Through the Looking Glass - My Journey into Teacher Training

One of my favorite yoga teachers, Jessica McReynolds, once said “Yoga is what healed me, destroyed me, and then healed me again.” No words could be more applicable when describing what my journey into yoga teacher training has been like. I graduated from my training program over a week ago and am now teaching for Karma Yoga Denton. It’s hard to believe that training is over and this is where a new chapter of my life begins. How does it feel? More than anything I feel relieved. Teacher training hasn’t been easy. For the past two and a half months I have found myself constantly discovering a new injury in my body, losing sleep, missing job opportunities and people, and questioning myself constantly. Am I (physically and mentally) strong enough for this? How could I love yoga again after this? When will this be over so I can go ahead and just start teaching? For a moment there, it felt as though training was consuming my life. I was so constantly tired, in some form of physical pain, and beginning to heavily question my own personal relationship to yoga. Yet I persisted anyway with my end goal in my mind - to be able to share the benefits of this practice with others. I’m happy that I continued because what I got out of teacher training was greater than any kind of sacrifice I had to make along the way. Overcoming this obstacle and seeing this journey through until the end renewed my spirit and ultimately gave me a stronger connection to my own practice. Thanks to this experience I have learned how to have an honest conversation with my body, expanded my knowledge of yoga, developed my own personal practice, and gained the courage to face fears and build lasting bonds with likeminded people.

The most important thing I got out of this experience was learning how to listen to your body and mind. Before training, I wasn’t aware of just how much I had been doing wrong in my own practice. I rarely took modifications and constantly pushed myself to get into the full expression of most poses. I was hardly concerned about safety, alignment, or the importance of building strength before advancing in poses. I just wanted to push myself to rise above the personal challenges I had been setting for myself in class. I could’t see that I was letting my ego get in the way. Yoga isn’t about pushing yourself, meeting some kind of goal, or impressing others. This way of practicing turned out pretty ugly for me. I ruined my shoulder and IT bands and now my practice has completely transformed. I often have to take a lot of modifications, use props, and refrain from trying poses if I know I don’t have the strength for them. Facing injury after injury was disheartening. I felt as though this thing I once loved so passionately was destroying my body. As time passed I learned began to find gratitude for the experience of my injuries. It taught me just how real the consequences of practicing unsafely can be and showed me what I had been doing incorrectly all along (which was being too prideful to modify). Often times we hear teachers say over and over “take a modification if you need to” - and so often do students choose to ignore this. They may look around and see the rest of the students in the full expression of a pose and refuse to modify. I cannot begin to stress the importance of practicing safely and taking modifications whenever necessary. In fact, modifications help us perform the full expression of poses in the long run. It is more advanced to know when to surrender one’s ego, take a step back, and see where to modify. You only get one body so don’t forget to listen to it. After all, you can’t continue to practice yoga if you are constantly injuring yourself. Learning how to practice safely and correctly renewed my relationship to yoga at a time where I felt that it was physically destroying me. Now that I am more informed about my practice, I feel as though I have a more honest understanding of my own physical and mental capabilities.

Aside from learning the value of practicing safely, teacher training has taught me more about yoga than I could have ever expected. Summit’s program was well rounded and covered everything from anatomy and mechanics of poses to the history and ethics of yoga. Even now I wish I could go back in time and absorb more knowledge. Hardly anyone leaves teacher training thinking that they have learned all that there is to know about yoga. 200 Hours later and I feel as though I am hardly beginning to scratch the surface. After training, graduates still remain lifelong students of yoga. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that those around you have to offer. Everyone can stand to teach you something new about yoga no matter where they may be in their practice. We never stop learning as we continue our practice so don’t forget to be mindful of others and to listen to your body.

This experience also gave me the opportunity to conquer fears that I thought I would never have to confront. I never thought I could be the kind of person who speaks in front of groups of people and tells them what to do with their bodies. My social anxiety and fear of public speaking felt crippling to me. When it came time to practice teaching in front of others I wanted nothing more than to crawl into some kind of hole and hide. As time went on I realized how little my anxieties mattered. At the end of the day it was never about me. People who come to a yoga classroom are there for their own reasons - they aren’t looking to see if the teacher fumbles over their words, forgets something in their sequences, or comes off looking like a fool. My supportive teachers and fellow trainees helped me build the confidence to get over these fears. At the end of the day we were all here for the same purpose - to help others by sharing the practice of yoga with them. We were all equally new to this experience and equally nervous so it was easier to put myself out there in front of these people. I am so thankful for everyone I met along the way. Their strength, kindness, humanity, and courage helped me get through any times of adversity I might have experienced along this journey. Even if we all go our own separate ways, I will always treasure these people and will always value the knowledge and encouragement they shared with me.

Now I’m just looking forward to my life after teacher training. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to teach with KYD and bring yoga to various parts of my town. I’m already having such a wonderful time teaching classes and am looking forward to developing my style as a teacher. The students that come to Karma Yoga have been so great and supportive. It’s an honor to teach such wonderful members of my community. This experience has been a wild ride but the rewards of teaching have definitely proven to be worth it. I’m thankful for this journey, the physical body that carried me along the way, the people I met along the way, and those that I will continue to meet as I continue along this ever-evolving journey of teaching yoga. I’d recommend this journey to anyone interested in becoming a yoga teacher. You might just learn a lot about yourself, yoga, and communicating with others along the way.

-Priscilla Martinez