Lessons From My Yoga Teacher Training: A Reflection
Back from Goa, India, the inaugural recipient of The Om Work Project scholarship, Rebecca, reflects on her experience. She is now a registered yoga teacher and is looking forward to the growth and adventures to come.
Expectations vs. Reality
When people ask me how my trip to India was, I don’t say it was good. Saying that my trip was good, or great, would feel unfair to me. I would classify it more as life-changing, interesting, or even a bit hectic but wonderful.
My one-month trip started of with a 48+ hour quest consisting of four airplane rides, extremely long and short layovers and it all ended with a two-hour road trip through treacherous Indian driving conditions.
Beginning the Training
I arrived late to my first class due to travel delays and made probably an undesirable first impression. Walking into class late, with a very distinct “I haven’t showered or slept in three days” kind of look (and smell) was probably not the best way to present myself for the first time.
Immediately I was very surprised by the diversity of people in my training group. For some reason, I subconsciously assumed that it would be young yoga-pant-wearing, wealthy women and maybe one token dude. I was very wrong and am actually very happy to discover the diversity within the group. The group of people I was learning with was filled with some amazing and supportive people. At times, it made me uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed to be the youngest one by a huge age gap, but in a way, I learned how to embrace the fact that I, and the others, are on our own paths, and that the yoga training just so happened take place at different times in our lives.
I had a rough time settling in due to terrible jet lag, hot humid climate, and some unexpected sugar withdrawals (yes, I was previously a sugar addict), but once I got accustomed to the schedule, I was amazed by the simplicity and intensity of the environment I was in as well as the lessons we were taking. Our two teachers at the Breathe in Life Training, Sarah and Julia, rotated teaching every day which led to a well balanced and engaging schedule.
Practicing yoga in the shala took up three hours every morning and I can firmly say that I have never sweat so much in my life. It wasn’t just the heat, but me pushing myself further and further every morning. I am not usually a morning person, but I found myself naturally waking up before breakfast to spend some time with myself.
My first few days were like a dream. The beauty of our surroundings, the delicious foods and teas, the connections with new, fascinating people were all so comfortably overwhelming. Then cue the difficulties. I let some stressors from “the outside world” and my life back in Canada and the USA really get me down. I had some struggles bringing myself back up. Once back up, I felt great, and then back down again.
I came into the training really excited about travelling, learning, and meeting new people. I know I am the type of person who is generally a loner and a wallflower, but I do get very enthusiastic about making lots of friends, when given a fresh new opportunity. This, I learned, was a bad thing for me to do. What happened was I got very excited to meet everyone and make friends with everyone, even though I knew I was an introvert, and got extremely disappointed when I was having a hard time connecting with people and the groups that had already formed. How could it not have occurred to me that those two things don’t combine very well!? I had to learn though the pain of a conflicting mindset, that yes, I am a very outgoing person and love having friends and connecting with other souls, but I am also a major introvert. It took becoming close friends with only one person on the training for me to realize that although I am a crazy introvert and a secret, wanna-be outgoing person, I have a more social based anxiety that forms my introverted tendencies, and that my hidden outgoing, extroverted self is only mostly capable of one-on-one interactions. When it finally clicked, I thought back to all my school years, clubs, and work places, and it finally made sense why I didn’t have friend groups like everyone else. In a way I already knew that I wasn’t a group person, but I was always jealous of the people who had friend groups and always wanted to be that type of person.
That being said, this constant social setting was very difficult for me the entire month. No place I had access to was entirely private for me to recharge and it really tested me. It put me in weird moods, and I had to learn how to bring myself up out of that normal. The only thing I had to myself was my yoga practice and that made it all the more special to me.
When Things Go Wrong
At the two-week point, and after many ups and downs, after learning some life changing yoga goodness, I hit rock bottom. Why? Still not entirely sure how it happened, but I learned something about myself along the way. One chain of bad events followed by a phone argument with my partner, conflict with my roommates, and missing a class, on top of just constantly being surrounded by people, I got dragged (although I probably dragged myself) deep down into a little bad-habit hole of my own sorrow and suffering. At the time I felt guilty for being like this during such a blissful once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I believe now that this was a necessary fall for me to change.
That day, after dinner, I got “called to the principals office”. And by that, I mean I was called to my teacher’s balcony for a chat. It was a rough conversation, but at my mental and emotional rock bottom, it was extremely helpful to have my teachers help me identify and deal with some of my own hurdles. From there, the second I wandered down that spiral metal staircase, I started to build up from the shattered remains that were my brain.
The thing about hitting rock bottom, is it’s painful. It is terrifying. It’s hard to hear and understand the things you need to hear without proper support and the will to move on. Yoga teacher training was the perfect place for me to go though that change. From there, and with the help of my teachers, the incredible yoga lessons, and my own will to improve myself, I was able to progress much further than I could’ve ever imagined.
The lessons I learned are mine, and only mine. I thoroughly believe that I will take these lessons with me into my old age. I’ve already seen so much improvement in my day to day and even how I carry myself, just from the experiences I’ve gone through in India. I feel like I’m a better student, a better partner, a better friend, and I feel more comfortable in my own body and mind.
Every week of the training, I didn’t recognize the person I was the week before. It is unfathomable to even think about pre-India Rebecca from my own perspective, let alone first half of the training Rebecca.
Flying from India to New York was a rough transition. Not only did I almost die on the airplane (thank you Air India for serving peanuts on the airplane after I explicitly asked you not to), but I got sick again the day I got home to my mother’s house. I spent a majority of my two-week visit home, doing nothing but recovering. I never got the proper time to digest the information or even the fact that I went to India. It wasn’t until my last day when I went to visit one of my best friends for dinner. We got so caught up talking that I missed my last bus and we talked until 4am. She had no knowledge of yoga, other than the fact that it’s a good workout, but we spent hours discussing yoga and life. By the middle of the night, she had said she really noticed a difference in me, in how I was speaking, and how I carried myself and even just how peaceful I looked. It shocked me since it was the first time, I was hearing those things since my big change.
When I got back to Canada and saw my boyfriend, he ended up saying the same things, and was genuinely shocked at how fit I was (of course). But what surprised me the most was during my first week of school, one of my professors that I have studied with many times before, said she noticed a different, better energy from me when she walked in the room. These confirmations of how I feel in real life, with people that matter to me meant a lot, and make me grateful that I applied for the scholarship in the first place.
I find it very hard to put in to words, exactly what I took away from my training, but I’ll put it like this. I believe each person got a personalized, self-discovery lesson from their experience of the training. These were not lessons that the teachers gave us, but something we learned through the process of persisting through the month of a 200-hour yoga teaching training.
From the very beginning of my trip, I was being broken down. The long and awful journey followed by the detox and jet lag was the first step in my lesson. From my first small discovery of myself as an “outgoing introvert”, to my big break of pinpointing my own negative mental/emotional tendencies and how to notice and actually stop them from happening, I would 100% say that from that night, walking down that spiral staircase, I have become a better human, and I can only see up from here.
Read Rebecca’s pre-trip reflection here.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
I would first like to thank the team at the Om Work Project for everything they’ve done to make this happen.
Nicole McLellan, I am so honoured to be the first recipient of the scholarship and am incredible happy and proud that your dream is coming true. I can’t thank you enough for all the hard work and energy you put into making this even exist. I look forward to our mentorship program and I am forever grateful for the opportunity you gave me.
Nicole Sampson, thank you for sharing the Om Work Project in your final presentation in Public Speaking class almost a year ago! And I thank you for supporting me and helping me prepare for my trip.
Julia McCabe, somehow when I met you, I saw a bit of myself in you, and I thank you for being such a wonderful and inspiring teacher, and for helping me overcome my struggles while I was on your training.
Sarah Zandbeek, thank you for the tough love and for always having a calming contagious energy, and thank you for supporting me though my difficult journey. And Alder Ruby, thank you for always making me smile.
Njood “Judy”, thank you for being my unofficial third teacher, official best friend from the other side of the world, and favourite shopping buddy. The lessons I learned from you are beyond yoga and I can’t thank you enough for always being there for me. My absolute favourite memory from India was when we skipped dinner to sneak out for non-vegan food, and then proceeded to stuff our faces with chicken momos and garlic butter naan.
Aaron, thank you for being my Canadian support system. You’ve been my best friend and partner for a majority of my time living in Canada and I am so thankful for everything you’ve done for me and beyond happy to have you in my life.
Finally, Mom, thank you for raising me to be who I am today, and for taking care of me after India while I was sick (and the many times before that). I love you!