...that I will carry with me for the rest of my life
Non-Harming includes me.
Ahimsa (non-harming) is one of the first principles we learned in yoga teacher training. Before participating in yoga teacher training, I was already a pro at treating others with kindness. This may sound obvious to some, but yoga teacher training helped me realize that kindness wasn’t reserved only for other people. I was deserving of my own kindness too.
If I was a passenger in the car with a friend who made a wrong turn, I was all soothing and compassionate. “No big deal,” I would say, “We’ll get there when we get there. No rush.” But if I was driving by myself and made a wrong turn, it was an all-out self-criticism fest. Seriously, that voice in my head was downright mean.
In yoga teacher training, I came to understand that non-harming wasn’t just about how I treated other people. It was also about how I treated myself.
To better understand others, you have to understand yourself better.
Before yoga teacher training, it never occurred to me to examine my habits and thought patterns. Self-study (or Svadhyaya in yoga) involves an element of introspection. I was asked to get curious about my beliefs and behaviors.
I realized that so many of my deep-held views were passed down to me by my parents and other influential people in my life. This realization opened the door to greater insight. It allowed me to shift how I thought and acted to better align with how I wanted to live and be.
Now, I understand how much a person’s history shapes their world experience. And with greater understanding comes greater connection and compassion. Holding this space for myself allows me to hold space for others.
How to truly listen to, respect, and care for my whole self.
Coming from a competitive athletic background, I had been taught to ignore little aches and pains. For me, this was cultural too. We were taught – by example – that no matter what was happening in your life, you put on a brave face and pretended everything was just fine.
As a result, I got good at ignoring problems, often overriding my body’s subtle cues that I needed to rest or attend to a cranky part of my body. I would wait until I was overwhelmed, stressed out, or in full-blown pain before taking care of or making a change.
In yoga teacher training, I learned to become quiet and still enough to listen to my body. I began to hear the subtle whisperings about what needed attention long before there were painful shouts.
With time I got better at understanding the guidance my body was giving me and became more proactive in my self-care.
I am not alone; everyone is struggling.
I used to look around and think everyone else had their sh*t together. But when you’re reading texts that are thousands of years old, which were written to help people who lived generations ago cope with their own doubts, fears, projections, and ruminations, you begin to understand that the “monkey mind” is an intrinsic part of being human.
Knowing that I am not alone in these struggles helped me find a sense of ease and a healthy sense of humor about the antics in my head. I also began to understand that thoughts are not necessarily facts; just because my mind came up with something doesn’t mean it’s true.
I’ve gained greater discernment about thoughts I need to attend to and ones that I can safely blow off with a shrug and (often) a chuckle.
To get over my fear of leading and trust myself.
I’ll admit, there was a little bit of “fake it ‘til you make it” with this one, especially at the beginning. It’s hard to stand at the front of a room and lead a group of people. Gaining the confidence I needed to do this didn’t come overnight, but yoga teacher training certainly got me over the hump. (You can try a class with me here.)
You’re expected to develop your own class themes and sequences when teaching yoga. I used to stress over this, wondering if I was “good enough.” With practice, feedback, and support from my yoga teacher trainer and fellow trainees, I came to believe that my ideas are valid and valuable.
Don’t get me wrong. I still get nervous. But underneath the nerves, I have a deep faith and trust in myself and my abilities that have influenced all aspects of my life.
Presence is the greatest gift you can give.
This was a personal lesson. In the same period of time
that I was doing my yoga teacher training, I was also coping with a strained relationship with my Dad. In meditation, during one of our sessions, I became overwhelmed with emotion. My breathing became ragged, and the tears started flowing.
The lead teacher, Bobbie Ellis, noticed and came over and sat back-to-back with me. She didn’t say a word. She just let me feel her support and her slow, calm breathing at my back. She gave me the gift of her presence.
I will never forget this simple kindness. It taught me that I could be for others even when I don’t know what to say.
Ready to take part in an experience that will change your life? Click here to learn more about Soma Yoga Teacher Training.