Cheryl Strayed, author of “Wild,” spent months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to rediscover herself at age 26. She left everything behind — lover, work, home, everything.
And I’m all down with the idea of self exploration and whatnot, but quitting my job and running west isn’t practical. My alternative: After six years of practicing yoga, I signed up for a 200-hour Y2 Yoga teacher training program, which was spaced out over 8 weekends from January to April (a summer session is coming up now).
A few universal takeaways from the experience:
(1) I don’t have to leave home to have my great adventure.
I never thought I’d go through yoga teacher training. I kept telling friends I didn’t think I was meant to teach anyone anything, ever. But therein lies the adventure: learning the tricks to personal growth and how to give voice to that for others.
And I only had to drive five miles to Cotswold to dive into it through philosophical readings, group discussions, intense yoga practices and cathartic exercises (like weaving a catheter through my nostrils and out of my mouth, with much encouragement from other trainees).
Each weekend was a retreat into the unknown.
(2) I can’t expect one experience to turn me into a new person.
I signed up for this program back in September 2015 with a Super Early Bird deal, dreaming that, come April 2016, I would be drastically transformed. I would be all light and insight and 100 percent confident as a teacher.
Not the case — and not the point. Teacher training gives a glimpse of what’s possible for the future, so any change I have undergone has been subtle. Admitting what weighs me down and what I doubt, taking in techniques to counter that. Gathering all of the tools to compose a power sequence, to use my voice and to be authentic as a person. Taking responsibility for growing my own practice and setting up my own teaching opportunities.
Life is about continual change, not one change.
(3) Everything is easier if I relax.
If you let your body tense with stress, your muscles are less malleable. Calming the mind and letting the body slip into a sense of ease and slowing down your motion means moving more deeply into postures. No matter how slow the progress.
(Hint: Same concept applies to the real world.)
(4) I can’t do what I’m passionate about if I don’t take care of my body.
Hot yoga is rough. Y2 keeps the main studio at high heat and humidity, so leaping into handstands and a continuous flow of movement for an hour isn’t easy. And it’s hellish if you’re not hydrated or haven’t nourished your body properly.
But we are — all of us — here to be strong, to take care of ourselves so we have the strength to do what we love.
(5) I am supported and I can support others.
This program matched me with about 30 other yogis from age 17 upward, from backgrounds like gardener, to occupational therapist, to lawyer, to IT support — and all of us have spent 200 hours oversharing for the sake of growth, plus hours climbing all over each other to learn how to assist students in classes.
At the root, we are a reminder to each other that we can experience no feeling that has not been felt by another human. And that we always have people to cheer us on if we look in the right place.
(6) My teachers are all around me.
And they all deserve credit. My teachers are my parents, my friends, my coworkers. My teachers are my fellow trainees who set the example for self-expression. My teachers are the people who see my potential before I see it for myself — like Rian Harris, who first planted the idea of training in my mind.
My teachers are my three Y2 instructors — Johnna Smith, Tanner Bazemore and Jen DeCurtins — who show us yogis how to stretch our bodies and our own perceptions of what we can do.
What’s next? Keeping my day job, for sure. Trying my hand at teaching (location TBD). Maintaining my daily yoga practice. And remembering why I started in the first place: This practice shows me my strength, my peace, and sets me free from the rest.
So bring on the rest.
Photos: Wanda Koch, Rian Harris