In early September, I moved to the other side of the world to start my yoga teacher training.
Drastic? Perhaps. Perth, Western Australia, is a very, very long way from Vancouver, Canada.
I completely underestimated what a huge commitment I was undertaking, both physically and psychologically. Training took over my whole life: the asanas, the philosophy, the research, and the assignments. I'll never regret taking on teacher training, but if I could go back in time, I would certainly give myself some advice!
1. Do your research.
I was incredibly lucky. I signed up for a teacher training course at a studio where I'd never practiced, in a city I’d never been to. It could have been terrible. It could have been entirely the wrong fit for me. I had discussed the teacher training with the faculty via email, but I would have felt much more confident walking into the course if I'd built a relationship with the community at the studio and become familiar with the practice space. I was fortunate that I'd done enough research to have selected a reputable studio with a well-respected problem, taught by wonderful yogis. But it could have been different…
2. Let go of your ego.
Within two weeks of starting teacher training, my right knee was clicking like a ballpoint pen. Two weeks later, I was suffering from quite a lot of pain in the same knee. I went to see a physiotherapist who diagnosed me with Patello-femoral syndrome.
I'd never had a problem with my knees while practicing yoga. I'd simply overdone it. I'd been so concerned about being as good as, or better than, the other yogis in my course, that I hadn’t taken care of my body.
My ego worried constantly about how far I was in a stretch compared to the girl on the mat next to me. I feared I wasn’t good enough to be in a teacher training program. By the time we were halfway through training, I'd come to accept that I wasn’t the most experienced or skilled yogi in the class, nor was I the most uncoordinated or inflexible. Each of us had moments when we were strong and flexible and balanced, and days when we were falling over, falling asleep, and checking out of even the simplest poses. Yoga teacher training is a great equalizer.
3. Your mind and your body are your mind and body alone.
No one will react to training exactly the way you do. Quite a few people in my class decided to take on a vegetarian diet during training and claimed that they weren’t craving meat or sugar or other unhealthy foods. Others claimed to have a newfound source of energy. I was the complete opposite – since we’d started training I had been craving red meat and sugar and alcohol and coffee like crazy. I had been sleeping in as late as possible and I was exhausted! I had to remind myself that this wasn’t wrong – I just had a different body and mine clearly needed more protein, more carbohydrates, and more sleep!
4. You’re still going to be you.
If you expect to suddenly wake up one morning with a happy-cartwheels-love-hearts-kittens-and-puppy-dogs attitude, in love with the world and the human race and forgiving of all the foibles of your fellow man because you’re training to be a yoga teacher, I hate to break it to you, but this doesn’t happen overnight. I struggled to let go of my habits of negativity and low self-esteem to embrace the Yoga Sutras. Yoga isn’t just a physical practice, it’s a lifestyle and changing your lifestyle is a gradual process.
5. Maxing your credit card at LuluLemon is fun, but not necessary.
I worried about rocking up to the first day of training in fashionable yoga clothing. I hadn’t felt the same level of anxiety about my attire since free-dress day in high school. Yes, many students in my class wear expensive yoga wear. Many also wear non-branded pants and shorts and t-shirts. And after a couple of weeks of everyone wearing the same clothing to class over and over, you don’t even notice.
6. Without hurting yourself, do as much yoga as you can, with as many different teachers as you can before you start teacher training.
Here's why: once you start teacher training, you will never experience a yoga class in the same way again. Take notes after every class about what worked for you and what didn’t, while you still have the eyes of a student. Note the teacher's language, cues, and music, even how she demonstrates poses. When teachers have a style that doesn’t resonate with you, notice that, too. Don’t just criticize – learn from it. Be a student for life.