10 Things We Didn’t Expect to Learn in Yoga Teacher Training

Contributed by Christine & Andi of The Hungry Yogis

“I can’t believe this is actually happening.”

Those were the words we found ourselves repeating to each other during the weeks leading up to the beginning of yoga teacher training, a shared dream of ours since we started practicing with Black Swan Yoga.

The roots of our friendship are intertwined with yoga, having developed after attending a class at Black Swan with a mutual friend several years back. We were hooked after our very first class, and we knew almost instantly that we would complete our yoga teacher training together someday. We carpooled to yoga together, geeking out about asanas and alignment on the drive home. Once a week turned into twice a week, then three times a week, and before we knew it we were going every single day.

We set a tentative goal do to training in Fall 2017, but as the season got closer it started to feel impossible. The money wasn’t there, the timing wasn’t there, and it felt really scary. However, by some form of pure magic, something about letting go of the external pressures made space for the opportunity to be brave. In the end, we went for it.

Ten weeks later, we stepped out of the training space with shiny new 200 hour certificates, a fresh sense of confidence and a solid foundation of the practice. Despite our knowledge at the beginning of training, we still had so much more to learn, so we wanted to share some of the most important lessons learned throughout the process. Read on to find out what we, The Hungry Yogis, didn’t expect to learn in Black Swan Yoga Teacher Training (BSYTT):

  1. BSYTT isn’t just for people who want to teach public/studio classes. Despite the name of the training, BSYTT is really, at its most foundational level, an opportunity to further and deepen one’s personal practice. Whether you’re a natural born teacher wanting to quit that desk job and begin a new career, or just looking to learn more about the mindset of your teachers and what goes on behind the scenes in a yoga class, you’ll find a space to flourish.
  2. You don’t have to be a pro at every pose to be a successful teacher. Some of the most common responses we hear from those interested in BSYTT are “but I’m not good enough at yoga,” or “I couldn’t teach someone how to do yoga, I can’t even do *insert pose here.” These same people are always surprised to hear that our class was filled with a beautiful mix of people at all levels in their practices, from two months of experience to 20 years. It’s all about being honest with yourself about where you are in your individual practice, because we all face personal challenges and have the capacity to grow no matter how impressive our yoga pics may look on Instagram.
  3. There is no “right” answer. Have a question during training? The answer to everything is always… “it depends.” In our culture, we’re taught the concept of “right and wrong” from a young age, and then we begin to place our experiences into these black and white boxes. Your first day in BSYTT will shatter this notion, and the rest of the training will attempt to build a new structure for learning that allows for the grey, the intersections, the uncertainty, the chaos.
  4. Every pose is mountain pose. In one of the first weeks, we had a lengthy (like two hour long) discussion about the alignment of high crescent lunge. Breaking down this seemingly basic pose left us with a lasting sense of awe. Y’all, there is a lot happening in that pose. These foundational poses are the building blocks for so many other poses. It’s not about knowing how or being able to do every single pose, it’s about creating a strong foundation from which to bloom and play.
  5. It’s all connected. No really… it’s all connected. Even in a room full of people with pretty good body awareness, anatomy discussions were still mind blowing for many of us. Movements as simple as the orientation of your feet or the depth of your chaturanga can affect the whole integrity of a pose and your physical stamina down the line. So, starting from the ground up and learning just how connected each small muscle is to the whole is essential to the knowledge of a yoga teacher.
  6. Everyone’s yoga is completely different. If you’ve never watched people do yoga, it’s a completely inspiring experience. On those days when we were dealing with injuries or needing rest, it was still so much fun to watch people create a living, breathing artwork with their bodies. We loved seeing each person realize they were able to do poses they didn’t think they would ever be able to do. Sharing in that experience in any little way and cheering them on was often more healing than any other remedies off the mat.
  7. You will confront your ego, and it may not be too happy about the challenge. We were surprised to discover that the physical yoga was not nearly as difficult as the experience of confronting our egos and our samskaras (negative habits), but as difficult as it was some days, our teachers surrounded us with love and encouragement. They gave us the space to let our emotions pour out, without taking any of them personally.
  8. Teaching yoga is really just about holding space. Space for yourself, and space for others. The fact is, you really never know what the person next to you is experiencing on their mat or when they walk through the door. The best thing you can do for that person is to fill the space with a spirit of love and empathy, without judgement or attachment to their response.
  9. We are all capable of amazing things. Everyone had that “aha” moment at least once in a class, whether it was their first headstand or their first successful Bhujapidasana. Y’all, this is the coolest thing to witness. You can actually see someone’s confidence and sense of accomplishment grow and exude from their being, and it will make you want to run to the other side of the room and wrap them in a giant hug.
  10. When you let go of the competition, the practice expands tenfold. Some days, training felt like the Olympics, and other days, it felt like a giant group therapy session. Making such deep connections with the people around us, really getting to know who they were at their cores (while learning a bit about ourselves as well) reminded us to let go of the competition, the jealousy and the frustration that can be common in a public class. It reminded us to let go our our expectations and find that space between, that space where the practice truly begins.

If you’ve been looking for a way to deepen your yoga practice, you’re in the right place — see more here!