Student Essay: Me teaching yoga?


by Nancy Cole

Having taken yoga classes over the past four years or so, beginning slowly with one class each week, and moving forward to about year ago when I began taking a class every day, I had serious questions about making a commitment to teacher training.  Would doing so ruin my love of taking classes or interfere too much with my personal life?  Id heard others comment that it would be life-changing and maybe I was fine with the way things were.   All of my experience with yoga, however, had taught me that not only could I change in major ways (physically, emotionally, spiritually) by becoming present, and remembering to breathe, but I could also do so much more in all these ways than yesterday, or last week, or last month.  The idea of taking these classes floated around in my mind, teasing me for several months.

Then the time came for commitment.  I spoke separately with at least two of the instructors for the teacher training, as well as instructors with whom I had been practicing.  Was I too old?  Could I do this training physically?  I worked myself into some serious dukkha (suffering, being uneasy, anxiety, bad space) and had plenty of cita vritti (swirling of the mind) going on.   I finally jumped in with both feet, taking a major step in faith that all would be well, and began classes in April 2007.  This required paying attention to Yoga Sutra 11.16 Heyam duhkham anagatam (getting caught up in an old, habitual reaction to some experience, then recognizing it, and avoiding going in that direction, heading for good space).

I can now say, without reservation, that yoga teacher training did change my life in many very unexpected ways.  My faith increased, first and foremost.  Being exposed to all the different styles of yoga, as well as far more in-depth glimpses of the philosophy and yoga sutras, was an amazing experience.  The seven weeks went by in a blink, and there were days that either my mind, my body, or both were utterly spent.  Some days were discouraging (of my own minds making) because maybe I couldnt do some of the more advanced poses being taught, or maybe I broke my own rules and compared myself with another student; but for the most part, that wasnt the case.  I simply became a sponge and absorbed all of it.  I learned not to beat myself up over what my mind saw, accept what was happening, and move forward.

After listening to instructor after instructor reminding me to simply breathe, be present in my life, pay attentioneveryone who practices yoga has heard these comments over and over I began to do these things much more quickly and easily.  I never really had the intention to teach yoga, and didnt exhibit much confidence during all of the valuable practice teaching sessions, but I was compelled on a very deep level to finish all of the requirements for certfication as quickly as possible.  I turned in all of my completed packet within days of the last class (which was also an unforgettable experience!) and even returned the few terms definitions, which needed a little fine-tuning, in a very short time.  I had finished it and I was satisfied.

Little did I know that less than two months later I would be teaching two one-hour classes each week, and very soon moving to another state where I would be enthusiastically asked to teach by three separate women.  One of the teacher training instructors had said you would know you were ready to teach when you were asked, but even though I was asked, I was not particularly confident.

My first experience teaching outside the training sessions was with a friend at the gym where I do aerobics early every morning.  She was so excited about yoga that after I left the gym, she told three other women about yoga and informed me the very next day that theyd like me to teach them as well, once a week if possible!   In addition, two neighbor ladies have known how much I enjoy practicing yoga and asked me just last week if I could come into their home and teach them what yoga is all about, which I did with great joy.  We three had a wonderful time and as I left, one of them said she now understands why Ive been so enthusiastic, and would I come again next week.  Then, after fifteen years away, my husband and I went on vacation to re-visit an area of Minnesota, near where I grew up, from June 1-9 and, much to our amazement, found a lake home for ourselves, made an offer, and bought it.  While there, on three separate occasions while talking with women in this tiny community, my husband mentioned that Id just finished yoga teacher training.  Each of these women became excited and asked if I would be willing to teach them when we return there since there was no yoga being taught in that area.  I received a letter from one of them when we returned to Tempe telling me that shed mentioned yoga to two of her friends, and by that evening (small town news!) she had lined up eight ladies for me to teach! The owner of the B & B where we stayed told me she often has womens retreats there, and has a massage therapist on hand, so would I please offer yoga for those week-ends.  And heres another surpriseall of the teaching I have done is with women near my own age who have never been exposed to yoga.  I am so excited and thrilled to share what Ive learned.  I love working with beginners and have observed two introduction to yoga workshops to gain more knowledge.  I enjoy working with this over fifty population and know that I will be doing so when weve moved out of state, so I am also observing yoga for seniors classes for this express purpose.

Having gone from I am not sure I can do this to being asked to teach by three separate groups of people, has been a huge concept to wrap my mind around, when I take time to dwell on it.  Rather than doing that, however, I am simply grinning at the path Im on and the situation I find myself in, remembering all the times Ive enthused about how much I love yoga and how much it has helped me to anyone who would listen, including strangers at the grocery store, family members and friends.

None of this came about because I had carefully planned it, it was simply meant to be and by being still, my prayers to learn what I have been meant to be doing have been answered.  I read a quote by Rumi which says:  Do you have the patience to wait til your mud settles and the water is clear?  Can you remain unmoving til the right action arises all by itself?  And theres my favorite quote: Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).   I have sincere gratitude that I have been able, through the consistent practice of yoga, to overcome (among other things) some serious impatience and frustration and do just that.  My mind still chatters occasionally, wondering how I will demonstrate a pose which Ive yet to accomplish, but in my heart, I know the right thing will happen at the right time and Ill surprise myself yet again.  I can always use words!!

To all those instructors who reminded me to quiet my mind and be still, to listen to that deep knowing within, and to set aside fear and worry, I say a heartfelt thank you.  And to all those who may end up learning even a little bit from me about breathing consciously, or aligning themselves in an asana, or calming the busy mind in order to simply relax and be, I say Im glad you are here, lets enjoy this moment together!