When I started on this yoga journey, I had no intention of teaching, nevermind running a yoga studio for over 12 years or facilitating and training over 500 other people to become yoga teachers.
I went to Kripalu Center in 1998 to learn more about myself, to improve my life and to hopefully get a glimpse of the happiness that seemed to elude me in my first 20-something years of life. But within those first few months, I just knew without a shadow of a doubt, that taking my yoga teacher training was what I was supposed to do. I had no idea what would come next, I was wide open.
Those 5 years living and working, teaching and directing at Kripalu were some of the most beautiful and profound years of my life.
And the 12 and a half years since I left Kripalu have also been beautiful and profound, and really, really hard.
Can I be honest with you? I have thought about quitting this yoga teaching business many, many times.
Although I have felt an increasing passion and understanding for this life-changing practice, I have also felt at times disillusioned. Not sure of where my intention of integrity fit in with the swelling populus of handstand posing instagrammers. Is it worth all the time and energy I have put in to guide people to discover that what they have been looking for has been within them the whole time? Are they even interested in realizing that immense joy, peace and love is their birthright? And that these states are always present and available once we let go of the ego mind? Is my energy best served meditating in my basement in the evenings and doing a 'regular' job during the day?
Is there anybody who really wants to do the work rather than just talk about it?
And then, out of nowhere, an email testimonial like this shows up in my inbox, and I feel the urge to transcend my own ego mind even more and hold the space for others to do the same:
"I have been practicing yoga off and on for the last 15 years, solely as a physical workout, preferring hot and warm flow classes to really get my sweat on. Though I've been practicing a long time, I'm still a "back row of the class yogi". I can't do a handstand and I don't fit in the cute new Lulu tights.
I also have both anxiety and depression, and about 18 months ago, they threatened to sink me. Over the last year, while I worked to fight back from the depths of depression, I connected with my yoga practice on a completely different level. I began to attend more Kripalu classes and actually took my teacher's words to heart when she talked to us about listening to our bodies, showing compassion, and moving from willfullness to surrender. Don't get me wrong, I still got a workout from each class, but I paid close attention to what my body was asking for, and sometimes it wasn't seeing how long I could hold a plank. My teacher ends each class by saying "remember just how beautiful you are" and that used to move me almost to tears because I didn't believe it. Last Spring I took a leap of faith and signed up to do my teacher training with Jeff and Sonya, following in the footsteps of my favorite teacher!
The teacher training experience was so totally and completely different than I expected! I thought we'd "do yoga" all day, every day. As Jeff pointed out, we were "doing yoga", but that didn't mean just practicing postures. We learned so much about teaching - anatomy, cueing, sequencing, Sanskrit terminology. However, there was so much more to it than the physicality of asana and I was quite surprised by how emotional I found some of the work as we really focused inward on our true selves. I had the opportunity to really reflect on what was important to me in my life, and the kind of person I am and wish to be. The reflection assisted me in dramatically improving my self-confidence, which had been severely eroded in the year leading up to my training. I began to see that I had value as a person, not just as an employee, as a sister, as an auntie, etc. Now when I hear "remember how beautiful you are", I believe it about myself and all of the yogis sharing in my practice.
The overall training experience has brought a wonderful new facet to my life. I love designing new sequences - for me it's like a dance. I love the flow of vinyasa, but I am also accutely focused on accuracy. The best piece of feedback I've received is directly linked to my training with Sonya. I'm not very tall, so when I'm at the front of a crowded room, the back row often has a hard time seeing me. I've had several of my students comment that they don't have to see me because my cueing is so accurate that they just focus on the language.
When I stand on my mat at the front ofclass, I feel strong, confident and energized. I really enjoy being able to lead my students through the experience of pranayama and asana and love seeing them smile as they leave the room afterward. The entire experience is so very rewarding.
The training I received from Jeff and Sonya has given me the skill and knowledge to lead a technically strong asana class. More importantly, it has instilled in me an appreciation for the fulsome practice of yoga - mind, body and spirit, which I can then share with my students. I strongly believe that my yoga practice, which really evolved through my training and now teaching, has had a major impact on my healing and allowing me to come out on top against my depression and anxiety. For that I will be eternally grateful."
It is students like Ashley who inspire me and call me forward every class, every workshop and every yoga teacher training, to do the work, to live my potential, to be in my dharma, and to persevere with courage, patience and enthusiasm, no matter how challenging life seems to be.