Although there were points in my nine-month training when I was ready for it to be over, I was sad to see it end. In the beginning, our teachers told us to look around the room: we would be friends with these people for the rest of our lives. After spending 200 hours with my fellow trainees, I know this to be true. In addition to all of the obvious takeaways—yoga history, philosophy, alignment, and anatomy—teacher training offers you a deep dive into svadhyaya (self-discovery).
Here are the top lessons I learned in my journey to become a yoga teacher:
During one of our classes, my teacher said, “This process will change you. You will notice that your old life and your old friends won’t always fit anymore.” He wasn’t speaking to training in particular, but about the broader transformation you undergo with a dedicated yoga practice. The more I practice, the more I find what he said to be true. Once I committed to diving deep into yoga, I began to take better care of myself spiritually and emotionally.
Before I had a regular practice, I turned to external means in order to change my surroundings. I looked forward to weekend partying as a way to have fun and escape “real life.” But what needed to change was within. I respect and trust myself more now. I understand that what’s happening now, in the present moment, is the real party.
Every teacher trainee meets their edge in a different place. My challenges included public speaking, meditation, and slowing myself down. I am a pitta—the Ayurvedic personality associated with fire—so relaxing can be quite a challenge. Through my training, however, I learned that I can do more than I give myself credit for; that meditation can work better than sleeping aids; and that, despite all of my spinning, inside me there is a very calm center. For me, the most revolutionary thing I learned is that I matter.
Everyone must learn to trust and listen to him or herself; and that starts with being able to love your body, mind, and soul. I started on that path through yoga. I look back now at the ways I treated myself, and I can’t believe I had such little self-respect. Yoga will help you find true goodness in everyone, if you do the work. It starts with your teacher and the guidance they provide as you move down your own path.
Part of the teacher-training process is trying to find your own voice and your own style, unless you’re in a more regimented program like Bikram. Many of us assume we want to be just like our favorite teachers but, when we try those traits on, they don’t quite fit. You will experiment and you will play; and eventually, you will find your own voice. It’s an ongoing process that continues even after you leave training. You continue to grow and evolve as both a practitioner and a teacher.
I don’t think that any two people will walk out of training with the same experience—no matter what style you study or where you enroll. What you can count on, however, is a lot of deeply gratifying but extremely difficult work. You will meet people who will change you, and you will change them. Though the greatest gift of training will no doubt be what you learn about yourself.