The first weekend of yoga teacher training was a humbling, inspiring experience which renewed my appreciation and respect for yoga teachers everywhere.
Our Live Your Yoga training has been offered for many years by Dharma Richards at Yoga Garden in Apex. I am excited to be in the first training class at Yoga Garden Pittsboro. I have deeply admired Dharma as a teacher since taking my first class with her over ten years ago. I never would have imagined that we would be collaborating on opening a yoga studio some day or even that I would be taking her teacher training.
In the past year or so I’ve been so focused on the work of opening and running the studio that I’ve fallen out of what used to be a daily at-home yoga practice. So I am really happy to be immersing myself in the practice, in the teachings, in the powerful meaning behind the practice of yoga. Because I can lose sight of all of that when I’m running the studio day-to-day.
Our program provides a foundation in classical hatha raja yoga. It does not teach any one specific style, but provides a background grounded in the classic teachings and techniques which have formed our understanding of modern yoga today. I love that. I want to know the basics, the history, the foundational texts. There’s plenty of time to specialize later with more advanced trainings.
The training is rigorous and certifies graduates at a level exceeding the Yoga Alliance 200 Hour teacher training requirements. We meet for one full weekend a month for eight months. In between our meetings there a required reading list, daily breathwork exercises & meditation, daily yoga practice, volunteer service, journaling, and essays.
Yoga is so much more than a physical practice – it is a lifestyle. As our group sat around the room on that first Saturday introducing ourselves, it was very clear that we were all looking for much more from our yoga practices than how to form the poses, or asanas, that form the physical practice of yoga. “Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe,” the first page of our teacher’s manual told us. Amen to that.
There are six of us students. It was moving to hear about the paths and lessons the fates had dealt to us that led us to want to dive deeply into our yoga practices. One thing we all had in common was the desire to embrace yoga as a lifestyle and use it as a framework or guidepost for living a conscious, thoughtful, spiritual, and healthy life.
On the first day of training we reviewed the 8-limbed path of yoga, which is a little bit like the 10 commandments of yoga. Every month we are going to focus on observing a quality from the Yamas – morals – or Niyamas –observances, or behaviors, of yoga. This month we are thinking about Ahimsa, which translated from the Sanskrit means non-violence or non-harming. We are keeping a daily record of words, thoughts and deeds that are non-harming to ourselves and others – as well as the opposite! Just paying attention to the thoughts in this way over the past week has been so eye opening. My family joked during the first few days that perhaps they would need to put Dharma on speed dial to let her know about all the harmful thoughts I seemed to be having….all joking aside, it is powerful to realize that even these little negative thoughts we might have here and there throughout the day can add up and have an impact on how we are interacting with ourselves and the world. I have learned to train my body and usually (though not always!) I can watch my words but training the mind is something else entirely. And of course, it is a central tenet of any spiritual practice.
Dharma only half-jokingly warned us that we might not want to make any big life changes during yoga teacher training, citing instances of students leaving jobs and relationships and changing their lifestyles. I could not be more contented with my life so I don’t think there’s any risk of that, but I can’t help but hope that my quest to become more conscious will take a little leap forward as a result of this concentrated study and effort. I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity.