By Stephanie Given, Zuna Yoga 200 hour yoga teacher training graduate
Upon telling friends, family, and acquaintances that I was traveling halfway across the world to take an intensive yoga teacher training in Cambodia, their reactions inevitably felt like a game of 20 questions. How long have you been practicing yoga? Why do you have to go so far to get your teacher training? What are you going to do with this? Will you teach? Will you open your own studio? How are you going to make any money? How much is this costing you?
My response was not exactly concise. "I’ve been practicing on and off since 2008.” “I’m not sure if I will start teaching right away…or at all.” “My cousin said that Cambodia was her favorite place she has traveled to, and I really want to emerge myself into the training…” “If I teach I will need to start with small community classes first…” “It’s not about the money.” “I don’t think I will open my own studio, but it would be amazing to own my own studio.” “I don’t even know if I’m going to teach…’’ My questionner and I would get lost in this spiraling circle of uncertainty and the new game would be who could change the subject first.
Deep down, I didn’t have a simple answer, even for myself. I had a lot of difficulty communicating that I wanted this mostly for myself—to better myself and to explore more deeply who I am. Yoga had changed my life. It had profoundly helped my mental and physical stress levels, relieving tension from my muscles and my mind. And who can deny the freakishly amazing "yogi stoned" feeling you get after a good class? But more importantly, through my yoga practice, my demons surfaced and finally forced me to face them.
And I wanted to dig deeper.
I didn't understand exactly how or why this had happened until I was in yoga teacher training. Most of my previous understanding of yoga had been confined to one tiny aspect of yoga—the asanas or yoga postures, which comprise the third limb of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga. I had no idea there was so much more to yoga. It was like my childhood best friend had been living seven mysterious and separate lives! How could I have been this passionate about something and have such little knowledge? I know that I am not alone in my past belief that for a class to be "good,” it meant that I left sweaty. After every day of yoga teacher training, I would fall asleep amazed at how much there was to learn.
By studying Patanjali's writings, my eyes were not only opened to the wondrous amount of knowledge contained in yoga, but my perspective of how yoga can be incorporated into daily life forever changed. The first two limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra beautifully explain how lessons on the mat can change your outlook on life. The first limb, the Yamas), consists of our ethics, including our attitudes and behaviors towards others. The second limb, the Niyamas, is more intimate and personal. It addresses the attitudes and behaviors we have toward ourselves. Neither the yamas nor the niyamas can be practiced per se, but we can practice the third limb, which is asana, and the fourth limb, pranayama, or breathwork. Together, they make us aware of who we are, where we stand in life, and how we categorize the world around us. This begins with identifying our negative tendencies and accepting that we can change and move forward toward our true self.
It’s a whole new world of yoga that I have entered. By taking the knowledge that I have learned and incorporating it into my daily life, I am one step closer to my true self. And I am able to spread my love and knowledge to every being around me. If anyone in your life is questioning you for thinking of or beginning yoga teacher training, I suggest that the only answer you need to give them is, "How can I not?"