Reflections On a Teacher Training Well-Yoked

Believe me when I say: yoga teacher training is unlike any other type of training. Afterward, your life will never be the same.


Not to discount the various other types, like parochial retreats, summer basketball camps, summer theatre camps, youth leadership conferences, residence life trainings, or college acting classes – all of which I’ve done, and all of which provided me excellent opportunities to change and grow. However, while the combination of these past experiences led me to Yoga Innovations’ Teacher Training 2016, they didn’t help me through it. The same old rules didn’t apply. We were learning in a group, yes. We were covering new material in a short time, ok. We were immersed in culture, led by passionate role models and a thriving community we were only just beginning to understand – right on. The difference?


Teacher Training is scary shit.


If dedicated, one can get through all of the aforementioned educational experiences without batting an eyelash at vulnerability. I believe I gave them all by my best Natalie Spanner try: a slice of heart, two dashes of bravado, and a whole lot of luck. With yoga teacher training, however, as I humbly discovered the very first weekend, it’s not helpful enough to your process if you share only a piece of yourself. The journey asks for all of you.


It asks for your highest faculties of mind. To memorize the functions and structure of anatomy. To decipher the intent behind Patanjali’s ancient Yoga Sutras. To interpret timeless spiritual concepts that philosophers still disagree on and that the whole world still goes to war over.


It asks for your commitment to bodily awareness. To feel proper alignment in your own body, and recognize imbalance in another’s. To appreciate the different energetic forces at work within us and know them by both methods of Western and Eastern medicinal understanding. To develop an asana practice grounded in discipline, stability, and safety, so you can then give the same to others.


It asks for you to cultivate faith. To place trust in the power of breath, wherever it comes from. To experience the effect of a worldview based in love and acceptance. To listen past the voices, to the untouched pool of wisdom waiting beneath that layer of chatter in your mind. To dedicate yourself to something bigger, to learn from your Self.


Oh, and is there so much to learn! The best thing about Yoga Innovations’ Teacher Training is not that it teaches you all of it, but that it presents you with the tools to learn it anew, over and over again. In that way, it helps you decide, on your own terms, what kind of teacher you want to be. The vote is still out for me, it’s so hard to say where or whom I’ll end up being. But just five months after completing that experience, this newfound bond between my mind, body, and spirit – in the practice of yoga – makes me feel more alive than ever, like all parts of me belong together.


Even especially the parts of me I don’t like and can’t control. Let me be clear: studying yoga doesn’t automatically bring you more happiness. It doesn’t erase the difficult parts of you and supplant them with more benign counterparts. I am not one for following rules (unless they’re mine.) Dogma and doctrine being thrust upon me stirs up violent emotions. Yoga teacher training doesn’t do that. ‘Cause yoga’s way smarter. Not insidious at all – but definitely clever, the way it sneaks up on you. By beginning with only what we observe, then introducing us to ancient systems of organizing our inner and outer lives, applying a little bit of literal and figurative heat, or tapas (to burn in fiery discipline; zeal), we’re left to make our own conclusions on the state of our realities. The truth settles into place.


The dynamics of the skeleton, for example, are such that the front of our bodies send energy up and away from us, while the backs of our bodies draw it together and down. When we mirror this physical action with our emotional and inner energies, our whole being suddenly aligns. And we feel it. Have you ever made an adjustment in class that sent a noticeable change throughout your entire body? Or a hands-on assist that felt like a burden left with the practitioner’s hands? Imagine if this could apply to any aspect of your life, and after Teacher Training, you had the skills with which to do it yourself.


When we feel safe enough to explore the good, bad, and ugly parts of ourselves, while exercising a type of life-long meditation (in yoga), transformation occurs. It’s dependent on no one else’s actions but your own. Yet, it feels like a miracle. You’ve heard of the clandestine healing effects of practicing yoga, you’ve heard of teachers and students claiming they’ve found ultimate spiritual enlightenment…and all of that may be true. Science struggles to pinpoint why, other than state the obvious: that yoking, or uniting together our mind, body, and spirit brings about surprising results.


Teaching might not be your calling, and that’s O.K. Whatever it may be, Yoga Teacher Training without a doubt, brings you closer to your true purpose. Wouldn’t you like to find out what it is?


Author: Natalie Spanner

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