When I took my first (of many) yoga teacher trainings, I had no intention to become a yoga teacher. My inquisitive mind simply wanted to understand why yoga “makes you feel good” (you can read more about that experience here).
Besides finding an answer to that question, I learned a whole lot more. And I realized that there are many more reasons to deepen your understanding of yoga besides the obvious.
1. It is good for your brain to learn something new
Research shows that keeping your mind active is as important as physical exercise to stay healthy and fit. Most impactful is mental activity that is difficult and beyond your comfort level, so watching a tv-series with unexpected plot twists will not suffice. As we spend the first half of our lives building solid connections between our brain cells, we need to continue to stimulate our brain in order to maintain those connections. A yoga teacher training will give your mind a lot to digest; you’ll have to memorize the names of bones and muscles in your body, learn how to safely cue a sequence of yoga poses, study the energetic effects of a yoga practice, and understand why certain practices are good for some people and not for others, just to name a few things. During my trainings it often seemed like I was trying to ‘drink from a fire hose’. The amount of new information was sometimes overwhelming, but I always felt very accomplished when I managed to make sense out of it all and was able to reproduce what I had learned.
2. You will learn a lot about yourself (the good and the bad)
Assuming you are interested in learning about what moves you, what makes you (re)act in certain ways, how you interact with other people, how you deal with stress (and how to do that differently), why you are always late (or early), and – most importantly – what makes your heart sing, a yoga teacher training is a great play ground to figure all that out. Since yoga is a practice of life, not (just) a practice of physical poses, diving deeply into it will, whether you want to or not, reveal a lot about yourself. Working on understanding yourself is not only an act of self-care, it also shows you care about others. The more you know yourself, the more you will be able to live authentically, which will make you a nice(er) person to be around.
3. Being part of a community promotes longevity
Being social (and I don’t mean on virtual media!) and being part of a community of like-minded people, greatly enhances our health, our happiness, and, therefore, our lifespan. The energy of a group seems to become tangible and personal pretty quickly. (Ever walked into a room where a group of people has been hanging out for a while? It almost feels like you are trespassing a virtual boundary!) As a yoga trainee you will experience a sense of belonging to your fellow students. Even if you don’t become instant ‘besties’, the fact that you are sharing the same interest, the same eagerness to learn, the same willingness to discover who you really are and let down your ‘guard’, will create a powerful bond. This is obviously true for any other intense training (and I’ve done some!), but in my experience there is something extra deep about a yoga community, which is very fulfilling and uplifting. When we engage with people that are on the investigative path, we have invaluable support in our process of shedding our unconscious patterns and finding our full potential in order to live a life of authentic happiness.
4. It is better to understand without practicing, then to practice without understanding
Have you ever done something that you perceived as utterly meaningless or useless? I bet you have. I also bet that you didn’t particularly enjoy that experience. Have you ever been in a yoga class where the teacher had you practice a challenging pose and you barely managed to sustain it for more than a breath? If you had known that this pose could enhance your lower back pain over time, would it have been easier to hold it? Researchers have found that when the mind knows we can do a certain task – and why we do it -, the body is far more capable of completing it then when the mind tells us we can’t. There are two ways the mind can know we are capable of something: we either know from experience, or we have learned it from a reliable source. In a yoga teacher training, you will actually learn a lot you didn’t even think there was to know. For instance, have you even wondered whether there is a specific reason why we usually roll to our right side after Savasana? (Answer: yes, there is.) Or why we usually twist to the right first, before twisting to the left? Having an understanding of yoga and the body greatly enhances our practice. Not only in the way we ‘perform’ it but – more importantly – also in the way we experience it, and in our ability to prevent (or work with) injuries. Since we all practice yoga because it makes us feel better, we may as well understand why.
5. It is a big gift to yourself – and the world
Yes, signing up for a yoga teacher training is a big commitment, whether it is for 500, 200 or 75 hours. You will need to invest time and money, and may need to ask others for help with taking care of your kids, pets or other beings in need of your presence. However, taking time for yourself, to ‘work’ on yourself, to learn new things to enhance your well-being, is not selfish. On the contrary: when we do not fuel ourselves, we will not have any energy to give to others. Of course, there are situations where there is really no choice, but more often than not, the idea that we are “needed” resides more in our own mind than in anyone else’s. We like to feel needed, to feel important, to feel valued, to feel indispensable. But guess what? To put it very black and white: we only need other’s appreciation – and we will never fully accept other’s appreciation – when we do not appreciate ourselves. Why, then, not work on ourselves first? When we learn to be more loving towards ourselves, we will be more loving towards everyone else. When we realize that, in the end, we all want the same thing – to love and be loved – we can tread a little lighter. We will be kind to our neighbors because we’d like them to be kind to us too. Because we know we deserve to be treated kindly. Any positive change in the world around us can only start within ourselves. If we want to live in a world that is filled with love – not hate – we need to start loving ourselves first, one step at a time. Maybe, just maybe, taking a yoga training is that first step.
I will be teaching a 75-hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training this winter/spring 2017. I would be delighted if you joined me, whether you intend to teach or not!