The decision to complete a yoga teacher training came very quickly for me. I was looking for work and I knew I loved yoga. What I did not know is that completing the training would change my relationship to yoga, and my relationship to myself. My desire to teach yoga fluctuated before entering into the training and continues to fluctuate with my practice; and although my certification allows me to be an official “yoga teacher,” it truly gave me so much more.
In this article I’ll explore how yoga teacher training serves its students by providing space for the student to develop their own personal yoga practice, learn about their bodies and yogic philosophies, and even shift their eating habits, routine and overall lifestyle.
Forming New Habits
Some say that it can take anywhere between 21 and 66 days to form a new habit. Students can participate in an intensive or a regular paced learning program. In a typical 21-day intensive 200-hour yoga teacher training, days are long and full of new information. With repetition and discipline, new habits are formed. Many intensive trainings require following a yogic diet including eating vegetarian, eliminating processed foods and avoiding substances like tobacco, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Daily sunrise meditations and morning asana are typically a part of these programs as well.
By participating in these daily practices for a period of three weeks or more, we allow our brains to become familiar with a new routine. Each day will typically include studying yogic philosophies that can remind us of our true essence of oneness with all of creation. We begin to become aware of how positively shifting our thoughts and perspectives can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Practicing this daily awareness, coupled with meditation, can create a lasting healthy shift in the mind and body.
Rather than completing an intensive, many 200-hour yoga teacher trainings can be done over a longer period of time as well. These courses often have many different formats including months of weekend intensive. These programs may not create new routines as quickly, but they are effective in bringing new habits into a person’s life while giving them time to incorporate them into their existing lifestyle smoothly. The yogi feels peace and stillness in these experiences and feels motivated to spend more and more of their time practicing meditation, asana and learning about yogic philosophy.
(One such piece of philosophy is Atman Is Brahman: The Meaning and Philosophy Behind This Essential Yogic Saying.)
Depending on the yoga teacher training, students are given an incredible amount of information. Many teachers tell their students they are not being given any new information, but simply allowing them to remember wisdom already present in their unconscious, given the oneness of all living beings and collective universal consciousness.
New teachers study anatomy, ancient yogic texts like the Bhagavad Gita, Ayurvedic philosophy and diet, and many other topics depending on the individual teacher training. A yoga teacher training allows any aspiring student to receive knowledge of yoga and gain the wisdom through experiential learning.
Becoming a Yogi
Many practitioners of yoga feel a shift after completing a yoga teacher training. It is an opportunity for the curious or developing yogi who wants to become serious about their practice. Through a yoga teacher training, we learn the difference between simply going to yoga classes and following the yogic path. We learn there is not a perfect yogi, but instead a journey.
So much can transform for a yogi by simply becoming aware of our breath. We become more aware of our bodies and may start to notice pains before they become debilitating, using asana and pranayama to alleviate these pains. We begin to notice what foods do not serve our bodies, and many of us follow the vegetarian yogic diet as a result of this. Our yoga practice begins to show up in various aspects of our lives as differentiated practices of asana, pranayama, meditation, diet and routine. Yoga slowly becomes not only limited to classes, and begins to shift into a tool to reconnect with inner peace, harmony and stillness. We develop a regular daily practice, and sometimes use asana for only five minutes at a time when needed for flexibility or alleviation of pain and stiffness. The body’s posture is slowly adjusted and, overall, the yogi becomes much more aware of how his/her physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies interact to bring them into a state of health and balance. The yogi is no longer able to ignore self-care needs as easily with this new awareness, often creating a shift in his/her overall lifestyle.
Yoga Teacher Training Is a Spiritual Undertaking
Completing a yoga teacher training gives the student a certification to teach yoga, but this does not guarantee their readiness to teach. I originally decided to complete my yoga teacher training for the purpose of teaching, but I found I did not feel ready for several months following completion. Instead, I found that I had unintentionally embarked on a neverending spiritual journey while bringing my body, mind and spirit into unity through yoga.
In my 21-day intensive, myself and many other students developed lasting habits and majorly shifted our lifestyles. Many students will go on to teach yoga and many would agree that motivation to teach comes through the personal shifts experienced through yoga. The spiritual transformation that is experienced in the yoga student-turned-teacher is often observed in ourselves and even by our loved ones. This naturally creates a desire to want to share the practice of yoga that has brought about such a profound spiritual transformation, but may never manifest in the typical class in a yoga studio as many of us imagine it. Teaching yoga is simply sharing what you know, that which you had once forgotten.
(Read on for How 500 Hours of Yoga Teacher Training Changed Me.)