10 Life Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training {part 1}

About a month ago, I completed my yoga teacher training! I've been practicing yoga for around 8 years - most consistently in the last 2 years.

It started as a physical practice for me - using power yoga as an alternative workout on my off days of running. Yet, with time, I found those moments of peace in savasana and the blissful yoga high after class kept me coming back. I started to notice the ripple effects throughout my life in my confidence, decreasing anxiety, and feeling good in my body - for the first time ever.

Yoga is a huge part of my life, and I have talked about doing a yoga teacher training "in the future" for a few years now. I had no idea going into 2015 that I would do it this year, but when I saw a 200 hour yoga teacher training pop up in Costa Rica in November, I went for it. It was a moment of really trusting my gut again and realizing it will work out.

10 Life Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training

That trust led to being able to announce that I'm a yoga teacher!

I wanted to share part of my experiences and offer a few of the many lessons from yoga and my teacher training here. I'm barely scratching the surface, but these were essential lessons for me in the training. I'm hoping to start sharing more yoga posts here as well, so if you have any requests, just let me know in the comments or by email!

10 Life Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training {part 1}

  1. Yoga is way more than the physical practice.

Most people understand yoga the Instagram-way - handstands, extreme flexibility, or a powerful workout class. While that can certainly be yoga, it's more than perfectly posed asanas (postures). {Side note: You don't have to be super flexible or do handstands to be a yoga teacher - my handstand practice is still very beginner!}

Yoga means "to yolk," meaning a union of the mind, body, and spirit. There are many paths to yoga, and in the Yoga Sutras, the physical practice is only one of eight limbs of yoga (called ashtanga, or the eightfold path). The yoga poses were originally only practiced to stretch and strengthen the body for long meditation sessions! Yup, yoga was a means to aid meditation - if your body is tight, it's going to be painfully uncomfortable to sit cross-legged for hours.

10 Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training

Other practices like meditation and pranayama (breathwork) have been game-changers for me to slow down, live in the present, calm down my monkey mind, and love myself. While I may not go to a yoga class everyday, I do aim to practice yoga everyday in many other ways.

Now, yoga has woven its way into my life and gone way beyond the physical. While I do love practicing cool poses, my yoga practice is sacred. It's my time to connect to my body, my heart, my intuition. It's nourishing for my mental and emotional health. It's as much a spiritual practice, as it is a physical practice.

2. Find your own yoga style.

Each person who practices yoga has their own preferences and styles.

Yoga is a personal practice!

Luckily, there are so many different styles. If you've tried yoga and didn't like it, try a different style or teacher. Some people love an athletic style of yoga like ashtanga or power yoga, while others like creative, fluid styles like vinyasa flow, and others may enjoy the meditative benefits of a restorative or yin class.

My personal favorites are creative, fluid, strong vinyasa practices, BUTI yoga, and yin yoga. I need a balance of strong practices coupled with restorative ones to move and relax.

2. A pose will look - and feel - different in every body.

One thing that isn't talked about enough is how different our bodies all are. I've talked about body diversity from a perspective of health at every size before, but all our bodies are structurally different!

Everyone enters a yoga class with a body that has been influenced by so many factors - other sports or activities, injuries, different levels of strength or flexibility, pregnancy, sitting all day in chairs, and more. People also may come into yoga with illness like fibromyalgia, anxiety, a trauma history, and more. It all impacts the body.

Some people are naturally going to be flexible or have a very bendy back, while others may never be able to do really deep backbends, regardless how long they practice.

In our yoga teacher training, we all took turns demoing poses to see these differences and help us understand how to teach bodies of all types how to find correct alignment to feel good in their body.

It truly believe it doesn't really matter how the pose looks in your body - it matters how the pose feels in your body. It's important to be safe in your body and practice correct alignment for YOUR body, which may mean your pose isn't as deep as the girl you follow on Instagram. Notice how the pose makes you feel - warrior poses make you feel confident and strong, backbends open your heart and energize, hip openers can be very emotional.

3. Explore Each Pose - and your body.

Take time to explore each pose, and feel every sensation in the pose and as you flow through class.

The magic is often found in the transition between poses or from following your breath as it flows through your body.

What I've found in the last year or so is by slowing down my practice, I can build so much strength and deepen my knowledge of my body. It takes more physical and mental strength to ease my way into the pose - feeling every sensation - than speeding through it.

I've been able to come into brand-new poses for me - with more ease and without forcing it. I've been able to feel emotions and sensations deeper - and let them release out of my body. I can also trust that poses that are more challenging for me now will come with time, practice, and opening - I don't want to force a pose too early and injure myself just for a pretty picture.

10 Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training

Backbends have always been poses I despised, especially camel. The first time I did camel pose in a class, it was the tiniest backbend and throat opener, yet it brought up so much anxiety that I didn't do it for a long time. Over time, I've grown to love backbends as I've released fear and anxiety from my heartspace to open to an open heart and vulnerability.

Be aware of your physical body and emotional state as you enter class, and honor what you need that day. You can always back off or take child's pose if you notice physical or emotional discomfort - or if it feels okay, go into the discomfort and let something release.

4. Hold Space - for yourself and others.

I'm pretty sure every single one of us in the training cried at some point in class - or in our group time. As we all learned, holding space is so essential. By this I mean, being present to whatever is coming up and listening.

It starts by holding space with yourself. On a daily basis, you may feel a whole range of emotions. Hold space for yourself by feeling those emotions and carving out time for yourself each day. It's in that space and silence where you can nurture yourself and allow emotions to be felt, then released.

10 Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training

As humans, we all want to feel a sense of love and belonging. Holding space for others allows that to be present. Often, when others share their vulnerabilities, we want to give advice or "fix" the problem, as a way to ease that person's pain - and ease our discomfort. Yet, one of the best things to do is simply listen with an open heart.

Often, listening is enough. It gives the other person space to share whatever, cry, vent, and release what is needed. It leads to a much deeper connection and understanding, and both people can feel like it's safe to be vulnerable in the world.

Our room in our treehouse was a sharing space for everything - I am so grateful to my two roommates for that open, safe space throughout our training.

5. Trust Your Body - it holds so much wisdom.

I recently saw the quote: "There is more wisdom in the body than your deepest philosophy." by Friedrich Nietzsche. I know it's hard to trust our bodies because we're told all the time to ignore our bodies wisdom and count calories, diet, or workout obsessively instead. We're trained to think rationally and ignore our intuition.

10 Life Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training

For me, trusting my body was one of the most important lessons I've learned in this intuitive eating journey. Trusting my body around food led me to trusting my intuition about much bigger parts of my life - and it's led me here to blogging, to doing my yoga teacher training, to traveling, and more. It's a lesson I'm still learning because trusting my body and intuition isn't always comfortable.

Yet, trusting your body will help you live life with a deeper sense of freedom and peace. It may start with trusting your body around food and knowing that your body knows how to nourish itself. Or you could start with trusting your body in a movement practice - moving in a way that feels really good.

Continue returning to what your body, heart, and intuition are saying - it's a daily practice, but it will guide you for the rest of your life. When you can breathe this idea into your body, you won't need any more diet books, calorie counting apps, or even self-help books because you can trust yourself.

Trust is one of my intentions for this year because I want to keep exploring it - and deepening into trusting my body, my heart, my intuition, and the Universe. To let go of control is a terrifying - yet freeing - thing.

10 Lessons Learned from Yoga Teacher Training