Cherish your practice

 

I have many people ask me, do you think I should do my Yoga Teacher training? The question I always ask in return is this: Why do you want to do it? Like pursuit or undertaking, It all comes back to your why, and your expectations as to what will be the result of the training. What is driving this desire?

The advent of yoga teacher training seems to have become somewhat of a right of passage for anyone who experienced the life changing effects of yoga on a personal level. It’s not uncommon for students who have may have only been practising less than a year to be so drawn to the magic it creates, to pursue what feels like the next logical step in their yoga journey. To do their teacher training. To fly to exotic places, get immersed in the practice for a month, feel it’s magic and return back ready to share the love. 

There is such an array of yoga teacher training programs, and more prevalent than ever before. Its a pretty lucrative business, especially given the current popularity of yoga. There are so many incredible outcomes of a yoga teacher training program, life changing, transformative, and awakening. It can completely transform your relationship to your practice in many wonderful ways. Equally it can transform your practice but not always for the better. When commit to teaching yoga, you are never purely a student again. Your responsibility to your students weighs in on your own personal practice, as does your duty of care, to be able to really hold the space for your students, to have them push their edges, to guide them through your own example, in life and in practice.

Having said all this, with the emergence of yoga studios like hair salons, gone are the days of committing and honouring one teacher, one school, and letting it’s wisdom and verbal lineage filter to you in its pure essence. 

If you are called to teach yoga to inspire change in others (and this is the common motivator for many yoga teachers), it’s more than likely you will open them up to some hidden truths that exist within your students. Strong emotions, awakenings and realisations surface, you have to be committed to holding the space for them, for whatever comes up. More often than not these emotions and energies surface without the spoken word. But you will feel it. Our yoga practice is there for us to be challenged towards change, to be taken from outside comfort zones, to be guided into new depths of possibility, and to shed lifetimes of samskaras (pattering). Those changes won’t take place, is as teachers we are not able to lovingly set these challenges, guide them into their edges towards new depths. 

The 3rd limb of practice (asana) or physical practice exists for us to push against the edges within our bodies, the practice should challenge, it should stir emotions and  elicit true change. It requires work, commitment, healthy discomfort, consistency, discipline and longevity. Otherwise yoga practice becomes a space to simply make shapes with you body, sweat a bit and ultimately stay in your comfort zone. Good for the body, but what about the soul?

The craft in teaching exists in the ability to hold the space energetically for your students in the name of yoga. It’s a big job, and a huge responsibility. When you stand at the front of the room as the teacher, you become the focus for all of this unfurling, you act as a mirror for what ever exists within them. This part of teaching requires an immense amount of energy, not to mention humility, you must be strong, you must be conscious, and you must be able to deflect emotions and energy directed at you. It can be really intense. If you are drawn to teach yoga, it’s more than likely you are an empath, so your propensity to feel these energies is more heightened. It’s so important to stay grounded in your own practice. The practice that inspired you to teach in the first place…and here comes THE most common pitfall of choosing to teach yoga as a job. 

Many, many teachers and studio owners (especially those in the early stages of teaching), sign up to teaching many classes, I’ve heard of up to 20 classes! Sometimes more. It’s just not sustainable, and you are opening yourself up to burnout. UNLESS - you have many years of solid years of practice behind you which has conditioned your energetic body to a degree where you can tolerate what is required of you to teach at this volume. What happens to your own practice when you are teaching 10 classes a week? Often it slides down the list in place of the teaching gigs that monopolies your time, and available slots for practice. Which energy pool are you drawing from to teach? Teach too much, practice too little and your energy levels will suffer and you will end up resenting the very practice that brought you such peace in the first place. Your classes will have a brittle energy, and your state of unease will translate to the energy of your students, and serve no one, least of all you.

If you are doing your teacher training to create a new job for yourself, I would highly, highly recommend sustaining a secondary income stream where you can so you don’t find yourself burnt out from teaching too much so you can make rent and pay your bills. Something that you know you can do comfortably, that won’t draw down on your energy resources, and so the classes that you teach add value to your students lives, so you have the energy it requires to honour your students. 

The mastery of yoga in the west has somewhat descended into an out picturing of the perfection of the physical poses. Instagram is rife with evidence of this. Thats not yoga, and that’s not what you are really teaching as a yoga teacher. The inner work of creating emotional strength, that only years of committed practice both off and on the mat is where the real mastery of yoga begins. The emphasis of the physical practice drops away, the lessons learned from it weave into a conscious awareness, and this is the place to teach from. 

Teaching yoga is not the panacea to a challenging set of life circumstances. The practice of yoga however, is. Be the student first without the added pressure of being a teacher. If you are a true teacher the time will unfold when you have a rich well to draw on, it will flow from you. Let your practice truly and genuinely unfold first, learn the lessons from within your own body, your own practice, and only then sign up to the TT. 

NB: I have been practising yoga for 15 years, and teaching for 8. My training was in a traditional apprenticeship model in the system of Ashtanga Yoga, I feel very privileged to have learned in this model, and feel passionate about extending similar teachings. I offer mentoring of a similar style to newer teacher trainees, or teachers finessing their craft. To teachers who need to get the passion back for their teaching, and reconnect with their why. Refer to the online booking system (under mentoring) for bookings. Or contact me for more details.