I was in a pretty rough place in my life when I started yoga teacher training in September 2019. Determined to break through my unhappiness, I committed to a year-long program at my local yoga studio, Trillium. Learning something new caught my attention when I met Anita Mahr at an informational session and I was hooked. I registered for her Lotus Yoga Centre training for some self-care. It was exactly what I needed when I needed it most. It’s funny how things work out like that.
I learned alongside amazing women, many of which, like me, had no intention of teaching. We joined to deepen our personal yoga practices. We’d meet in the yoga studio every month. On Friday nights, a two-hour yoga class just for teachers would ground us before a six-hour seminar on Saturdays. We had a good flow going as we studied traditional hatha yoga poses, learning alignment and benefits.
Did you know yoga aids in digestion, strengthens immunity and builds strength, all while improving your mental health? It is so much more than proving your flexibility.
Then COVID hit in March.
Like most everything else, our teacher training came to a halt. But once we figured out Zoom, we continued our study of the eight-limbed path, including memorizing all the yamas and niyamas. We also studied breathwork, called pranayama in Sanskrit, and all the ways everyone breathes wrong.
Try this: Lay on your back. Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Breathe, inhaling through your nose, exhaling out your nose. Focus on letting your belly rise as you inhale, filling with air. As you exhale, feel your hand lower closer to the earth. This is a pranayama exercise called belly breathing and it is the most efficient way to breathe.
By June, some of us were back in the studio as stay-at-home orders lifted. I’m forever grateful for the time we were given to meet in-person again. While online learning is difficult, it’s still doable. But I wanted my teacher training to be self-care time spent away from my home.
My favorite class was learning yoga anatomy outside near a park very close to my home. We sat on picnic benches in the shade on a windy, summer day. The breeze brought relief as we stressed about how many bones and muscles we’d have to remember for our exam. At least now I know where my quadratus lumborum is so my husband can massage it when I have a back ache after sitting in a chair too long.
Everyone passed their exams and became better at teaching. We took turns teaching different parts of a yoga class each time we met, building our comfort level of leading on the mat. It’s important for yoga teachers to understand when they’re teaching, they’re not practicing for themselves. It’s their time to help others. I appreciate teachers who can curate cues with perfect precision, without even demonstrating the pose themselves. That’s not me, yet. I still need to feel the pose itself to talk through exactly where a student should move their body and feel the stretch, while peppering in health benefits and Sanskrit words.
When in doubt, instruct: inhale and exhale.
Because I have a four-year-old son, I naturally gravitate towards kids yoga. It is the most fun and least intimidating for me personally. The health benefits alone are amazing, but practicing yoga with little ones teaches them about staying active and mindful at a young age. It builds confidence and compassion. Kids who routinely practice yoga learn how to better control their minds and bodies at an age where there is little else they have power over. I already see its impact on Leigh. He loves his morning stretches ending with a collapse in my arms after seated forward fold. And it makes my heart smile every time.
Finding peace and solace in a busy life is not an easy thing to do at any age. But when I roll out my mat and calming music rushes over my mind, I invite my yoga teacher’s voice to guide the movements of my body. For an hour, I’m in a near-meditative zone. Yoga refreshes my mind and body. And now I get to share it with other people.
The light in me sees and honors the light in you.