Expect the Unexpected: pre-training and a recap of week one

Everything you wanted to know about yoga teacher training but didn’t know to ask

My first step of this journey was based on instinct and trusting myself. As stated before, I did yoga before it was popular in the US. But signing up for yoga training was that last final leap of expensive faith. I’d previously emailed the teacher months before about training but decided with my new job, the timing wasn’t right. This time when the sign up email displayed in my inbox, it glowed. It just felt right. I asked the teacher a lot of questions but I knew when the emailed appeared in my inbox, I was going to yoga training. The time was now.

I am writing the blogs and guides I wished I’d had before starting this training. These are my first impressions after week one.

Observation #1: Be flexible

Before training, I sent my teacher a long list of questions via email. I called and she expressed she was available via text. So Impression #1 – be flexible. And ask questions. Lots of questions. Know what you want. Are you looking for a self-led online environment? Do you want virtual? A hybrid? What type of learner are you? I was looking for a local studio that had in-person learning, and met the yoga alliance certification standards. My teacher was very flexible and answered all questions.

What does a Studio feel like?

I never did yoga in the place where I attend teacher training. I can say that I have taken yoga all over Chicago, but never at this studio. I’ll admit, I don’t frequent the street the yoga studio is located on, because it caters more to the younger drinking tourist crowd.

So walking into the studio felt a bit like walking into the buildings in the arts district of my city. I input a code and door swung open. I walked from a cold noisy street into a warm space and was greeted by high ceilings, a maze of stairs, and woodwork rafters and brick walls. I took an elevator up to the studio. The space itself was softly lit and empty. There were cubbies to stash your stuff that were also benches. Two bathrooms, a meditation room, a studio, and water bottle and a large desk finished the rest of the space. The instructor greeted me when I first arrived. She gave me some of the ground rules; I could use the mats, how to clean the mats, where to put my things. The entire studio smelled divine. Like incense. I opted to take the yoga class scheduled before our teacher class.

I walked into the yoga studio and there was one person to the far right of the room, in front. I did not know which place to go or what proper yoga ettiquette was – to go in back of her and leave room for the others? To social distance? I didn’t know. And it didn’t matter – only one other student came later and quickly took a place in back of me. I was blown away by how intense the yoga seemed. I could barely keep up. I was doing yoga next to a twenty year old. She was fine while I was looking at my watch.

The space itself was warm, inviting, with brick, curtained windows, and soft lighting. A frog sat on a shelf in the corner. There were large bars on one side of the room. No mirrors. I liked the empty space of it all.

Afterwards, I exited the yoga studio into the main area. Another student sat on the bench. She seemed so nice. We talked for a bit and then went back into the hot room to learn. On the floor. And at first it seemed strange, but I learned to love the heat in the fickle Chicago weather.

Impression #2:

Get ready to learn

The teacher had told me to expect to devote 20 hours of my time a week to learning, journaling and meditation. She was not incorrect. The first week we were given handouts to keep in a binder, books, and on-line resources. Our tuition covered materials and access to yoga classes at the studio. Students attended two workshop classes a week and also spent twenty hours in practice, in study, and journaling at home. The learning process started off easy – we were given an overview syllabus, books, and handouts the first week. Assignments of reading 50 plus pages a week were normal. Was the reading hard? No, but it was very different from enjoyable reading where I was not reading to study for a test. There was a lot of assigned meditation and journaling. Which was kind of a benefit.

Impression #3:

Leave your comfort zone

I found one of the most difficult things was learning the language. It was so hard for me to remember how to pronounce everything. It was a bit like learning a new language ; a lot of the learning is in Sanskrit. I had to learn how to ingest and quickly remember pronunciations. I do not hear very well. And if I hear something incorrectly the first time, it stays with me (incorrectly) forevermore. I could remember the concepts, but it was frustrating not to be able to pronounce the words correctly. There was also the aspect of learning to hear the word and recognize it in an auditory way as well as reading the word and learning to recognize the written meaning. I enjoy reading up on the history, the origins, and the major players in the yoga timeline, but my memory is not what it used to be. I forget easily and pronunciation is not coming as easily as it usually does.

I haven’t completed the course, but so far we have read material that helped us learn the proper names of the asanas or yoga poses, material that explained the foundations of yoga, and meditation material. We sit on the floor of the studio (with optional mats) and we read handouts, practice poses, and instruct each other.

Impression #4

Be ready for some changes

After my second week of yoga teacher training, I noticed I retained the heat of the studio and the practice for two to three days. I could walk a mile in capri yoga pants in snowy Chicago weather and not get cold. I was never that sore even after doing some of the most challenging physical yoga. My feet stopped being cold.

Oddly, it wasn’t physical recovery that I noticed the most. Around week two – I starting to see the effects of emotional recovery: I was able to fully let go of many disappointments quicker than every before. I noticed I felt calmer. I could get out of bed easier in the morning. I started waking up earlier, sleeping better.I panicked less at the prospect of change. I was connecting with myself and this was reflected in my ability to trust my instinct and listen to my inner voice. This was one of the most rewarding aspects of the yoga journey. And a complete surprise. I’ll admit, one of the reasons I started my yoga journey was to get rid of my bingo wings. Superficial, I know, I know, but I’m being honest. I never expected to go on such a deep inner journey.

Impression #5:

No one is worried about your yoga pants, appearance or age.

Except maybe me. I admit, I was worried about my yoga pants, appearance and age. I wore my best leggings to my first yoga class and my best Under Armor tank top. I applied extra deodorant. I made sure to wear a little makeup. I admit, I always have my guard up and approach new situations with armor – are they going to ask what ethnicity I am? Are they going to start wielding the micro aggressions?

Guess what? No one cared. No one noticed my age, my bingo wings, or what brand of pants I was wearing. And even during demonstrations and mock teachings – no one said anything bad. NO ONE. Want to know why? Or why I think why? Because they were too focused on their own learning. And improving themselves. I truly feel blessed that the environment I learned in was very laidback, warm, and a safe space.

Impression #6

There is so much I don’t know

Every class I learn so much. I had no idea yoga poses had variations. And the yoga that I was doing all over Chicago was born from one type or style of yoga. Honestly, I’d never thought of it before. Because there weren’t resources readily available when I first started yoga, I was just happy not to be the weirdo doing yoga by myself. I was so happy to just have classes available. I just saw a yoga class and signed up. I’d heard of the different yogas (Bikram, hot, etc) and even practiced different types but never made the connection in my head. All yoga is just a variation of the original yoga, ashtanga. I’d heard of ashtanga and kundalini but honestly, I had no idea what they meant. I only knew of kundalini because I bought the only yoga book available at Sam’s Club back in the nineties, and it was on kundalini yoga. I also learned a lot of the poses I’ve been doing incorrectly. So part of learning is actually unlearning and starting anew.

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