Hello friends! I’ve missed you! I have been working around the clock with an amazing team to launch a brick-and-mortar health and wellness business in Atlanta. Our mission is to integrate traditional medical practices with ancient holistic healing techniques. It’s new, it’s innovative, and there is much to be done, but I’m so profoundly grateful to work with Dr. Tim Nguyen, MD, to share this crazy healthy life at Atlanta’s first full service health and wellness practice, Atlanta Integrative Medical Center.
We will talk more about the center later, but today I thought we’d chat about how yoga teacher training (YTT) changes lives. Contrary to popular belief, YTT is not just for people who want to teach yoga. It is a comprehensive course that is designed to pride a broad view of the power of this practice, perfect for anyone who wants to understand the fundamentals of yoga, as well as those who want to teach the practice to others. Topics covered include anatomy, physiology, pose alignment, energy management, philosophy, and much, much more.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my YTT experience lately, as I’ll be leading a 200 Hour RYT yoga teacher training at our in-house yoga studio, Westside Yoga, this fall, along with some of our experienced teachers, and some very special guests from our yoga community. Preparing for the course, and talking about it with our students, has reminded me that YTT was the beginning of all of the major health transformations in my life.
When I first got into yoga, almost 20 years ago, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was recovering from a life-altering car accident at the time, and was living with a lot of chronic pain. My first yoga experience felt impossible–everything hurt and I had to rest a lot. But I did what I could, and I was shocked that, afterwards, I felt less pain.
There was also this happiness thing. After class I felt happier, and more hopeful, than I had in quite some time. Maybe ever. It was like my fairy godmother had waved her magic wand over me, and made all of the hard things in life feel less difficult. I left that first class knowing that I would do this practice for the rest of my life, and I still feel that way today.
Back then, though, actually practicing yoga was really hard. I struggled a lot, but it was something I just knew I had to do. I added yoga classes to my weekly routine, never missing a Tuesday night class. As my gym added more classes, I put those on my schedule as well. I also started practicing in the mornings at home, with videos and TV shows. As I grew more comfortable on the mat, I was sick less often, and I had a lot more energy.
Daily yoga practice was life-changing. I noticed that the more I practiced and studied the meaning of yoga, the more the pieces of my life fell into place. I felt more confident, more empowered, and more ALIVE than I had ever been. My friends could see the change in me, but it was hard for them to understand what had happened. The power of yoga is difficult to put into words, and much easier to understand in practice.
Unfortunately, there were few easy ways for people to practice yoga back then. One day I had this funny thought: “If no one else is going to teach, than maybe I should.” It seemed ridiculous, to say it outloud to my husband: “I think I should be a yoga teacher”. We both giggled the first time I mentioned it.
But that thought turned into a calling I could not deny, and THAT is why I walked into LA Fitness and applied to be a yoga teacher. They didn’t care that I had never taught yoga before, and I didn’t care that the class only paid $17. It was just something I felt I had to do; it gave me purpose.
So…it was 2001, when I taught my first class, and there were no RYTs, no Yoga Alliance, and certainly no standards for yoga teachers. The manager at the gym didn’t take me seriously at first–at least not until I started filling my classes, and the members demanded more yoga on the schedule.
My Tuesday and Thursday night classes grew quickly in the months that followed, and it was exciting, but it also made me even more nervous about my teaching. Am I teaching this right? What if someone gets hurt? What if I get fired? My fears grew, week over week, so when I saw an ad for YTT in Yoga Journal Magazine, I jumped at the chance to get certified.
I applied to Peachtree Yoga Center in the summer of 2002, and began training that fall. I’ll admit I was intimidated at first, but it was clear that the struggle was there to serve me. Those long weekends of training added more to my life than I ever could have imagined.
It was during YTT that this practice really came alive for me. I discovered why yoga makes me feel so happy (samadhi, or bliss, is actually one of the eight disciplines of yoga), and learned new ways to add yogic techniques to my life. As I embraced yoga philosophy, and applied it to my life, I figured out how to control my migraines without medication, and finally got off the painkillers I had taken for years. I learned how to breathe more effectively, think more clearly, and be more of the person I always hoped to be. It deepened my faith, and made me feel like everything really is going to be ok. Most importantly, YTT gave me the background and confidence I needed to teach others in an effective and inspiring way.
Looking back now, YTT was, by far, the most empowering experience of my entire life. It opened my mind and my heart to possibilities that I never would have considered otherwise. Ask anyone you know who has completed YTT, and I expect you will hear the same.
The truth is that yoga is for everyone, and this training can help everyone. No matter what you have been through or what you are facing, learning how to apply yoga to your experiences can improve your life. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Yoga is the teacher, and it will call to you when the time is right. Answer the call, and give yourself the gift of becoming a true yogi.
I am beyond thrilled to be leading the first Yoga Teacher Training on the Westside of Atlanta this fall. The course will run from September 9, 2016 -December 18, 2016 at Westside Yoga, and students of all levels and backgrounds are welcome. Feel free to contact me if you are interested, and I’d be happy to help you get started. Or if you just want to follow our adventures in YTT, like us on Facebook and find us on Instagram.
Photo by Jamie Annarino at Westside Yoga