Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A weird yoga infection

I feel like it's time for a bit of a recap. Ya know- a bit of introspection. My yoga journey has been on a bit of a metamorphosis, like a weird reverse beautiful butterfly to lumpy squishy caterpillar.

I will be entering my 7th year of yoga in January. I still feel like a complete yoga noob.

I began my practice journey because my friend said it was cool. Seriously. So we found the most attractive dude teacher in Montréal (YMCA on Rue Peel) and attended power flow. I had no idea what I was doing, practiced with almost no mindfulness. I was a stiff, impressionable shadow to my friend S's beautiful gumby shine.

Strangely my practice went through a pretty rough period about two years in. Upon my arrival in Vernon BC, I discovered I wasn't a fan of any of the yoga instructors and spent a significant portion of our stay rediscovering what yoga really meant to *me*. Which meant it no longer meant the same thing it used to when I was a 'Friend Shadow'. I had my own yoga.

Which I can see now didn't go over well with 'Friend S.' Yoga became a competition between us, without my consent. It was bewildering to hear things like critiques of my yoga pendant necklace, how Ashtanga was the best yoga, how often or how hard she practiced... I remember feeling that something wasn't right, I no longer felt confident with my ability in my practice. I was no longer a 'good' yogini.

Follow that up with the announcement that she was taking a Yoga Teacher Training course. Before me. I got to hear all about her intense weekends, what they were learning, how awesome it was. I tried really hard to be supportive. She stayed in our apartment for the majority of the course (weekends). Until it became so bad (combo of yoga jealousy, weird competition and family issues- she had broken up with my brother in a terrible way) that I had to ask her to find another place to stay. We haven't really talked since. I think she's happy.

It's been almost two years since that moment... and I'm sad to admit that her yoga practice and my own yoga jealousy has followed my own practice around like a strange infection. A yoga infection. I considered taking Yoga Teacher Training myself. It would be wonderful to learn more and actually be able to share yoga with others. I've decided not to. That has become her path, her journey- not mine.

Even though it seems like you aren't *really* into yoga unless you've been to a YTT- every serious student has taken the training after all, in some manner.

But. I'm really not looking for a new career. I'm not looking to experience extreme emotional intensity and bonding with other  random yogi classmates. I've decided that it's really ok to be a yogini and not an instructor. My experience and my insights can still be valuable even though I haven't taken a 200 hour YTT certification.

It's time I truly find the yoga that is *me* and not her. A 'I don't think about yoga every second of the day', un-Bhagavad Gita Goddessian spirituality with a serious bent on the environment- type of yoga. Something that is true to myself and my own personal practice while still allowing room to grow.

What about you? What has un-teacher training taught you about your yoga?


  1. I just want to thank you for this. It couldn't come at a better time--tomorrow I'm taking a class with a teacher whose training I'm considering applying for. I'm nervous that the class will be too hard, that she won't want me in her YTT, that we won't click. I've thought about it for maybe a year and my regular instructor, who did the same training, is really encouraging me to go for it. Of course I don't want to disappoint him, but I also need to balance my life in a way that I can manage. So thank you, sister yogini, for this wisdom that YTT or no, teacher or student (and we are all students, every moment) all our yoga journeys are valuable, and that no one can live our yoga but we ourselves. Namaste.

  2. First, I like to think there are plenty of serious students out there who have not taken a YTT course, and don't aspire to. At least I hope so...

    And as for un-teacher training, the most valuable piece of information I came away from YTT with was not part of the curriculum. My YTT course only reinforced my belief that the real work happens on the mat, in solitary practice. Yoga is an experiential pursuit. There is no substitute for personal practice, making the practice one's own.

    I like the sound of this new direction for your practice. Good luck on the journey.

  3. As I am still on the long journey of YTT I only feel about half qualified to respond either way. But while I have learned a lot in my training, I have learned just as much in class as a student, once I found a teacher I loved. I'm sorry that your yoga journey has such a yucky friendship associated with it! For the record, I think you embody yoga more than many teachers I know : )

  4. The thing about teacher training is that it doesn't teach you how to teach. I have gone to many classes where the instructor was great at yoga but had no idea how to positively interact with and help the students. On the other hand, I married a woman who has never done any teacher training, but is a wonderful teacher. When she plans to lead some yoga in the park she is very mindful of what her friends abilities are, and how she can help them develop. She does not hesitate to give advice on postures even though she does not feel qualified to make modifications. She also infects people, but it is with her love of yoga and the world around us.

  5. A very thoughtful post, some of which resonated with me. (an aside: my first thought when reading about your "friend" was, is she really a friend?)

    I am not even sure exactly how long I've been practcing yoga- but I'd say at least 6 years. I went through a phase of a couple of years during which I took a few yoga classes each week. That helped me to get the basics down, to experience different styles of yoga and different presentations, and to train my body to do a number of poses. I also learned which poses felt beneficial, which I hated, which I struggled with, etc. However, I eventually discovered that I can, and prefer to, practice yoga on my own. I have heard from a few instructors that whole idea of yoga is group practice, but I'm skeptical. I do think that there is a risk in such group practice of competing with fellow students, and that just doesn't seem healthy to me in the context of what I understand about yoga. And although I have never personally sought a spiritual fulfillment from yoga, it would seem to me that for those who do, solitary practice would better provide that.

    But what I really want to ask is, do you really want to be "serious" about yoga? And if so, why? Can you not derive fulfillment, benefits, enjoyment from it if you don't try to be "serious"? Are you less of a yogini somehow if you take a more relaxed, experiential, non-pressure approach? Just something to think about. There are so many things, including ourselves, that we take so seriously, I treasure my non-serious, personal, varied, ever-evolving yoga practice.

  6. Great post. really. It is so refreshing to read blogs that are open and honest, real. Personally, I do want to do YTT eventually but right now, I am enjoying being a student. I do have someone whom I sometimes secretly compete against in yoga, though I try really hard not to. Yoga is such a personal thing, not competitive (I just keep telling myself that). So who cares if she can do more than me..it's not about that.

  7. This is a long comment. Part 1:

    Okay, wow. There is so much I identify with here. I dabbled in yoga on and off for years but what really got me into it was a really competitive co-worker who treated me like dirt. I was totally jealous of her - she looked like a model, all our students liked her better than me and she was so strong and tiny, she could do ANY pose.

    I wanted to be more like her - skinnier, more likable, strong... And I wanted her to like me, or at least not treat me so badly.

    I ultimately stayed with yoga because it calmed me down after long days in stressful classrooms. But starting from where I was at the time, I can't believe I ever thought I'd "catch up" to this woman in a matter of months - not physically possible. Nor should it have been something I wanted in the first place. Why would I have cared so much what she thought of me when she mistreated me?

    Anyway, towards the end of our working relationship, she started a YTT, as well, and of course, that stayed with me and made me want to try it, too. I know SO many yoga students who became teachers and I thought: I should do that! I'd learn so much!

    Well...my graduate degree was an expensive lesson in self-esteem that I will never forget. I got it for several reasons, but one was that yet another friend had a master's and at the time, she was the only person I knew who had one. I respected her so much for the journey she took to get it. I thought it would "buy" me respect and best of all, a good job.

  8. Part 2:

    WRONG. The school district budgets collapsed three months after I graduated and no jobs were available in my subject area. I also found out I didn't LIKE the educational system as much as I thought I would. No one gives a rip that I have a master's and indeed, as far as employers go, it is akin to leprosy. I've heard many say that they don't want people with master's because they have to pay them more.

    So I've spent this entire year taking serious stock of my situation. Learning this lesson has cost me upwards of $25,000. Every month I make a loan payment that is almost as much as my rent and it is sometimes impossible to make ends meet.

    Now I think: WHY did I do this to myself? I had so many red flags along the way, but ultimately I felt that the more degrees and certificates I could accrue, the more "legit" I would be.

    Thankfully, my MAT experience has silenced the voice that says that YTT would be a great way to become a better yogini. No. The only thing that matters is coming to mat on a regular basis and giving it everything we have in that moment. YTT is great for some people, but it is not necessarily part of everyone's path. I wish I had known all this $25,000 ago. LOL.

    P.S. I just read Andrew's comment and he is so sweet! You got yourself a good guy there.

  9. @Vegan Burnout: I hope the class you attended kicked butt!! Of course if YTT is what you want to do, then go for it!! i don't have anything against YTT if it's right for you. It was right for S. and I think she's very happy now.

    You're right though, it's not about disappointing someone- it's about you and your practice. :)

    @The Misanthropic YOgini: I hope so... but it's just a rhetoric I hear often. Kinda like a natural or expected progression of longterm yogi(ni) practice....

    @Andrew: awwww. You're biased but oh so sweet. Love!!

    @Jamie: thank you! It is funny how we learn as students. I think the yucky friend part was not just her- I really brought or allowed a lot of that to affect my practice and it has taken me a long time to recognize the impact the relationship had...

    @Anonymous: yes- i agree wholeheartedly with the spiritual aspect. For myself yoga is a part of my spiritual journey, so solitary home practice works really well. Maybe i'm also demonstrating the whole stereotyping of x-generation of not wanting to be labeled or 'told' how to practice...
    I also agree that the term 'serious' has some problems. It's something that i've heard often- and I agree that it's something that I need to fight against.

    @Brittany: I'm so glad that you were honest about the secret competition. I think we all need to acknowledge more of that in order to move forward. :)

    @A Green Spell- wow we so had similar trajectories with yoga! I'm so glad you've stuck with it and congrats on your latest amazing yogi accomplishment ;)
    About the masters.... debt I can relate. My masters cost double that... in bank loans. love the payments..... yay. but i did get a job :S Your masters degree could serve you in the future though- education can be useful, although costly.
    I know many SLP's who have a masters in education.... :)

    But I think you're an amazing Five Seed-er and truly hope that continues for you!

  10. I've done teacher training and I teach but honestly YTT was just a teeny tiny part of 'learning to teach' and learning about yoga in general... it was a just another stepping stone and there have been many.

    Like Andrew said, there are many trained yoga teachers out there with very little sensitivity - that is not something that can be taught only practiced and our practice is so much about learning to be our own teacher, to become more sensitive to ourselves... and you are doing a really great job at that.

    I think incredible teachers are all around us but in yoga, some of the most profound experiences that I've had have been in my own personal practice where all of a sudden something I heard a teacher say ages ago really crystalises in my cells and that's the magic of the practice and that's what I try to take into my teaching.

    That being said, I still, after ten years teaching, have these moments of doubt and insecurity, should I go do another TTC or another retreat or practice more or... or...? The idea of somehow not being enough is buried deep in there and when I'm thinking like that about yoga, you can bet I'm feeling like that about everything so it's not the yoga, it's just me having a wobbly day :)

    This is a great post, I would love to go on more, but I'm incredibly busy these days and am supposed to be doing like ten other things right now so maybe I'll come back later but really you are a perfect yogini just as you are and if one day you do decide to take a teacher training course that is perfectly fine and if not that is also perfectly fine...

    I would also say though that little workshop/retreat things are absolutely great ways to go a little deeper in that way and you can do them as a couple (bonus) at home studios or in beautiful places (kripalu!)... pricey but includes incredible food and with your bloggy wonderfulness you could probably get some sweet discounty thing from some of the smaller places.

    And also, Angela Farmer actually has a great workshop called "Teacher Un-Training" which I've actually done so your use of the term made me smile.

  11. It all sounds good to me, except I sense your struggle to be okay with your choice not to do a teacher training.

    Yes, we all find our own path in yoga, and I think you are doing a great job whether you decide to do a teacher training in the future or not.

    Yogic blessings!!

  12. Some of the yoga teachers I go to in Halifax I think are wonderful tweachers. To be honest there are others who I do not think are very good.
    But then again maybe it is just which teacher and style resonates with ME.
    Very good to know others have yoga struggles and issues,as do I!

  13. LIke the other commenters, I really identify with this post as well. I've had some difficult yoga friendships also, and it makes me think of how careful we have to be about personal relationships and yoga practice because it is hard for our own practice when we have a "yoga infection", as you put it.
    I have done 2 YTTs, the first was with a teacher who I also considered a good friend. It ended in utter disaster and soured my yoga experience for years. I entered into a new yoga training years later, just completed it, with very knowledgable teachers who taught me so much, also about boundaries and being true to yourself in your own practice.
    I'm not the most nimble, flexible or fancy of yogis, but I actually think it makes me a better teacher. I understand, from my own past, what it is like to be injured, to be out of shape, to be self conscious. Many yoga students come into a class with so many things going on, it is valuable to have your own imperfect experience to draw off of, and also to see how you've moved past it to help them to do the same in their own way.

    I think being a student is the most important thing. We are all students, whether we've done YTT or not.

  14. Such wonderful honesty Lisa. And how amazing that your friendship dynamics could enter into your relationship to yoga!

    I truly don't believe that getting serious about yoga must mean you end up doing YTT. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing so if you feel like it, even if you never decide to teach. BUT it's completely unnecessary.

    Note: there are also yoga studies you can do that aren't about becoming a yoga teacher - just deepening your understanding and practice of yoga.

    As you know, yoga in my view is about your relationship with yourself - your own mind, body and breath. So it doesn't matter who has done what training, or who got their first... as long as you're having fun!


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