Thursday, March 7, 2013

10 Things I wish I had known AFTER completing the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training…

By Jessica Gale

1) There must be Tapas (again)…

One of the most difficult aspects to maintain post-training is maintaining a regular yoga practice. I moved to a new city with no Dharma Yoga studio after living in a city with a very devoted studio (where I attended class almost every day). Being in a new place and having to practice on my own presented a difficult transition. Despite this, I know that in order to be a good teacher I need to cultivate Tapas. Part of this transition includes a realization that I can’t rely on attending yoga classes every day and I need to be disciplined and take my practice into my own hands.

Unless you intend to fully devote yourself to yoga and forsake a householder’s life, you will have to adjust back to “real life” after the intensity of LOAY Teacher Training. You will be changed and your practice may be changed. You will need Tapas – but in new ways.

2) Take time to reflect… and then get started!

After completing the LOAY Teacher Training I took some necessary time off to let everything that I learned and experienced sink in. Revelations are not habituated over night and it may take some time (perhaps even a lifetime) to make sense of it and become part of your routine. That being said, I know how hard it can be to restart again. Let your mind rest but keep the enthusiasm going.

3) People are curious…

Something I still find interesting is that people are genuinely curious about my LOAY experience. Since yoga has been a huge part of my life for the last few years, I forget that Neti pots seem strange and people cannot imagine sitting quietly in meditation. Yes, people may think you’re a bit odd, but I have found that people admire the dedication and hard work that goes in to attending an intensive program like LOAY Teacher Training.

This situation presents the perfect opportunity to share your experience, offer to teach a free class and answer questions (but try not to overwhelm with your abundance of knowledge and enthusiasm). Just by being open and passionate you may lead people to discovering their own yoga practice!

4) Yoga is not a punishment…

Teaching yoga to your family and friends is not a punishment of some kind but a gift for you and a new experience for your loved ones to be taught by you! However, after first returning home from the LOAY Teacher Training, I did not want to impose yoga on my family and friends and didn’t ask about teaching anyone. I figured if they were interested, they would ask.

But then I realized there is nothing wrong with asking if anyone would like to attend one of my classes. Remember, your family and friends may not want to impose on you. They may be curious and want to try, but may think you are too busy or need to be paid. At the worst you may hear “no thank you,” but the best case is a dedicated new student!

5) Network, network, network…

Navigating the world as a new yoga teacher can be tough, particularly if you are in a new location without the support of an existing Dharma Yoga studio. The key point to remember when starting out is that yoga is non-threatening and people who practice yoga are generally pretty kind and understanding folks. So don’t be afraid to email, call or drop by a studio at which you are interested in teaching. And don’t be shy or embarrassed to reach out to other yogis, Dharma Yoga-taught or not. They are a part of your spiritual family, and family members try to help one another out.

6) You may teach in attics and other unconventional places…

I would hazard a guess that most teachers-in-training imagine teaching in a beautiful, bright studio with hardwood floors, a view and maybe even some birds singing outside. It is wonderful and inspiring to teach classes in a beautiful environment like this, however, it is non-essential. Sometimes, opportunities will arise and place you in strange spaces.

Take for example a class I currently teach in a friend’s small attic. There is large furniture in the room so we have to lay out our mats in an “L” formation. The ceiling is low and most of us are tall. The cats come in to visit and sometimes will even lie on the student’s legs, purring away in savasana. But none of this matters. It’s a quiet space that we all can fit in, and after each class, we exit feeling more peaceful than when we entered. So take opportunities as they come, even if they do not match your ideal vision.

7) “Copy the teacher…”

By now, if you have attended a LOAY Teacher Training, you know that this is one of Sri Dharma Mittra’s common phrases. Post-training, Sri Dharma may not be teaching you regularly anymore but that doesn’t mean you stop imitating the teacher.

Sometimes when I have had difficulty phrasing something in class I take a moment to think of what Sri Dharma may have said or done. And since I have only taken classes from Sri Dharma during the LOAY Teacher Training, I think about what the other teachers at my previous studio, who trained extensively under Sri Dharma, would have said or done. It works every time.

8) Teaching is not as scary as it first seems

After teaching my first class, my husband said to me “The first class will be the worst you teach… The second the second worst… and so forth.” He learned this from a professor when he was a graduate student and first started teaching. And yes, it’s true. Your teaching abilities will improve with time and experience.

Teaching yoga is not, nor should it be, a nerve-racking experience. The best thing you can do for the class and yourself is to come in with a peaceful state of mind. I discovered that a bit of pranayama and a few asanas before class allows me to teach a good class. Better yet, I sometimes include a simple pranayama exercise at the beginning of the class. The students are coming to class from their own crazy lives, so if people appear flustered and stressed, bring them to a more peaceful state of mind before you begin.

9) Hit the books (again)…

I completed the LOAY Teacher Training eight months ago and I am continually surprised that I find myself mentally searching for knowledge I could have recited without blinking during the course. Just the other day I was asked something I once knew but could not remember. I then realized the importance of continuing my studying and hitting the books a little each week. And while teaching regularly helps maintain some of what you learned, the breadth and depth of Sri Dharma’s teaching will be lost without a constant renewal and study.

10) Be patient…

Upon my return home from the LOAY Teacher Training, I declared to my fiancé that I planned to complete my internship hours in three months. Well, needless to say, as I write this (for my Karma Yoga!) it is six months later and I am not yet even half done.

This is not to say that you cannot complete everything in a month or two, but to be patient if you do not. Work hard. Continue to study. Accept that sometimes opportunities take time to fully manifest. Ahimsa (again!) is the most important guiding principle you can live by during this time (and always!).

Enjoy this time of learning, new experiences, and have patience and love for yourself during the journey.

Jessica Gale has practiced yoga for nine years and studied Ashtanga, Kripalu, and Dharma Yoga during this time. She spent the last three years studying intensely at CNY Yoga (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, NY and completed her LOAY 200-hour teacher training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in May 2012. She is currently completing her internship hours and hopes to achieve full certification soon. Jessica lives in Toronto with her husband and is pursuing a career in environmental work along with flower farming, garden design, and, of course, yoga.

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