This guest-post was written by a member of our Yoga Teacher Training program, Nicole. She’s pictured here with her favorite gal, Mags.
My friends and family were super-supportive of my deep dive into yoga through teacher training, and I’ve been enthusiastic to talk about my experience overall. Though my physical practice wasn’t consistent directly leading up to the start of the program, few people expressed surprise that I would pursue my yoga teaching certification. However, for reasons that I will attempt to share, I kept my plan to apply for teacher training on the down-low initially.
While I’d practiced at QSY many years ago, I was by no means a regular face-about-the-studio in 2014, when I first learned about QSY’s yoga teacher certification program. That year, I took notice that the course was being offered, gave it some surface-level thought, and then proceeded to dismiss it, rhyming off the many reasons why the timing wasn’t right.
Fast-forward to Spring of 2015, and I was creeping the QSY website once again, keeping my eyes peeled for teacher training updates for the coming Fall. When I saw that an info session was being offered later that year, I decided to attend.
The info session was a casual and intimate gathering facilitated by the directors of the studio, Leena and Emma. We sat on the floor in a circle—more on this format later—introduced ourselves, our individual interests in teacher training, asked questions, and got answers.
I left that day with a better understanding of the direction of QSY’s teacher training course, and while the commitment level seemed pretty intense, I wasn’t deterred. I left the info session with a clear plan to apply. All the while, I kept my plans pretty quiet on the “socials”, only sharing with the people in my inner circle. Months later, when I received my acceptance to the training program, I was simultaneously thrilled and uncertain. I fretted about how this future pursuit would be received by my wider circle. Although I wanted to share my excitement, I also felt protective. I was going to be a yoga teacher (eventually) and the opinions about what that meant would be sure to follow (I thought). For reasons that I’ve come to understand more fully over time, I initially struggled to let others in on this new and personal journey.
Jump to September 2015 and the start of the course; I was prepared for what I assumed would be a rigorous and physically demanding experience (it was). The monthly weekend intensives were 18 hours of programming and I expected that my physical conditioning and recovery time would have an inverse relationship over the duration of the 10-month period.
What I didn’t expect was the intensity of the “inner workout” (thanks to my friend Amanda for introducing me to this concept) I would experience. The circle—which had been a friendly enough shape to me before—would become a point of internal strain for the months that would follow. The council circle is a principle from the Zen Peacemaker’s for which there are four main tenets (speaking from the heart, listening from the heart, speaking spontaneously, speaking leanly). The council circle, I would learn, would be integrated as a monthly ritual as part of our YTT sessions.
I embraced the purpose of the council circle and I valued the experience of being an active participant. The council circle model offers a rare opportunity to be heard, and to hear others, in an uninterrupted way.
My discomfort with the council circle format, however, was not with public speaking but rather with public sharing. Managing my public image is something I’ve done for my entire adult life and the risk of this being dismantled in the council circle is still something that I have yet to overcome entirely.
In addition to sharing in the council circle, each of us teacher-trainees had a speaking partner that we met with on a monthly basis. This meeting was designed so that each individual would speak on a designated topic uninterrupted for 20 minutes and the assigned topics went well below the surface of small talk. Each of us took turns speaking and listening. In this exercise, the listener is deliberately asked not to respond, either verbally or with body language. In this way, the speaker gets the chance to see what it’s like to share without anticipating reactions of the audience. It felt unusual sometimes, to share and receive info in this way, but I also found it liberating.
If there’s a memory that I can still feel in my body, it is my first crack at sharing my worldview with my speaking partner during our first meeting. I felt flustered about discussing such a revealing topic and in that moment, I became acutely aware of my level of discomfort with vulnerability.
While I made baby steps in my vulnerability practice during the monthly council circle, the speaking partnership was where I lowered my guard. That this vulnerability practice helped cultivate a friendship is one of the best counters I can offer to the risk of opening up and putting yourself out there.
My vulnerability practice continues to be a work-in-progress in my daily life but over the course of the YTT calendar year, I could feel my protective armour starting to lighten, bit by bit.
As it turns out, teaching is also a great vulnerability practice. Through this discovery, I’m reminded about the lessons available to us when we work towards owning our vulnerabilities, flaws, and mistakes; there is both self-awareness and connection with others that can be uncovered. The other bonus to making mistakes and being okay with it is that you can begin to spot humour where you otherwise may not have seen it before.
As I write this post, I’m two short months away from completing the final requirements of my yoga teaching certification and then “it” will all be done…or will it? I feel like I’ve only just started, really. As I move forward in my practice, I take inspiration from this quote from Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfections:
“Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”