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Yoga Teacher Training: My Final Thoughts

I promised a “final thoughts” post on yoga teacher training. I thought that I would want to write it immediately but instead I needed time to let everything sink in. It’s been about six weeks since training ended and in that time I have started teaching and have had the opportunity to reflect on my experience. I am ready to share. Hold on, it’s going to be a long one.


(photo credit: wanda koch)

THE DETAILS
I just completed my 200 hour registered yoga teacher training with Johnna Smith and Tanner Bazemore at Y2 Yoga, the studio where I have been practicing for the last year and a half. Training began in January and finished the first weekend of April. Our training was done in weekends where we met Fridays from 6-9 p.m., Saturdays from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. We started each day with a yoga practice and spent the rest of our days learning about a variety of topics. A little sample…meditation, breathing exercises, anatomy, assisting, teaching skills, sanskrit lessons, yoga history/philosophy and much, much more. Outside of training we had reading assignments and requirements to observe and assist classes.

DECISION
The decision to commit to teacher training was not an easy one. I struggled with whether it was the right time in my life, if I could make it fit into the budget and if the time requirement could work with my already jam-packed life. I also took into consideration how much I enjoyed being a student of yoga and NOT the teacher. I knew that going through teacher training would change things with my personal practice.

I shared my difficulties with making the decision on my blog and received some very encouraging and thought-provoking comments. After weeks and weeks of internally debating the pros and cons and heart-to-heart conversations with family and friends, I finally decided to go for it. There was never going to be a “perfect” time and I couldn’t be sure when the opportunity would present itself again…and what would be going on in my life at that time.

 

HIGHS AND LOWS
I knew from talking with friends who had completed teacher training, and from the sheer intensity of the physical and mental commitment required, that teacher training would be an emotional experience. As silly as this sounds, I promised myself at the beginning of training that I wouldn’t cry while I was there. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a few breakdowns outside of training but I was determined to maintain my composure among my fellow trainees.

Some days I was on a total high from training. I couldn’t get enough. I would come home all smiles and would talk for hours about everything we were learning and doing. Other days, I would find myself feeling a little down, introspective and on the verge of tears. It was very interesting to monitor my attitude and see how much things could shift from weekend to weekend and even day to day.

(photo credit: wanda koch)

THE PHYSICAL PRACTICE
From a physical standpoint, we practiced every morning during our training weekends, whether our bodies wanted to or not. You dealt with what your body was giving you at that time. There was a lot to be learned about honoring your body and kindly asking it to do things it might not feel like doing. During this time my ashtanga practice deepened and improved significantly. I even began to dabble in second series.

One thing that surprised me about teacher training was how much your asana practice didn’t matter. I questioned whether my practice was strong enough for teacher training. I came to find that everyone was at a totally different level and teacher training was about SO MUCH MORE than your asana practice. Yes, we practiced a ton but you didn’t have to be a super amazing, bendy yogi to make a good teacher. You just had to truly love yoga.

THE MENTAL PRACTICE
From a mental standpoint, I was participating in meditation exercises and pranayama (breathing techniques) for the very first time. These types of things can really stir things up on the inside and start to chip away at walls you’ve built up. I really resisted meditation and because I disliked it so much, I know it’s something I need to work on. I think it’s a pretty clear indicator that more time spent inside of my own head without constant “go, go, go” is something I could really benefit and gain a lot of self-growth from.

RELATIONSHIPS
What I wasn’t prepared for was how strong of a bond I formed with the 11 other yogis in training with me and how vulnerable, open and honest everyone was with each other. There were so many intense discussions about a wide variety of subjects. This discussion forced you to really evaluate your life – who you are, what you stand for and who you want to be.

For every intense, tearful and passionate conversation that we had there were at least 10 joyful, funny and happy moments. The list of memorable moments that had us almost in tears laughing is a mile long. The friendship that we all formed over those three months was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I honestly consider them my “yoga family” now and I look forward to running into them at the studio and around town. It feels amazing to be a part of such a strong community of yogis.

This all happened under the guidance of our phenomenal teachers, Johnna and Tanner. The training that they put together for us was the perfect mix of serious and lighthearted, old school and modern day, emotional and physical. They each have very different strengths and to balance between the two was right on. Their training was the perfect fit for where I was in life.


OH YEAH, THE TEACHING PART
So it seems like the point of teacher training would be to learn to teach and it is…to a point. It’s much more about exploring your love for yoga and deepening your practice. Some people who enroll in teacher training never even want to teach. They just want the experience of immersing themselves in it.

But even if you have no intentions of teaching you learn to teach! It was really cool to watch everyone grow as teachers. The final weekend we were videotaped teaching and it was inspirational to watch everyone glowing with happiness and confidence as they led the class.

I was a little surprised to find that teaching yoga felt nothing like teaching my group exercise classes at the Y. Yes, the basic elements of a good teacher were there – I coached, I cued, I spoke clearly and loudly – but the authenticity was totally missing. I had the barometer in my head of what it feels like to teach my other classes and I just couldn’t get anywhere near that with yoga. Also, keeping your rights and lefts straight is a huge challenge! 😉

THE AFTERMATH
From January to April my life was consumed by yoga. I all but gave up running and focused on teacher training and my practice. I missed trips out of town and social engagements. My weekends were spent in the studio instead of with Brandon. I couldn’t even imagine what normal life would feel like when training was over.

And now, it’s over. And things have shifted in many ways.

From a “how it’s changed my life perspective.” First, I left training completely determined to achieve some goals that I have set for myself. Goals that have been pushed aside for too long. I believe in myself, in my ability to achieve these goals and to succeed. I am inspired to live a life full of passion, love and good.

Second, I want to be a better person. Teacher training put me on the path to becoming a greater, more positive, more loving version of myself. Someone who doesn’t think negatively of myself and those around me but someone who sees the good and works for the good. Someone who has a purpose and for me that is helping those around me live healthier and happier lives.

From a “now I’m a yoga teacher perspective.” I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to teach at my studio after training. It’s been a learning process. The first few classes were hard. I struggled with being present and being myself. That’s getting easier week by week. As the yoga vocabulary becomes more natural, I am able to insert a little more of my personality into the class.

What has thrown me for a loop is that I’m experiencing a bit of a down swing in my practice. Between working full-time, teaching at the Y and starting to teach some yoga classes, there hasn’t been much time for my personal practice. And that makes me a little sad. I’ve been missing the fire and the passion to be on my mat. I think the experience of teacher training was so intense that my mind and body just need a little distance to let everything soak in. I know that over time my practice will ebb and flow so I am not letting this get me down. It will come back when it’s ready.

(photo credit: wanda koch)

THE END
I can’t believe I considered not going through teacher training. It was a transformational experience and my life has been forever changed. It has set so many good things in motion and shown me the way to the path I want to be on. I am extremely grateful to my teachers for sharing their knowledge and lighting a fire within us; to my fellow teacher trainees for their willingness to bare their souls and be honest, true friends; and to my husband keeping true to his word and giving me endless support and encouragement.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) May 20, 2011, 6:49 am

    Wow AMAZING post Jen!! I’m so glad it was all worth it for you, and reading about your thoughts and experiences over the past few months has been awesome! And don’t worry- your yoga passion will definitely come back! Like you said, you probably are just a bit burned out but soon you’ll be dying to get back on that mat again! 🙂

    Oh, and I LOVE the photos!! You look so so amazing!!

    Hope you’ve had an AWESOME time in Jamaica! 😀

  • 2
    Win May 20, 2011, 6:57 am

    Jen,
    AMAZING post! I could not be happier for you, and your words are such an inspiration! I look forward to reading about your yogi journey that is just beginning!

  • 3
    Brittney May 20, 2011, 8:39 am

    I always thought it made perfect sense for you to teach yoga, since you’ve been totally passionate about it since I met you. It’s so interesting to read all the details of how everything went. I’m really happy it worked out so well for you. I still need to come to your class sometime!

  • 4
    erin May 20, 2011, 8:56 am

    Amazing post, Jen. I am so happy for you and everything you gained from your experience. I think we all have a path that our heart wants to be on, but sometimes that gets pushed aside for the realities of every day life. You have found your path, and that must feel so good. Thank you so much for sharing this story!

  • 5
    Christina May 20, 2011, 9:08 am

    What a great post Jen – just what I need on this Friday morning! Thank you for sharing so personally with so many of us – friends and strangers alike!

    I’m constantly amazed at how much you do in a week – exercise, teach, work, eat healthy, spend time with family and friends…how do you do it all? I’m particularly interested in your tips for eating healthy all week long, when you have so much going on in your life (this is something I struggle with). I’ve read your post about menu planning, and it’s inspired me to plan my meals better, but would love to hear more thoughts about how to get it all done. Do you do a lot of cooking on the weekends, in preparation for the week? Or cook every night once you get home? What works and what doesn’t work?

  • 6
    ashley May 20, 2011, 9:21 am

    Fabulous post! I am so happy for you! I’ve actually learned a lot while following you each day and your positive energy has definitely rubbed off on me. On bad days, I’ve often found myself reading back through your posts for that little boost of “yes, you can” mojo. 🙂 I can’t wait to see where this experience takes you. And I am really anxious to hear about Jamaica!

  • 7
    Jen May 20, 2011, 9:29 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Jen! I loved hearing about the experience. It really, really sounds like it was the perfect time for you to go through this. It’s so funny how we struggle to make a choice, and then afterwards you couldn’t imagine your life without something. I’m so glad everything worked out 🙂 And you look GREAT!

  • 8
    Alaina May 20, 2011, 12:08 pm

    I’m so glad to see that you got so much out of the yoga teacher training!! I’m sure your passion will come back and you’ll thrive in your classes and your private practice. 🙂

    It’s very inspiring to see what you went through to get to be a yoga teacher. And it’s sweet that Brandon was there to support you when you needed it.

  • 9
    Kelly May 20, 2011, 1:18 pm

    I really loved reading his post!…even though I haven’t been to yoga in over 2 months. It’s just really uplifting to read about something someone you know is so passionate about. I’m so happy that you’re pleased with your decision to go through the training. The difficulty in getting through must make it that much more rewarding. Great post Jen!

  • 10
    Marian May 20, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Amazing post, Jen! so happy to hear your final thoughts. can’t wait to come to another one of your classes soon!

  • 11
    meghan@strugglemuffins May 20, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Jen what a poignant post – thank you for sharing. I loved this because it echoes a lot of my own feelings about the yoga teacher training experience, from the emotional highs and lows, to the self discover, to the unexpected burnout from the physical practice. I can relate to it all, most especially the sense of not being able to imagine not committing to teacher training and carrying through with it!

  • 12
    Kelly May 21, 2011, 12:19 am

    you are a beaut!

  • 13
    Cate May 21, 2011, 12:51 am

    This is so inspiring… It’s awesome to read about the process of teacher training and how it changed you!

  • 14
    Sarah May 21, 2011, 10:27 am

    Great post, jen! I appreciate your reflection, very informative. As having participated in your classes, sure glad you did it!! Saw your pic at lulu this morning also- awesome!!

  • 15
    Holly May 22, 2011, 7:41 pm

    LOVE your pictures! You look so pretty and strong! I wish I was close enough to take a yoga class from you!

  • 16
    Janet Fenton May 27, 2011, 3:17 am
  • 17
    Jen September 28, 2011, 10:25 pm

    Wow…just found my way to your blog and saw this post come up. I feel everything you wrote here – I feel like I could have wrote much of it myself. I did a yoga teacher training 2 years ago with very mixed feelings going into it and during it. It’s difficult to go into. But I definitely hesitated re: the finances and timing issues…I work full-time in my “real day” job that makes me very unhappy, but it pays my enormous bills so I don’t really have a choice. I feel mixed with yoga – in many ways, I feel it’s not the true me, but something I was desperately hoping COULD be my “answer”…and yet in other ways I almost feel like it is or CAN be me – but that I won’t “let it”. Or I’m not in the “right” place mentally so to speak to recognize that. Hard to say. Anyways, I won’t hijack your post further! Thank you for this. I admire your ability to seek what you want in life. If the banks weren’t after my loan payments, I might be more so inclined 😉

  • 18
    Kate January 14, 2012, 9:35 pm

    This is a wonderful post! it intrigued me because I have recently become obsessed with yoga. coming off a back injury, a holistic type doctor told me to try yoga and said some things that really resonated with me and what is going on in my life. He educated me on chakras, i read a book on presence and how to be in the now and all of this started to click and make sense when i started doing yoga.

    I got a month unlimited membership and have literally gone every day, sometimes twice a day, because i love it SO SO much. Its not only the physical, but the mental aspect that has helped me turn myself inwards, and work on the inside, so i can see the world better.
    i know i am a newbie to this world but the idea of going through teacher training in the future has been in the back of my mind, and this post was wonderful to read !!

  • 19
    Jerilyn March 26, 2013, 9:23 pm

    Hi Jen, just came upon your post as I was researching the benefits-difficulties of yoga teacher training. I do not regularly practice yoga but I do enjoy it when I can get to a class. I am not super bendy, but I am in decent condition. Do I love, love, love yoga? I don’t know…I might if I did it more. I am most interested in it from the aspect of self discovery, deepening my meditation practice and to enhance a spiritual journey I have endeavored. The opportunity came up suddenly and begins this weekend so I have to make a quick decision. So I am conflicted as to the financial/time commitment and wondered if you had any advise. Should I jump? Just afraid that if I commit and then don’t love it I will be going backwards……

  • 20
    bodymotives August 12, 2013, 9:15 am

    Wow, thanks Jen for the thorough account of your ttc, great reading. It seems a common experience after any immersion training that the learning continues to unfold for weeks and months later but so valuable for a yoga practitioner even if you don’t intend to teach straight away.

  • 21
    David August 14, 2013, 10:06 pm

    Stumbled across this post at the most perfect time in my own YTT.
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  • 22
    George Wyatt November 11, 2013, 4:33 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I really liked your post….

  • 23
    himalayanyoga January 10, 2014, 11:47 pm

    hi, Jen
    this is an awesome post ! You look so pretty and strong! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Yoga Training

  • 24
    Karolina March 18, 2014, 1:32 am

    Hey Jen! Wonderfully thought provoking post. I am currently in the same thought process as you were when you began your journey to become a yoga instructor and am also struggling with the same questions. I hope that if I end up going through the experience it will be as worth it as it was for you. Congratulations on your hard work.

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