Since completing my yoga teacher training, a few friends have said they would like to take the plunge too. They always admit this with some trepidation, as if it might be an unachievable goal, which of course it isn’t. This makes me smile because I know that if their heart is in it, they will have an incredible, positive experience and no regrets. So, for any prospective teacher trainees, here is my honest take on what it is like to commit to the mat and learn to teach yoga.
But, first, a bit of background. At 24, I took up yoga as a result of back and neck tension from too much typing and thinking. (My career in the world of PR hadn’t been kind to my spine). By 26, yoga was an essential part of my week. My 28 year-old-self signed up to a Yoga Alliance 200-hour teacher-training course in London*. And so began two tough but transformative years.
- If you want to become an acrobat go to circus school
One of the most important things I needed to learn was patience. I was very far from pretzel-bendy and wouldn’t stand a chance of doing some of the advanced poses. I had to realise that the ultimate goal was not to get my foot over my head but to deeply understand my own body and how to heal it so that I could help others do the same. This involved accepting my limitations and learning from them.
- You really should practise every day
One of the most common questions asked before starting a training course is “am I ready?” The answer is that you will probably never feel completely ready, but building a daily self-practice before you start the training will help.
I must confess I didn’t practise every day until I was about three quarters of the way through the first year of my course. I wish I had done more earlier as, after years in a busy office job, my most over-exercised body part was undoubtedly my brain.
- Not everyone who trains wants to become a teacher
Within my class probably only one student had enrolled with the specific intention of making a living from teaching yoga. The rest wanted to deepen their own practices, rather than making a career change. Along the way, some of us, including me, were surprised to find how much we enjoyed teaching and, starting with friends, slowly built our own classes.
- It is tough to train and maintain a full-time job
After doing a 40-hour working week, a yoga mat in a North London studio was sometimes the last place I wanted to find myself at 9.30am on a Saturday morning. In an ideal world, I would have cut my working hours down to four days a week so I could maintain a weekend and make a bit more time to practice and do the homework but, this wasn’t feasible at the time. Instead, I tried my best to embrace a yogic mindset and “go with the flow”, without allowing myself to get overwhelmed by the workload or thoughts of the office.
- A good anatomical knowledge is an advantage
To be honest, I was a bit of slow student. I had a very limited knowledge of the human anatomy, having given up biology at the age of 16 so I was leagues behind the nutritionists, fitness teachers and masseuses in the room. I’m still not as anatomically clued up as I’d like to be but, slowly, I am learning.
- An open mind will take you even further
There is an interesting dichotomy between those who find yoga makes sense to them from a practical, scientific perspective (keeping them fit and reducing stress, for instance), and those who are drawn to its spirituality. (Ultimately the two come together and we realise they are one and the same but that’s another story.
I put myself in the latter camp because becoming more closely connected to my spirituality was an important goal for me, but that didn’t prepare me for the wackier information and mythology of yoga that we covered. My approach was to focus on the teachings that resonated with me and accept that ancient yogic wisdom does not always make sense to Western brains.
- You’ll leave with a support network, as well as a certificate
Making friends with other students was one of the most rewarding elements of the programme. By the end of the training we knew about the challenges and triumphs that had brought us together. We helped, instructed and supported each other, and, in some cases, provided each other with a shoulder to cry on.
- The end of the course is the start of the journey
If you do choose to do a yogic teacher training course, know that it will not always be easy or convenient. But it is through taking this leap and trusting your instincts that you will find more strength to face up to and change anything in your life that doesn’t feel right.
Through tough feedback I became more resilient, through instructing others I became more confident and through acquiring a new qualification I found more balance in life. For instance, a few months after qualifying as a teacher I left my PR job in London, set up my own communications consultancy, moved to the South of France with my boyfriend and now mix my communications career with yoga teaching.
Where will your yogic journey take you?
*(I did a year-long course on the Yoga Alliance 200 hour programme with Teach Yoga. I followed this up with a second year where we completed a British Wheel of Yoga Accredited Diploma, also through Teach Yoga).