Yoga Teacher Training was the beginning, middle, and end of things. Or was it the end, the middle, and the beginning? Or perhaps it was the end, moving into the beginning, yet it has somehow always been in the middle of things? Relax. Take a breath. Begin to let the cares of the day slip away into so much dust. What remains? Reach into the darkness – what comes to light? What bursts through the door of your consciousness, insisting it have its say? A worry? A fear? This time it’s the past. It’s the beginning.
A small sign sits unobtrusively atop a reception desk. “Deepen Your Practice” it proclaims; a prelude of Yoga Teacher Training at Kosha Yoga. “Do you want to delve deeper into yoga? Do you want to look at what yoga is really all about? Then come join us,” runs the basic message. You pause before heading into the sanctuary of the yoga studio room. A feeling from deep within rises up through the waves of consciousness, an odd surge palpating in your heart. A voice speaks. Something draws you here. It feels…real. It also sounds really fun. Inwardly you shake your head , sighing with regret. “Ah, but I don’t really wish to be a teacher. There are other things to think about. You’re beginning career job applications elsewhere…possibly as an officer in the military.”
“This seems to be something right up your alley.”
The sound of a voice attached to an actual person startles you into looking up. A woman with abundantly curly brown hair looks at you with a smile floating in a sea of calm. It’s Carrie, the owner of the studio and one of the lead teachers in the Yoga Teacher Training. Your gaze darts around her, trying to see where all that calm comes from. Could it just be her?Is it even real? It takes a moment for words to stumble from the ether and into existence, dubiously tripping off the tongue.
“Do you really think so?”
She answers in the affirmative, having heard of the many questions you asked Lea-Ann about yoga whilst taking her classes at the studio. You hear that every section of the training is optional – you needn’t take the entire three segments of the training and become certified to teach if you don’t wish to. You can simply begin by deepening your practice. Thoughts and feelings war with each other. It all sounded fun, but the military, but your future, but let’s be practical… Still, your eyes seek out the sign of their own volition every time you walk into the studio. You find yourself setting aside some money and beginning a temporary job. You find yourself saying yes.
Wait! Come back to the present. Open your eyes. Breath flows into movement. Warm up the spine. Feel the sides of your body lengthen. Integration of shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers; of toes, ankles, knees, hips, torso, heart and the crown of your head. Awaken from stillness into movement. Focus, begin to live in the present, moment by moment. It is so much and so little all at once. How does one start? Where does it all come from and where does it all lead?
It starts by a group of us meeting once a week. It is a small group, yet large enough that interesting discussions and different ideas flow freely. We come from different backgrounds, different age groups, and different careers. Yet somehow all of us are interested in this same thread that is yoga. Gently, we are introduced to its many facets. Its roots start with things like Pantangali’s Sutras, Samkhya philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita, the eight limbs of yoga, the different types of yoga out there, even learning a little Sanskrit. All of these illuminate some of the many potential pathways saying yes, you too can realize that divine essence, that core within you which never fades and lies underneath it all. There are many pathways to this awakening since we each of us are unique and called to different things, and thus there are many paths of yoga, of union. We talk and discuss: what does this mean? Do we agree with it? What is the seed of truth within these writings which still speak to the hearts of humanity after thousands of years?
Step forward to the front of your space. Bow into yourself in a forward fold. Surrender into the moment as your head hangs heavy and your spine surrenders to gravity.
Then comes the introduction of those basic elements which constitute the practice of yoga and have the potential to open you to so much more. You always thought you knew how to breathe, how to move and how to be. Suddenly you experience what it is to link breath with movement. You learn the way each joint is meant to move. You begin the practice of meditation – of aligning the self with the Self, of realizing stillness so you can uncover the core, the truth flowing underneath it all.
How does one move from these ideas into the actual realization of them? It begins with practice. Every week, between one meeting and the next, there is time to contemplate all that you are studying and to notice what happens as you practice the elements of yoga with the tools you are given week by week. At the same time you are straddling the world of day to day life, of jobs and family along with your practice, learning how they coincide and really needing to contemplate the role yoga plays in your life. Asana, pranayama, meditation, self-study, bandhas, your state of mind – all of these things make up the fabric of a yoga practice. Much of the practice is up to you, and you have the opportunity to delve into it as deeply as you like. Much of the yogic writings and thought only begin to make sense with time and practice, and you are given a lot time in the course of this roughly 8-9 month training. You find the more you put into your yoga, the more is given back to you.
Stand tall in tadasana, steady as a mountain. Raise your fingertips to the sky. Focus on one element at a time. Draw the tailbone down. Take a step back and lift your torso up and out of your pelvis in Alanasana, a lunge. Breathe, adjust, and notice. Each little action, each practice may not have much impact at first. Your mind races, you feel lightheaded after a particularly deep breath, your hamstrings seem to foil you at every turn with their rigidity. Still you keep trying, you keep learning and the layers continue to weave and unfold.
The second segment begins and with it a greater exploration of asana and anatomy. In addition to the weekly meetings, once or twice a month weekend intensives with Lea-Ann are spent in these pursuits. How are our bodies made? What is at the heart of each family of asana from backbends to twists to inversions? What are the effects of each asana? How are our bodies truly meant to align?
Yoga eventually leads to that discovery of wholeness, of the essence of who we really are. Yet sometimes in order to awaken to that wholeness, it helps to become aware of the different layers and levels that comprise the whole. These are the koshas, the sheaths, incorporating the body, the breath and energy, the mind and spirit – all of which integrate into that whole. Slide into Trikonasana, (Triangle Pose). Do you feel that stretch in your hamstring, that opening in your chest? Where does your breath travel? Where does the energy expand? Where does it spiral in? Do you notice the stability of the shape you create? What thoughts, what emotions rise up like tides within you? There is no one right answer – in this training there is space for discussion, for the practice to be your own, for your own thoughts to grow and develop and see that no one’s yogic path need look exactly the same for it to be yoga.
Somewhere along the way you fell in with the flow of things and find yourself doing your second or third chaturanga dandasana, that yogic push-up. Your belly tones, your inner thighs lift, and though it isn’t always easy you find yourself continuing on, staying with the moment, this moment, and opening to what you’ll be capable of next. You find yourself deep into the training and re-evaluating the course the river of your life is taking. What really matters to you? What wells up from deep within? The answer was there before you even asked the question: you are finishing the training and you are becoming a yoga teacher. Your life takes a new course.
The third segment comes and you’ve already come so far – do you feel ready to take all of the elements you’ve brought together and expand into the possibilities? You’re at that point where you are ready and warmed up for a peak pose – a pose which can be both challenging yet freeing, something that serves as the peak of your practice that day. Maybe today it’s pincha mayurasana (feathered peacock pose). Maybe you learn what it is to put together a yoga class and teach. All that knowledge and study of anatomy, asana, the koshas, and our own practice comes into play as we put together our own sequences and try writing out different class styles from a vinyasa class, to a peak pose class, or even an integral class. We begin to work with more than just our tightly knit band of fellow yoga trainees, learning how to give cues and how to make adjustments for different body types and levels of experience. We teach classes.
Your arms are set, your fingers spread and active, your forearms pressed to the earth, your shoulders and elbows in alignment. Your hips are lifted as high as you can make them, your belly engaged. You look forward, desperately trying to keep your shoulders wrapped onto your back and your tailbone lifted as you prepare to kick your legs up to the sky. Will you rise up like a majestic peacock? Or will the support of your shoulders crumble underneath you, will your back roll into a crunching banana curve as you collapse into a heap on the ground?
You thought you knew how to speak, you thought you knew asana and yoga, but somehow the words trip over themselves in your nervousness to produce a class.
Here you come back to your practice. Whoever reached Samadhi on their first attempt at meditation? Or even their fiftieth? You kick up your legs, you teach your first class. Maybe you stumbled over your words a few times. Maybe you forgot part of your sequence. Maybe your legs helplessly flailed in the air before you fell. Maybe you barely got off the ground. No matter. Your fellow trainees and your teachers help walk you through what elements could be improved upon and what could be expanded. You reset your arms, you lift your hips, and you try again.
Somehow, both quickly and slowly, the training comes to a close and graduation is in sight. We are each given the opportunity to present our final projects. These are really something akin to yoga resumes and are a reflection upon our whole experience. What kind of classes would we like to teach? What kind of person or group would we like to teach? How will we continue to develop our own practice? What steps might we take to reach these goals? Shavasana comes and eyelids flutter closed. Everything is allowed to relax and still. The time has come for rest and integration of all that has occurred and all that is. Graduation comes and as you roll onto your side and prepare to sit up and come back to life, something new is born out of the ashes. A new cycle, a new journey begins.
Kosha Yoga Teacher Training Graduate 2016
Learn More About Kosha Yoga’s Teacher training program Located in Littleton, Colorado, serving students in Denver, Highlands Ranch, Centennial and Littleton.