In 2 months I will (hopefully) finish my yoga teacher training and be a fully certified Yoga Instructor. But until then I will continue attempting to learn human anatomy and slowly get closer to touching my toes. Despite taking up every weekend for 3 months of my life,I have enjoyed almost every moment of the course so far. Spending hours practicing and learning from some great teachers, has already taught me a lot, not only about yoga, but about my outlook on life. Here are the four things that yoga teacher training has taught me (so far):
1. Be Where You Are
I can remember a time 12 years ago when I was in great shape. A competitive swimmer with thunderously strong thighs. Today, that is no longer the case and I often struggle with lunge and squat poses. I can lament about how weak and out of shape I have become, and compare myself to my previous self, but that won't do me much good with the body I have now. What I can do is appreciate the strength my body does have and go from there. This is the same with anything in life; it is not helpful to lament about how much we used to be able to do. You need to unlearn whatever your activity levels used to be, and start with where you are now.
2. Don't Worry About Anyone Else
Yes, the girl next to me can do a headstand and I still can't stop my arms from shaking uncontrollably as I lower into a chatarunga. This can be...discouraging. However, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter who can do what- we all end up in corpse pose anyways- the great equalizer. Just as it is not helpful to compare yourself now to your younger self, it is not helpful to compare yourself to the people around you. You don't know what other battles they are fighting.
3. Don't Always Sit With Pain
Often in yoga or meditation, those suffering from chronic pain are told to sit with their pain. While this is incredibly helpful in some situations, it turns out this is harmful in other situations. If your neck or spine feels pain in a shoulder stand, you need to use a blanket, if your knees, hips, or back are hurting in meditation you need to change your position and use props to help you find a correct posture. The trick is knowing when to sit with pain and when to allow yourself to relieve it. If you do live with pain or fatigue, which situations do you feel stronger from after sitting through your pain or fatigue and which make it feel like you have pushed yourself too far? This is a good place to start.
4. Don't Take Yoga (or life) Too Seriously
In ancient Sanskrit, the word Yoga comes from the same route as the word Yoke, as in- to yoke an animal (tying two oxen together to pull a cart). We now define yoga as a union (of animals?) and attach a lot of seriousness to the practice. Many of my classmates felt intimidated to embark on the journey of becoming a yoga teacher, yet when feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, we are often told-"Don't worry too much about it- it's only Yoga, what's the worst that could happen?". That is often true of projects at work, work in general, fights over stupid things with your partner, etc. If you've been frustrated about something you've been trying to accomplish lately, allow yourself to have a little laugh about it and move on.