Why Am I In Yoga Teacher Training?

As last year ended, I announced that I had decided to take a yoga teacher training course. The first weekend (of eight) is done. I am both exhilarated and tired. I am excited to be taking these first steps along a new path, and to deepen my connection (and understanding) of the practice.

The teacher training is being presented by Down Dog Yoga — my home yoga studio. Down Dog has taught over 150 teachers. One of the strengths of the studio (which is consistently voted best of DC) is that all the teachers are of uniformly high caliber. As one fellow student put it, “there is no teacher I am hiding from.”

On the first day, we were invited to respond to a simple question: “Why are you here?” I had, of course, already answered this question for myself in a rudimentary way — else why spend the money and time to attend? Neither investment is trivial.

My rudimentary answer had been something or other about wanting to “deepen my practice.” That was enough to get me through the door.

On the wall upstairs at lululemon Georgetown, where our teacher training is held.

However, when it came my turn to answer, I found myself thinking much more intently about my reasons for being there, and the role yoga — this yoga — has come to play in my life. The style of yoga I practice is called “power yoga” and it is rooted in the teaching and practice of Baron Baptiste. It is quite strenuous and at Down Dog it is practiced in rooms heated to 99 degrees. It literally transforms me as I practice. I enter in one state, and exit in another. I enter as a head attached to a body — by the end of practice I can feel my body and mind integrated. The practice has taken me out of my head, and landed me right in my body.

This sounds a little kooky, but it is my experience.

There are many styles of yoga, and they all hold a different intention. Some styles promote flexibility, some relaxation, some strength, and some love. Most styles deliver all of these and more in varying amounts, but they all have a primary purpose. The primary purpose of power yoga is personal transformation.

Why Are You Here?

I said on Friday evening that “yoga went off like a bomb in my life.” As many of my friends know, about two years ago I had an epiphany around my physical body. I have had a handful of experiences throughout my life where I have been driven to make major changes in my outlook. Two years ago such a reorienting experience hit my physical body. Put simply, I realized that I was no longer 20 (even though I felt that way in my head). My physical body was the vessel that was carrying me through life. It was time to focus attention on its maintenance.

I have always been a person who enjoys exercise, but that was really the extent of my relationship to wellness. I would have said I was “a fit person,” perhaps even athletic. I had run marathons, and did some regular cardio work at the gym. My friends saw me as fit.

But my epiphany was that this dilettante approach to wellness was wholly inadequate. I was fooling myself. Because I had been blessed with a decent body, I had not had to face the shortcomings of the little attention I paid to my physical being. But vanity drove me to confront that which I had denied: I had gained enough pounds that I did not like the result. This was not about how I “looked” (although that did figure into it) — it was that when I looked at myself, I could not apply the label “athletic” to what I saw. I saw that my intention (fitness) and reality were far apart.

So, height of cliches, I tried a new exercise routine that a friend had told me about. Yes, I bought the P90X DVDs that you’ve seen on infomercials. And I did it, the whole thing. I had good results which I detailed on this site.

Looking back, there are three things I take away from that experience, which are now relevant to me: 1) I did not make any nutritional changes, so while I gained strength, my weight-loss results were minimal; 2) I learned that I enjoy strength training; 3) I discovered yoga.

Part of the P90X program is a once-per-week yoga session. The P90X yoga routine is hard. As I continued in the  exercise program, and after it ended, I stuck with the yoga and began to do it more. It is hard to maintain solo exercise for me, so I looked for yoga studios. I tried a number of them, and nothing really gave me the same feeling . . . until I discovered Down Dog.

At Down Dog, I discovered the experience that the DVD I had been working with only hinted at.

I began to experience personal transformation.

Since that time, my yoga practice has grown, as have a number of other wellness-related areas of my life. I learned about nutrition and shed a great deal of unhealthy body fat. My entire relationship to my physical being has changed:

  • I eat a strictly “paleo” diet (the evidence against the modern American diet, based on mass agricultural products, is compelling to me);
  • I do heavy resistance-based strength training 2-3 times a week;
  • I have abandoned long-distance cardio/endurance activities, as the evidence is strong that they are  counterproductive to health and fitness; and
  • I practice power yoga at least four times per week.

Of these elements, the two I cannot give up are the nutritional approach and the yoga. Other elements come and go, but the nutrition and the yoga are what are at the core of this transformation I am undergoing. I have never felt (or been) better than I am now — on a number of measures including feeling of well-being, capacity for exercise, and medical biomarkers such as cholesterol and insulin levels.

Why Teach?

My transformation is this: I brought consciousness to my relationship with my physical being. The fruits of this transformation have been life-changing.

Some may view my emphasis on physicality to be shallow. First of all, I engage in a number of other practices (I don’t drink, I meditate regularly, I connect spiritually with others on a regular basis) that are “deeper.” But secondly, this criticism misses the point. I have come to focus on my physical body not because I want to look cool — it is because I was forced to realize that my lack of relationship with my body was a gaping hole in my life.

Power yoga, as I have found it at Down Dog Yoga, has brought me into relationship with my body. I respect my body, and plan on taking care of it as I would an heirloom passed on to me by a loved one. It is this relationship I want to learn to pass on to others. We all live in bodies, and we can all be in better relationship to them. I have first-hand knowledge of the benefits of developing such a relationship.

I have so far to go in my understanding and practice. I know only a little — I am painfully aware of that. But if I can pass on the joy I have come to discover, then I feel I will be doing something beneficial.

And so, I embark on this journey. I don’t know where it will take me. But it seems clearly the next right step — so I take it.

7 thoughts on “Why Am I In Yoga Teacher Training?”

  1. Brad, nice to see you took the plunge of getting your teacher training. I did the same at a much older age but am glad that I did. Its true that you do have to ask yourself what your intention is and “why you are there” Even though its nice to just dive in and see where you land, having an intention helps as well. I would highly recommend you check out http://yogatrainingguide.com as it offers a lot of great articles on what to expect along the way.

    Good luck!

  2. Thank you for sharing this blog,

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    http://yogastair.com/yoga-pictures

    Yoga is a Hindu physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline.
    Yoga is a philosophy of Hindusim that requires mental, physical and spiritual
    connection in order to achieve enlightenment. Lord Shiva was the first yogi as
    per the authentic Vedic texts in which Yoga was first taught.

    I love how I’m learning things about myself mentally,
    physically and spiritually and how they are all connected. Going through my
    daily life I find myself thinking about the things I learned during my yoga
    practice. Things like my breathing, posture, letting go of things I can’t
    control and living in the present moment. Physically yoga has helped tremendously
    with my flexibility and strength. With my new eating plan and practicing yoga I
    have lost a little over 40 lbs. I’m starting to feel muscles in places I didn’t
    even know I had muscles!

    I’m so thankful that I found YogaStair! My journey is ongoing and always
    changing with every yoga practice. I love the fact that I feel better.

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