sounds good right?
While the reality is that’s partially true (will save this conversation for another story!), investing In learning more about Yoga has not only provided me with a sense of purpose and connection, and better health, it has brought me to a community of incredible individuals. And here I am now, 12 years later, still learning everyday from helping others and teaching yoga.
Here are a few principles which I have learned along the way, that may help you on the path of becoming a yoga teacher:
Set an intention
As soon as you step on your mat or before going to teach a class. How do you want to leave feeling? Intentions sow the seeds of something bigger than ourselves and help keep you on track.
Wanna learn to do do a handstand? Or become a yoga teacher? Or travel the world leading workshops and retreats? To hit your target, it’s helpful to take aim – know what you truly want, but also be open to what arises.
Whether it’s for your own personal practice or as a teacher, consider your goals for your experience, key learnings and the kind of impact you wish to have on others.
2. Mine for Gold
Challenges are golden opportunities to dig deep and uncover the gems or “nuggets” of wisdom, embodied knowledge and growth.
I believe success is less about what you achieve – and more about the challenges you have. The real gold is how you overcome them, the skills you have to acquire, and who you must become in order to achieve your goals.
Handstands? To nail it, we have to first learn persistence, patience, humility, discipline, surrender, playfulness and the ability to laugh when you fall over. It’s actually not about the handstand at all in the end – it’s what we learn along the way to finally reaching that goal.
3. Reality check
In Sanskrit the word is “satya”- meaning truthful. Some helpful questions to ask are: What is the reality of the situation? Where am I currently in my practice? Am I being honest with myself? My students? How do I measure progress and impact? Is it realistic? How is it really landing for my students, or others?
This is where feedback comes in handy. We all have blind spots. I’ve learned that sometimes our best placed intentions completely miss the mark with other people. Your well planned sequence, playlist or philosophy might trigger or piss someone off. You can’t please everybody, but we can learn from that.
Being truthful is also about knowing when to let go of something if it no longer serves you.
Create a system for checks and balances – engage with colleagues and advisors you trust. Honesty, openness and vulnerability is true courage here. Don’t let the let-downs get the best of you! Keep going!
4. Practice, not perfect
Trying to be perfect and comparing yourself against other students or teachers is a trap that creates suffering! As any bendy (or not so bendy!) human can tell you, once you land your peak pose, there’s always going to be more to learn. Or breathe more calmly, be more steady (sthira) and easeful (sukkah) in the pose, mind and body. As Sting says,“ Yoga is like music in a way. There is no end to it”.
If your goal is to become an inspiring yoga teacher? Embodied wisdom is what students will seek out and can relate to. Again, it’s certainly not going to come from being perfect – inspiration comes from acknowledging what your challenged by, what you learned, how you overcame it, and who you authentically become though your daily, moment to moment habits and practices. Yoga gets us to engage with that, which is why committed students often make the best teachers.
5. Ask yourself, how can I serve?
Does nailing a handstand better humanity? I dunno, maybe…It’s worth considering, to you, what is yoga all about? One of our fundamental basic needs as a human is to survive and thrive, but once you’ve got that covered, many will begin to consider: how can my thoughts, actions, and deeds contribute to the greater good?
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras teach us not only to practice, but how to be a better human. He says practice the 8 Limbs of Yoga with healthy drive and passion (in sanskrit: abhyasa), yet dispassion from the result (viagria). This is service – giving without any attachment or expectation in return.
The eight limbs provide a holistic roadmap to connect us with our most authentic selves. Strip away the clutter in the mind, heart, body and spirit which keeps us from experiencing an expanded state of connection, consciousness and love.
From my experience, yoga is not what we do on the mat, but really what we do in every single moment, decision, thought – every moment of our lives. And like many, doing a YTT not only teaches you how to do yoga poses, it gives you tools for everyday life.
Ok, so you’re convinced you want to do a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)! So, what’s next after?
After my training, I realised it was just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to learn more! I kept up my practice and kept showing up, putting myself out there for covers – until one day I finally got a call back.
As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
The Yoga Sutras warn us yoga is not for the faint hearted! Surrender and grace is a willingness in your heart and mind to be open to what the universe has in store.
Yoga is not just a career, it’s a way of life. Perhaps you’re interested in what it may have in store for you! Here are my parting tips for you to consider on your own path:
- Stay open – to new pathways, ideas, teachers.
- Keep practicing – make time to connect with your practice, every day.
- Seek out mentors – whether it’s a teacher, friend, or grabbing a copy of a Yoga Philosophy book. These will provide endless realignment and support as you go through life, teaching and making decisions.
- Keep learning – it never stops, as Sting says “Yoga is like music in a way, there is no end to it.”
- Trust the process. You are exactly where you are meant to be right now.
- “Do your practice and all is coming.” – K Pattabhi Jois