7 Life Lessons from Yoga Teacher Training
In the last 9 months of my life something magical happened behind the scenes of this blog. No, it's not what you're thinking Well it kind of is in a certain way, because me and other 21 women went through a Yoga Teacher Training that taught us so many life lessons and today I decided to share some of them with you.
I had introduced my training at the beginning of October on the blog here , but then I haven't talked much more about it after.
The reason is that I was fully living it, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to share in writing, and also many times I've felt like I wasn't "expert enough" to talk about such an ancient and sacred discipline. Who was I to talk about it?
But I was wrong, because that's what yoga is all about, it's a practice of union and connection, on and off the mat that will look different for every person and it's so much wider than the sanscrit words, the asanas and the long history. It's a living practice and each of us , including me, has the right to live it and interpret it in our own unique ways.
So here are the 7 things I've learned in my yoga training this year :
It's all about the breath
Since I've started this training I've had many people asking me what makes yoga different from stretching or other kinds of activities. And even if there is a lot more to it, since it's not a sport but more of a lifestyle which encompass much more than just your body, I've found that most people could connect with the idea of the breath.
Yoga is really about combining each movement with an inhale and exhale. You breathe constantly and this allows you to really experience the practice and its effects on your body, to let the energy flow in each part of you and when you concentrate on the breath, you let go some of the mind chatter which you brought on the mat at the beginning, and create space, which is where the magic happens!
Your mat will always be there, no matter what
This is one of the top lessons that yoga gave me. That your yoga mat will be there, no matter what else happens in your life. That it's a refuge, a safe space where you can go back regardless of your external circumstances.
I've spent quite a few periods of my life feeling like a flag, moving with the wind of the circumstances of my life. Where I lived, with whom I was spending my time, where I was studying and working, how my home looked like......and I really thought that I was dependent on these external things. That they had to give me what I needed to feel safe and well, and that if I was finding myself in a situation that was not ideal, I couldn't be happy because something on the outside was going wrong.
But the yoga practice is a beautiful reminder that the only balance you can reach is the internal one. It's a safe boat that is floating in the middle of a storm and you can get back on at any time.
And this makes you so much stronger because you are not attached anymore to the external events, as you know you can feel good in any case, you can unroll your mat and find your happy place again.
Yoga is a MIRROR
When you take a yoga class, even if it is the first time you step on the mat, you quickly realize that yoga is a mirror of your own life.
What does it mean?
That when you're practicing you'll be face-to-face with all parts of yourself. And while in everyday life you can escape, finding distractions and bringing your attention elsewhere, you cannot do it on the mat!
So if for example you're having a stressful day and you feel out of balance, there is a good chance that you'll fall from a pose, that if you feel you're over giving your energies to the people in your life, you'll be too flexible or overstretching in some poses, or if you feel rigid and closed , you'll probably pretty stiff that day.
That's not an exact science, but they are just some example about how the practice will show you your strengths but also your weaknesses, and open doors that you were trying to hide from yourself, both mentally and physically.
It will look differently every day
This is very much related to the previous point.
Since your yoga practice evolves with how you feel that day, the way you will show up on the mat will affect your practice.
In my case this was so frustrating at first, because some days I was feeling in great shape, and maybe I was succeeding in a pose that was difficult for me, and the day after I was back to square one!
That's why yoga is a PRACTICE and there is no goal to reach, no perfection to achieve.
Yoga is a lifelong journey
Many times in the last few months I was asked " If you teach yoga it means that you master all the postures now?"
And the answer is of course NO! The training is just the beginning of a life-long journey, so the learning doesn't end with the training, it's quite the opposite actually.
My teaching today will look differently from my teaching in 1, 5 or 10 years and that's the beauty of it. It will evolve with my own practice and experience on and off the mat, and that's what makes it interesting.
It's a bit like going to university and graduating thinking that you know everything about a subject, and then you go out into the real world and you discover that there is so much more to it than you could imagine!
Lot of self-acceptance and compassion
“Instead of a self-improvement project, rather learn to become a compassionate mess” – Dr. Paul D’Alton
This quote says it all! During the last 9 months I've been facing A LOT my inner critic on the mat. It was continuously beating up on me because my asana practice wasn't good enough, and I thought that becoming a teacher meant having it all pulled together.
In other parts of my life I've never experienced much comparison and envy, so this was quite a novelty for me! And I'm not even talking about comparing myself with some Instagram celebrities , but it was present in my studio practice looking at teachers and students around me, and it wasn't fun!
I'm very passionate about self-improvement ( as you can guess from the topics of this blog! ) but I've learned that the biggest step you can take to improve yourself is accepting you EXACTLY as you are right now!
So for me it's been a constant exercise of going back to myself and be much more compassionate about my yoga and why I was there in the first place.
It was a lesson in humility and showing lots of kindness to myself because I'm perfect also when I fall out of my pose or I take my time to learn a new one!
Know your body, know your rhythm
Thanks to the yoga practice I've learned to listen to my body much more carefully and know when it wants to move and when it wants to rest.
In the past, when I was studying for example, I remember often feeling so nervous, I had this energy stagnating inside of me and I had no idea of how to move it around, I pretty much didn't know that I COULD move it and change my mood very quickly. Now I feel much more aware of my body energy and I know that when I feel like that, I can stand up and move my body and this will change everything for the day!
Sometimes I'm sitting on my chair facing the laptop, and I feel my energy getting stagnant, nervous and I know that it's time to move my body because this will move around my energy and in 10 minutes I will feel like a completely different person.
Probably that's something that regular sporty people knows and that's why they practice! But I've never felt so aware of it until now.
Vinyasa yoga is a very dynamic physical practice, but in the last year I've loved balancing vinyasa with other styles of yoga that focus on stillness and restoring the body in a different way, like yin and restorative yoga and I really loved them.
Especially as a woman, my body works in cycles and it's so important to respect them and not pushing my body too far when it's asking me to slow down.
I remember some weeks in which I was practicing a lot and I was becoming more anxious and annoyed, my body was clearly asking me to stop because I was loosing sight of the reason I was practicing , which was to feel more calm and clarity at the end of the class!
So this is a message for everybody and especially for women. The reason we have cycles is not there by chance! It's a compass that our body is giving us to know when it's the right time to be open and outgoing and when it's time to slow down and nurture ourselves in a sweeter way.
So there are actually so many other lessons I've learned from this experience. I've started it as a big personal challenge and it was that and so much more, so for the sake of length I'm stopping here with this post :-)
Now it's your turn, Have you ever practiced yoga and experienced any of these life lessons? What did you learn from your yoga practice so far? What's your motivation to go on your mat?
With love and light,