As I am halfway through my yoga teacher training with Fire Dragon Yoga NYC I want to tell you about my experience thus far. I’ve taken 60 yoga classes since April. Today marks 61. Did I just say that? Plus–hours of workshops, reading, writing papers, anatomy study and home practice. Thus, I am, we are (my Fire Dragon Yoga Trainees—see photo on left) sore and tired yogis. We are getting a bit silly as we near the end of training. The nervous energy is building up day by day as we prepare to teach our final class! If we pass (: we will be released into the yoga teacher community! It’s been a remarkable journey thus far. The trainees, now friends, have traveled the subways together, laughed together, shared snacks together ( is that chocolate? I’m starving!) and taken workshops together at the most beautiful studios in NYC, i.e, Sanskrit w/ Manorama @ Maha Padma Yoga Temple, Ashtanga with Laura Land @ Land Yoga, and Anatomy with Frances Taylor Brown @ Zenyasa Yoga. We are learning from the best and we have been lucky ducks to log most of our training hours at the prestigious Reebok Sports Club. But…giving up all these nice weather weekends isn’t always easy. I have been cranky, frustrated and angry at times. I’ve missed my bus, gotten sick, and have struggled with some of the content. I am pretty sure we all have. Also think about this one. 14 women together indoors for 200 hours over 3.5 months. Scary. LOL. My knees hurt and my shoulder has tendonitis..BUT– I feel strong. I have gained muscle. I see my shoulders broadening and I am embracing it. Why? Because it is these shoulders that are holding me up in forearm stand. This newly developed strength can hold me in poses I only dreamed about 6 months ago. Oh, and I am always hungry! Yoga is not easy! I have discovered the benefits of “green juice” and “coconut creme”, but discovered that even though they are super healthy, they really don’t satisfy me! I will take 2 bags of Pop Chips over a kale and romaine smoothie…A-N-Y-D-A-Y. But on a deeper level, halfway through this program something magical and mystical has happened. 14 amazing ladies from all different backgrounds made the decision to gather together for 200 plus hours with the purpose of uplifting their lives, expanding their authenticity, and getting strong bodies–all through the practice of yoga. In the end we will all be teachers. Whether we decide to teach studio classes or not, we will have gained invaluable knowledge in which we can share with and teach others.
The results thus far has been something beyond words. “The Alchemy of Yoga” as best as I can explain it. What is that? Chapter 2 verse 1 of the Yoga Sutras sets forth how the Alchemy of Yoga actually works. “Tapas svadhyaya ishvara pranidhana kriya yoga.” Translated to mean that yoga helps us transform ourselves on three levels:
1. Physical Alchemy—Tapas: helps us ignite the changes we want to make in our lives. It is about the getting fired up and passionate. Literally it means heating the body through moving and breathing in the vinyasa.
2. Mental Alchemy—Svadhyaya: while we are following the discipline of tapas and engaging in physical practice to help move our stuck energy we are watching ourselves. In yoga we study the self to learn about the self. Here the mental alchemy is through self-observation. We witness what is going on in our thoughts, what are we thinking.
3. Spiritual Alchemy—ishvara pranidahana: as we are doing and watching we let go of the ego of judgment. We move beyond wanting life to be different and begin to feel the surrender that allows what is being offered to mix together. We practice ishvara pranidhana as we trust the universal intelligence that hugs us from all directions to know what it’s doing. And once we find this trust we begin to believe that beauty and goodness are within us flowing nonstop, and there is no reason to stop this flow for its natural current is to align with the current of grace that is everywhere outside of us. Beauty becomes our way of life. Happiness becomes our natural alchemy.
You see, when you get together in a teacher training group we are all like the Alchemists in our laboratories mixing ingredients. For us, as yogis, our laboratory is our mat and the ingredients are our bodies, our poses, our breath, our thoughts—and mixing it all together creates a different result every time.
You wake up to the power you have to go into the laboratory of your life experience and mix the potions you want to create your best life going forward.
Here are three reasons:
1. Transformation happens faster: Something extraordinary happens while in a yoga teacher training program that breaks the bonds of ordinary awareness and expands the consciousness of each individual to a level that would otherwise would have taken years of ordinary living to attain. I don’t know why. It just does. I equate this to being mystical…with no reason.
As Sri Swami Satchidananda says, “Yoga believes in transforming the individual before transforming the world. Whatever change we want to happen outside should happen within. If you walk in peace and express that peace in your very life, others will see you and learn something.” In a teacher training you are learning at a faster rate exponentially. You feed off of one another’s passion and it makes everyone burn brighter. You are constantly being built up to reach higher into your best potentiality.
2. Self relfection leads to self expression: Self study, known as svadhyaya, is really the heart of yoga. All these hours spent are a commitment to learning more about yourself. The entire training community provides you honest, loving support from day one with complete inclusivity. At times, I have personally felt that my weekends at training serve as my little safe haven. Teacher trainings are devoted to offering you an atmosphere in which freedom of self-expression, creativity, and passion for life are totally encouraged.
In the eight‐limbed path of yoga, in order to effectively teach using your most authentic voice you can only teach what you know about yourself. Being a dedicated student of yoga for your own self study will help you learn better ways to take care of yourself. And once you know how to self-comfort you are able to express who you are into the world in a dynamic yet unpretentious way.
3. Break old habits: By taking a break from your daily life, unplugging from the pulls and pushes of technology and engaging in healthy activity (tapas) and conversation (self-study), while in a teacher training program, you are in an excellent environment to release unwanted habits. Some of these habits include detoxing the physical body through a lot of moving and breathing. You do a lot of yoga poses! The letting go of mental bonds and ego provides an emotional transformation of surrender.
Also there is something very powerful about surrounding yourself with people who don’t know the entirety of your past. They see you as you really are and your potential for greatness. This encourages you to want to do better.
I will be sad to finish my teacher training program but I am excited about the future and the friendships I have formed. It so comforting to know that these friendships are with like minded people who will support my growth and your my lifestyle choices.
Till the next update…my final class exam! Namaste