Laying on my yoga mat in my second week of Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) in Bali I remember listening to Gurumuk recite a Yoga Nidra. I remember tears falling down the side of my face and a smile daring to dance across my lips. I remember thinking that I had never felt so connected to my body, never breathed in so deeply or exhaled so completely. I remember being thankful that finally I didn’t feel confused about what I wanted out of life, I was excited and happier than I have ever been. The first two weeks of my training with East+West Yoga at Om Ham retreat felt like I had been on an emotional and spiritual rollercoaster, and it was the start of an experience that changed my life forever.
A year and a half before I arrived in Bali for my Yoga Teacher Training, I had been working as a Project Manager at one of the largest investment banks in the world. To say I was stressed is an understatement. On top of that I had been hospitalised for, and diagnosed with, Leaky Gut Syndrome. I was in a relationship I wanted to get out of and felt I was leading a life that had been dealt for me, rather than the one I had chosen.
I remember getting onto the train each day listening to inspirational music thinking “I want to do something inspiring with my life”, and then arriving at my desk realising more and more each day, that this wasn’t it. This was not the inspired life I wanted to lead. This was not the job that I wanted to wake up to each day, the city I wanted to live in or the person I felt I truly was.
I was unhappy, stuck in my life, working through a diagnoses as well as the remains of a failed relationship. I needed a change, any change, to break this downward spiral of confusion and frustration of not knowing what I wanted out of my life. After reading almost every self help book in the book store, I decided that I would quit my job, sell all my furniture and leave the UK to travel. One of the most inspirational quotes I stumbled across during this time was this: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I felt that I was thirsty to learn something new about myself and I saw the world and travel as my teacher.
About 6 months into my travels I reflected back on what I had done so far to figure out my life. It turns out, very little. I had spent quite a chunk of my savings, partied, danced, bungee-jumped and skydived, but now in Australia, I still didn’t feel any closer to knowing who I was and what I wanted. I had a better idea of what I didn’t want, which is always a good experience, but I was searching for more.
Having practiced Yoga on and off for about a decade I found myself in a Hot Yoga class in Melbourne three times a week. I started to feel reconnected to myself and felt that maybe becoming a Yoga teacher would be a good option for me. This struck a chord deep down in my soul, I was excited! So I did my search, chose my school and 5 months later I flew into Bali ready to learn more about Yoga and to qualify as a teacher, after all, wasn’t that the point of my trip? To change my career?
The 5 ways Yoga Teacher Training change my life
Since completing my YTT my life has done a 360 degree turn. It has changed in so many ways that now, what I refer to as my “past life”, seems unrecognisable to me. Here are the 5 main ways that my Yoga Teacher Training changed my life.
1 ) I leant how to be happy
The most fundamental lesson that I took away from my YTT is this: “Tat Tvam Asi”. Roughly translated it means “I am that”. Gurumuk, our spiritual teacher during my YTT, explained to us the power of this statement. That we are that, that which we are seeking. In other words, we seek happiness. All of us have a desire to find true happiness in our lives, the problem is that we often don’t realise that we hold the power within ourselves to be happy. It lives inside of us, it is not something that can be bought.
This was a jaw dropping moment for me. I had spent most of my adulthood seeking happiness from external sources; happiness from relationships, from friendships, from a job, from a house, from shopping, from a city. I was always looking externally for my happiness. I had never thought to look inwardly to find it.
Much of the first two weeks of my YTT program was devoted to stripping back the layers of conditioning that society had helped me build. Layers of doubts or layers of expectations, that only when “X” or “Y” happens could I truly be happy. I am sure that some of these will resonate with you. When you reach your goal weight, you will be happy. When you buy the big house you have always wanted, you will be happy. When you get the big promotion and bonus you desire, you will be happy. We give power away to others and to things to bring us happiness, and ultimately they never do.
My YTT taught me that happiness is found within. That learning how to sit with yourself, by yourself, in complete silence and feel content with the world around you and who you are, is happiness. The number of times I cried, rocked and held myself in these moments are uncountable. I finally started to realise what happiness meant, and that it cannot be bought for all the gold and silver in the world.
2) I deepened and enhanced my personal practice
At the end of the first two weeks of my YTT I could hardly move! I had done many yoga classes in my life, but during these first two weeks we focused on what postures our individual bodies needed, because we are all different. The idea behind East+West Yoga’s YTT is that in order for you to become the best teacher you can be, you first need to strengthen and deepen your own practice. Having a personal practice where you understand your own strengths and weak points and where you embody what you are teaching, is fundamental to passing on wisdom to others.
East+West Yoga took the development of our own personal practice very seriously, which meant that individually and in groups we worked through the difficulties that we each had and how to overcome those. I personally struggled with hip openers and poses that stretch the lower back, others had difficultly with heart openers or backbends. Through each persons personal hurdles we learnt together how to help and guide someone through each posture, depending on their strengths and weaker areas.
Learning how to read and understand my body helped me to go further into my practice both physically and mentally. Meditations became easier now that I felt more comfortable and grounded, and I became more confident in knowing how to guide someone into a posture, now that I understood how it felt in my body. This point cannot be highlighted enough, if you do not fully embrace and feel a posture for yourself, it is almost impossible for you to explain it to another person.
More than a year after my training I still take to my mat each morning for my personal practice, it lightens my body for the day and helps me to calm and focus my mind. I spend the majority of my practice on the postures that my body requires and craves, rather than following a set routine.
3) I learned how to love myself
As an early teen and late into my 20’s I suffered from an eating disorder. I believed that I had grown out of it but really I had just suppressed the emotions and hid the disorder under my need to eat extremely healthily to reverse my Leaky Gut Syndrome.
During my YTT I began to heal old wounds and face past traumas through meditation and an understanding of my body. I started to learn that the root of my disorder was a lack of self love, which stemmed from repeated traumas throughout my life. Every time I criticised my body, or told myself I was fat or ugly I was inflicting harm (trauma) on my body and mind. I didn’t realise that I was doing this.
My YTT helped me to see that I am a cup and the love that I give myself fills up that cup. If I do not first learn to love myself for who I am, how I look and what I feel, then I cannot fill up my own cup, nor expect it to be filled by someone else’s love. Every time I criticised myself I poured some of that self love away, every time I turned down time with myself to help someone else, I poured more of that self love away. I learned that it is not selfish to care for yourself first. When my own cup is filled with self love, it can spill over and flow to others more freely.
This metaphor really helped me to understand why for the longest time I felt that I had an emptiness within me, an emptiness that I felt could not be filled. A void. No matter how much love others showed me this void could not be filled. It was because I had to be the one to fill it up.
Understanding this was one of the biggest “aha!” moments for me during my training. Learning how to love myself, and my body, through my physical practice and meditation I am starting to heal, and through my own teachings I now aim to help others heal the same way.
4) I figured out who I am, rather than who I thought I should be
My time at my YTT was an introduction to myself. When you spend close on four weeks doing something for yourself, in the presence of like minded people, eating and drinking food that has been prepared to nourish your body and your soul, you learn something about yourself.
I remember arriving at my YTT thinking that I wanted to learn how to be the best Yoga Teacher possible so that I could create a successful Yoga Studio back in the UK. I remember thinking that I was nervous of the hippy vibes and wasn’t looking to get too involved in learning or talking about Chakras, spiritual awakenings or energies. I was nervous of diving too deeply into anything spiritual, as I am not very religious, so wanted to focus on what my main goal was: To learn more about Yoga (which I thought was just poses) and how to teach them. Period.
Instead, I learnt what Yoga actually is. That it is not just the placement of the body into different poses. This is just one small part of what Yoga actually is. Yoga means “Union”, to unite the body, breath and mind to find balance and bliss. Disciplines such as breath-work, Asana (the actual poses), meditation and other practices are performed to cleanse the body of impurities and open it up to experience true bliss. At least, that is what I took away from my training.
I learnt to not only understand, but also embrace the power and subtlety of energies. To appreciate and honour that everything in this world is energy, and that we form part of that, can hold onto it, and can release it back into the universe. I found I enjoyed learning about Chakra blockages (energy blockages) and how yoga and other practices are used to clear them to allow for deeper meditation. I learnt about the history of yoga and that one does not need to be religious or even spiritual to become a “conscious” being. Someone who is conscious of themselves and their actions, conscious of others and conscious of the world and nature around them.
I figured out that actually, this was a world that I belonged to. Perhaps I didn’t have flowers in my hair and a “peace” sign hanging around my neck (just yet), but I had never felt more connected to people, more aware of what my purpose is on this earth and more in tune and understanding of myself. I realised that I could be a successful woman who was not chained to a desk, not living the life that society portrays as “normal”. My YTT gave me the confidence in myself and my ability to forge ahead and make a life that was more fitting to who I am, rather than the corporate person I thought I was.
5) I changed my career
My intention on completing a YTT was to become a Yoga instructor, the reality is quite different. On gaining my certificate I decided to stay in Bali and while working as a health and yoga writer, discovered my calling. Five months after completing my training I launched my business as a Health and Life Coach which incorporates Yoga and will be co-hosting my first Yoga Retreat in 2020.
I now live in a very cool van with my partner and together we are traveling Europe while I create online health programs, Yoga classes and workshops. I could not be happier with the life that I am now leading, and I definitely could not have predicted that this is where I would be.
You see, my training sparked something in me, a confidence to try new things, to love myself and follow my gut. I knew that I wanted to help more people just like me, who felt lost and stuck in their lives. Yoga was a stepping stone for me to realise my bigger purpose and potential in life. I am now a successful business owner, incorporating all that I have learned through my training of Yoga into my programs with clients.
Every single person will have a different experience from their YTT, but all will be groundbreaking. If you are willing to put away fear and doubt and instead replace them with curiosity and permission to explore yourself, your YTT will be the best experience of your life.
Many people believe that YTT’s are only for those who want to become Yoga Teachers, this is not true. The training is a personal one, one that will take you into the deepest recesses of yourself and uncover the truth of who you are. If you wish to take that learning into the world and help others to find those parts of themselves as well, I wish you well. However, you can choose to attend a YTT for your own self development.
My biggest take away from my YTT is this: “Tat Tvam Asi” - I am that, that which I seek. Right now, I am happiness.