By Libby Barrett
Yoga Teacher Training – A Lifelong Journey of Self-Study
“Study thyself; discover the Divine.” — Yoga Sutra 2:44
The first nine years I practiced yoga were not in a studio and it certainly wasn’t because I was seeking enlightenment. I considered myself a gym rat and had read recent research that stated flexibility was the third pillar of fitness, the first two being cardiovascular and strength training. I got a 20-minute DVD and practiced faithfully as part of my exercise routine.
Fast forward to 2009, when I finally attended an in-person yoga class. It was after several months of pestering that a friend finally convinced me to join her. Her teacher was amazing, she said. You’ll love it, she said. The class was in a small, one-room studio and it was packed; peoples’ mats were one-inch apart. Incense and candles were burning, the windows were open and Buddhist prayer flags hanging above were fluttering in the breeze. It was a wonderful environment, but I was suddenly anxious and intimidated – this was not the comfort zone of the fitness floor or my living room.
As I settled onto my mat and she started speaking, I began to relax. Her presence was calming, yet supportive and strong. Her voice soothing, yet powerful and motivating. She lead us through many challenging sequences that included poses I had never done or heard of before. We chanted and did breathwork. I realized there was more to yoga than flexibility or what my DVD offered. I wasn’t quite sure what that was yet, but inherently I felt it. I had gone reluctantly but left curious and transformed. The teacher was amazing. I began to attend her classes regularly plus explore the local “yoga scene.” What other studios are out there? What are all these different class names? What is a workshop? I read Yoga Journal magazines, ordered rare books online, started to journal and practiced, practiced, practiced.
I noticed a difference after I practiced. Physically of course, but also mentally. My mind was clearer; I was more attentive. Now, believe it or not, at the time I was a heavy cigarette smoker and had been for 15 years. Yoga, with its intense focus on and use of the power of the breath, made me realize that I had to quit smoking to go further in my practice and for my practice. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew and know smoking is extremely unhealthy, but at the time, I didn’t care. Yoga made me realize that not only should I care, but I actually did care. It not only gave me the self-awareness to change, but also the strength and tools to do so. I made a plan and quit cold turkey.
How could something be so powerful and transformative? I put a detective hat on top of my scholar hat. I needed to understand why and how all this could happen. And what else could this practice do to enhance my life? I turned to my first teacher, and she recommended a 200-hour yoga teacher training. She explained that a training is much more than learning how to teach a class to others. It is a deepening of exploration and understanding of this ancient and empowering philosophy and how to apply it in everyday life. It is an expansion of knowledge of the poses, the breath work and meditation, and how and why (or why not) to integrate them into one’s own personal practice. It is mentorship and guidance all along the way. It wasn’t only about becoming a teacher, it was more importantly about becoming a lifelong student, of the practice and therefore of oneself.
This idea of self-study translates from “svadhaya,” in yoga’s first written language, Sanskrit. To change habits and therefore ease suffering, one should consistently observe and reflect upon one’s actions. This can help one see things clearly; therefore, detaching oneself from fleeting emotions and improving one’s outlook and reactions to real life situations. Calming the mind can certainly bring a lightness or serene feeling, or perhaps a connection to something else, something divine. In today’s crazy world, we can all benefit from a feeling of calm and peace.
Please join Club Greenwood’s team of highly qualified instructors along a transformative journey of self-study on your mat.