I’d looked at teacher trainings in exotic places like Thailand and Bali, and I’d researched teacher trainings at local yoga studios. Heck, it’s hard to find a yoga studio that doesn’t offer teacher training. I’d fallen in love with my own yoga teacher’s ability to meet each practitioner on common ground and offer support with indiscriminate grace. Or maybe I just love her ability to touch the back of her head with her feet while balancing on her forearms. Long story short, I decided that I wanted to share my love of yoga with the world because yoga is the best thing EVER and I wanted to bring it to EVERYONE.
I made the decision to dive into teacher training about four months ago. I shelled out my $2,900, committed to giving up Tuesdays for twenty weeks, and bought a few extra pairs of yoga pants. Now I’m less than two weeks away from being a Registered Yoga Teacher. Was it worth it?
To use a phrase that we use constantly in my teacher training cohort…it depends!
I’ve forged new friendships and strengthened old ones. I’ve bonded with fellow yogis over the best way to get into Bhujapidasana and the awesomeness of avocados. I’ve been in conversations about what to do if you’re *too* flexible, and how to make the perfect kale chips. It’s rare to get an opportunity to meet with a group of people for hours at a time to discuss something you mutually love. It’s even rarer to parse the meaning of something as ancient as ahimsa (a Sanskrit word that roughly means non-harming) with teachers who have been studying it for decades—and then try to apply that wisdom in day-to-day life.
I discovered that the beekeeping, Prius-driving yogini who spends her days sending people on life-changing retreats in the woods looks like a total badass cocking a locked-and-loaded toy gun. I saw the quiet IT wiz with the wispy voice grow brave enough to boldly stride forward and correct our teacher’s purposefully and tragically bad Trikonasana in front of the entire class. I found out that the career dancer with the tiny waist and vibrant smile gets nervous in front of crowds and has favorite foods like buffalo wings and cheese. I watched the angelic twentysomething stay-at-home-mom show us how to moonwalk like she was the second coming of MJ. Through the course of the last eighteen weeks, our group has had two divorce filings, one wedding, a successful doctoral dissertation defense, one new tattoo, and three major hairstyle changes. It’s been transformative, unbelievably so.
But am I ready to teach? I don’t know.
My lack of certainty has nothing to do with the quality of our training. Maybe I’m biased, but there’s no better 200-hour training out there. But studying all this yoga stuff hasn’t given me confidence in my ability to teach. It’s made me realize how much more I have to learn. My practice—all eight limbs of it—is in its infancy. I’ve only been practicing asana regularly for less than two years (fifteen years of occasional Rodney Yee DVD’s don’t count), and I’m about as far from Samadhi as you can get. My husband practically has to twist my arm to get me to practice Dharana. What right do I have to teach others?
Again, I don’t know. Nonetheless, I found myself standing at the front of a yoga room this morning. I’d been awake since 4:30, hoping no one would show up so I could just walk into the room next door and do my Mysore practice like usual. Fortunately or unfortunately, that didn’t happen. People showed up. I had to teach them. My class wasn’t perfect. I forgot a counterpose, ran out of time for backbends, and mixed up my left and right more than once. But I did the best I could, and the students left smiling and dewy with sweat. Maybe that’s all I can ask for.
Novelist Anne Lamott has a chapter in her how-to book for writers called “Shitty First Drafts.” It explains the process of allowing yourself as a writer to write complete crap when a piece is in its early stages. The important thing is to, as Nike says, just do it. Just write, and let it be shitty. If everything is as connected as these yogic texts tell us it is, then writing isn’t that different from teaching yoga. I might not be a great yoga teacher at first. I might need to have some shitty first classes.
My Ashtanga practice has taught me that things get better with repetition. Maybe it’s an extension of japa, the meditative repetition of a mantra. I don’t know if I’m going to end up being a good yoga teacher, or if I’ll even want to teach at all in a month or a year or a decade. But I think I will continue. Not quit-my-job, start-a-studio-and-teach-full-time like I thought I would, but I’ll pick up a class or two and see what happens. I think I need to repeat this practice of teaching, let my first few classes be full of mistakes, and allow the repetition to refine me into whatever shape I’m supposed to take.
So again, was teacher training worth it?
Financially? No. I’m not likely to get a return on this investment anytime soon, if ever.
In terms of time? Maybe. The stress of losing an entire night and evening once a week has taken a toll, as has forcing myself to get up the morning after class with only five hours of sleep so I can still practice before work. I’m married, have a day job, and I’m a graduate student, so devoting so much time to yoga (even more than usual) may have hurt my studies, frustrated my husband, and impacted my productivity at work.
But in experience and self-knowledge? Yes. Undoubtedly so. In this moment, two weeks before we graduate and become RYT 200’s, I feel stronger and more sure of myself than I did when I walked into our first Tuesday night class. And I think any of my fellow students in CITYOGA’s Teacher Training Class #23 would agree with me.