Today, I finished my fourth weekend of Teacher Training. And with some shock, I realized that we have now completed one-third of our course.
Much like the past three Sunday sessions, my brain feels completely full, and my heart seems to be 18 sizes bigger than when I arrived in Berkeley at 5.45 am on Saturday.
I expected to be changed by the teacher training, but four sessions in, I am dumbfounded by how my perspective has shifted. Not just my perspective on yoga, but my thoughts on how I want to live my life, what I want to fill my days with, and my intentions for how I greet the world.
Here are some of the many lessons that Lighting the Path has taught me:
Our bodies might be the greatest overlooked wonder of the world. The human body is amazing. Absolutely, positively amazing. The yogis that first started this practice 5,000 years ago knew that. These individuals didn’t have the scientific words or finer points of anatomy that we now have access to, but they understood the connection. It is a powerful thing to better understand this one body that we have to work with in this life, and to see how our teaching can help shape healthier, happier bodies for students. Today, I spent 5 minutes pondering how truly incredible the radius is and realizing how important my scapula is to my shoulder. How had I missed this before? To be filled with a sense of wonder is a reminder of what a gratifying experience it is to be learning.
There are many different ways to learn. I used to think that I was solely a visual learner. And I still believe that this is primarily how I best take in most information. These past few weeks of teaching have helped me to realize that depending on the situation, I might need a different avenue. I have been working a lot with kinesthetic learning – and particularly when it comes to moving my body – learning by doing has given me a new space to explore. I hope to be able to transfer this to my students – so that I don’t assume that they learn exactly as I do.
I am slowly taking the fear out of failure. I have always been afraid of failure. Largely because I am afraid of being embarrassed and worried about not living up to expectations. Learning to teach means moving on quickly from mistakes. The only way to learn how to teach is to do it – not try to teach – but to really do it. I have had to work very hard not to “start over” after a mistake in a sequence – a typical go-to response for me. Instead, I move forward right from where I was in the sequence. Learning to embrace imperfection also means that when Pete comes over and tells me that the cue is wrong – I just change the cue. I don’t need to have a conversation in my head about how he probably thinks that I am stupid or unprepared. I know that he doesn’t think I am stupid. I know I am not stupid. I prepared to the best of my abilities. We move on. I would never view a student or colleague’s learning process as a failure – I need to give myself the same space.
Safe space matters. For those that seek it, yoga is also about tracking what shapes us as evolving beings – including the dark, silent places that we don’t normally share in public. The nature of training is deep introspection and self-discovery. For me, this has meant a lot of thinking and self-contemplation, facing difficult truths and staring down some tough decisions. Having a space where this type of discovery is supported is absolutely vital. The better we know ourselves, the more authentic we can be in our teaching. Recently, I walked into Pete’s class with every intention of banging out a solid practice. Five minutes in, I was crying during the warm up. My face was covered with sweat and tears during abs. And well before the class joined me in savasana, I found myself giving in to just being still with my tears. This is safe space. Sometimes, the gift of letting someone be is the sweetest, kindest action to take.
I can teach. I really can. And knowing that I have tools and resources to translate the practice that has transformed how I live my life – gives me hope that I will be a good teacher.
Touch is important. We can all be healers. It really is a crazy world we live in. We barely touch each other – even close friends. I was very nervous about the assisting part of yoga training – where you help students to better shape the pose for their body and assist them in alignment, breath, and relaxing by literally having your hands on their bodies. Despite my nervousness about my own abilities, I carry with me the memory of a handful of adjustments that have been game-changers in my life and in my practice. All were yoga assists that healed a part of me with the deep kindness and compassion that were delivered in the touch. I have been shocked at how much I like this part of the training and relish this aspect of the teaching. At how profound it is to put your hand on someone and feel their breath and use your body to give them relief from pain, coax them into deeper feeling, or encourage movement into a better rendering of the pose. I am confident that we were meant to connect in this way – and that it truly is healing work. When approached appropriately and with compassion – touch says “I see you. I hear you. I want to understand. I want to help.”
We are all human. And that means that we are more similar than we are different. In this microcosm of training, I have met eighteen other souls that are actively shaping my life and my teaching. All of our perspectives are valuable and vital to learning. Not because we have any special skills, but because we are human beings.
Yoga connects us, but we choose to meet each other on the journey.
I’m so grateful.
Abbie blogs at www.agratefulyogi.com and is sharing some of her posts with Yoga Tree throughout her Teacher Training.
- Abbie Dutterer