Becoming a Yoga Instructor: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course
With week one and week two under our belt, we moved into our final week of the Sri Sri Teacher Training Course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina. During week three, our schedule remained the same, and our growth continued.
Tapping into the joys of childhood
At the beginning of the third week, everyone in class began to look younger. It doesn’t make sense, does it? After two weeks of lengthy yoga sessions, unpredictable weather, and long days, we should have looked haggard.
But, we didn’t.
We all have those memories of the unbounded joys of childhood. Remember those? Our class collectively began to tap into those old memories of happiness, and the contentment of self that young children have before life gets rough. Tapping into those feelings of happiness made us feel and look younger. That lost eye twinkle was back!
What could challenge that renewed youthful spirit? Well, I’ll tell you what…EXAMS!
The class instructors were very upfront about the upcoming exams. The exams would be difficult.
Panic rippled through the class. What if we spent three weeks learning anatomy, physiology, the endocrine system, ancient yoga knowledge, Sanskrit, perfected our yoga poses only to be told, “Sorry, honey, you failed. You can’t be a yoga instructor.”
Before I started the course, I didn’t even know I wanted to become a yoga instructor, and now I was panicked I would fail. Other classmates verbalized that same fear as we dried dishes during seva, or walked up the hill to class.
During the third week, we had two practicums where we had to perform poses in front of our class and the teachers. The teachers we had grown to love would have clipboards and stern faces and would grade us as they watched us teach, and they weren’t afraid to give failing grades.
We had the tools we needed, knowledge, proper alignment of poses, but could we teach a class? Did we believe in ourselves enough?
Doubt crept back in, and most of us wondered, “Do I know enough to succeed?”
Letting go of doubt
One of our teachers said something remarkable when faced with a barrage of questions from nervous classmates (It wasn’t just me!) about the level of difficulty in the exam and practicum. Instructor Bharti said that if we failed, then she failed as a teacher. It was her job to provide us with everything we needed to pass. We had everything we needed. We just needed to calm down and believe in ourselves.
Intention matters. My intention developed and grew, and I wanted to pass the course. I had to believe that I did indeed have everything I needed. I had to let go of the crutches that kept me from succeeding, the what if’s in life that everyone has. What if I couldn’t remember the information. What if I physically couldn’t perform the poses. What if I fail. What if…
With a little help from friends…
Our class would study together as we walked to the dining hall for meals. We would quiz each other while we were drying dishes. When one person felt weak about a particular subject, whether it was the name of bones or muscles or how to pronounce words in Sanskrit, collectively we would help that person. As we worked together as a group, and we became stronger as individuals.
Each classmate at one time or another during that last week reached out to help me with some aspect of the exam. I, in turn, reached out to help whoever needed help. We created a song to go with the Sanskrit words for the personal ethics of yoga while working in the kitchen. One classmate created a Jeopardy game that quizzed us on the endocrine system. A classmate reminded us all that we were only as strong as the weakest student. The individual desire to pass became a collective one fueling us through the week.
A desire to help others
When it was time for the practicum, I focused on my intention to teach yoga to the best of my ability. I didn’t worry that I wasn’t the most flexible person in the room or that I was in my 50’s. My focus was on my intention, and my intention had grown from accepting a challenge from a friend to strengthening a desire to help others.
Without the three-week immersion into all things yoga, I might have missed that essential element.
I’m not going to tell you that the written exam was easy because I had all that I needed to pass it. It was tough, really tough. I hadn’t taken a college-level exam in a long time (OK, so I’m talking 30 years.). We had 2 ½ hours to complete the exam (which felt like a college-level exam to me), and it took me the entire time. Yes, I remembered nearly all of the information, but I did get confused on some of the questions (what did the mitral valve do…what did that Sanskrit word mean again…argh!).
At the end of the week, we found out as a class what our grades were and that we would be getting our 300-hour Sri Sri Yoga Certificate, which would allow us to apply for a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certificate as well.
As a class, we did pretty well. There were a few As, a few Bs, many Cs, a few Ds, and a few people failed but were allowed to retake the exam. My grade was a B, and I was content with that.
We spent many hours after we got our scores smiling, hugging, laughing, and talking about how we would visit each other’s yoga studios and guest teach. If we make those visits, the trips will take us all over the United States, to Canada and China.
A way to give back
I’ve been home from The Sri Sri Teachers Training Course for several months now, and I find myself pausing when my friends say, “How was your yoga trip? It must have been so relaxing to do yoga for three weeks!”
“No. No, it wasn’t relaxing at all.” I reply to them. “It was transformational.”
My life isn’t perfect since I became a yoga instructor, and I’m certainly not happy all the time. Life is hard for everyone, and there is always something that knocks me off my confidence platform. Yoga, though, is a way for me to pick myself back up when I get knocked down. It’s also a way for me to give back to the well of life from which I drink.
I have taught a few yoga classes since I have been home. The best part about teaching is looking at the faces of students after the yoga session and seeing people who are relaxed and happy. It’s a great feeling to know that I am helping others to find their happy through the practice of yoga.
Recently, I’ve learned there is a 500-hour yoga teacher training course. I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy, but in the near future, I’ll be taking that course.
This September, you can experience the Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training for yourself. Click here to learn more and begin your yoga teaching journey!
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
An Unlikely Candidate: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course
Last summer, a friend of mine, Sejal, suggested I take a three-week course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina to become a yoga instructor. At first, of course, I said no.
I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy. Except for taking Sejal’s yoga class at the Art of Living Retreat Center, the only yoga I had taken was a class here and there at the YMCA and a few other fitness centers. Those classes were more feats of calisthenics than true yoga, and left me sore and feeling inadequate.
Sejal persisted, which made me wonder, “Why?” Why should a woman in her fifties with minimal experience in yoga become a yoga teacher?
“You don’t have to be bendy,” Sejal insisted. She went on to say that this is about a lifestyle, a chance to make life better.
Suddenly, and surprisingly to me, my “Why should I?” turned into “Why not?,” and I headed to the mountains of Boone with my car packed full of clothes and emergency cookies.
Arriving at the Center
Upon reaching the Art of Living Retreat Center, I immediately felt a sense of calm, as though I was home. I checked into my dormitory-styled room, heaving my overstuffed luggage up the stairs. My room consisted of a bed, a nightstand, a desk, and a chair. I opened the windows and let the fresh mountain air fill the room before walking to class.
The view from the front of the building was gorgeous as I stopped by the benches placed for people to sit and breathe in the mountain view. It was October 14th, and the leaves were changing color.
I walked up the hill to one of the buildings below the main ashram. The crisp air, the view of the rolling mountains, and the overall stillness of retreat center made life feel simpler as I walked towards Veda II, the building I would be taking classes in for the next three weeks.
The first class
The building was intimate, yet had plenty of room for our class of 24 to spread out. I sat in the front row facing a small stage. On a yoga mat next to me sat Sunita, who soon became my buddy. She is 72. Yes, 72. It wasn’t long before she told me about her double knee replacement surgeries and how yoga helped in her recovery. Here I was worried about not being very bendy and in my 50’s…
While sitting on our yoga mats, the class had a short introductory session before we broke for dinner. It’s a steep hill up to the dining hall, one we would walk up and down many times over the three-week course.
Nourishing food and community
The dining hall for the Art of Living Retreat Center is entirely vegan, and meals are served buffet-style. There were so many choices of food that I found my plate piled high each meal because I wanted to try everything. Chef Mel was fabulous at providing unique meals and only repeating dishes when asked – his tomato and pepper bisque was a welcome repeat.
Windows lined the dining hall wall and displayed a view of the rolling mountains painted with the changing fall leaves. That first night, I sat and ate dinner amongst strangers not fully aware that after three weeks these people would become my family.
The first full day set the tone for how physically and mentally demanding the course would be. I set out for the day at 5:05 am, meeting Sunita and Daisy (another classmate) for the 15-minute walk up the hill to class.
At 5:05 am, the stars shone very brightly in the night sky. The brisk morning air stung my cheeks. I planned on bringing with me to Boone a mini Keurig so I could continue having my morning coffee, but my teenage daughter would not allow me to bring one. “Mom,” she said with great exasperation, “It’s like bringing beer to rehab. You are not bringing a coffee machine to learn yoga.” She was right, and the coffee-free brisk morning walk helped to wake me up for the 5:30 am class.
The early morning class began with yoga, breathing exercises including Sudarshan Kriya (rhythmic breathing developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), and Sahaj Samadhi meditation until 8:30 am. Then it was time for breakfast.
The hidden blessing of seva
One of the essential aspects of Sri Sri Yoga is seva (selfless service). We were all assigned a seva, and my seva was working in the kitchen after each meal.
Usually, I would not be excited about working in a kitchen. Truth-be-known, I am never enthusiastic about working in my kitchen at home. It made a huge difference that this kitchen was not my kitchen. It was a commercial kitchen filled with happy people whose intent was to help others. I would dry dishes and put them out on the counter, or stack dirty dishes bound for the large industrial dishwasher. This dishwasher had a conveyor belt system. Every time I pushed a tray into the machine, it reminded me of how people get on rides at Disney.
I scrubbed pots and pans, and I wrapped fruit. Whichever task I did, I did with contentment. It’s amazing how being around like-minded happy people can make even the most menial tasks enjoyable.
Jim managed the kitchen. This job was his retirement job, and he always had a pep in his step and a sparkle in his eyes.
Other classmates worked in the kitchen with me. We would talk about our families and lives back home as we dried dishes, or whatever chore we were doing. Seva was a very grounding and comforting experience.
Sinking into yoga
After breakfast, it was back to Veda for more yoga. The Yogi Master, Krishan Verma, would have us hold specific yoga poses or asanas, and I would think, “Wow, I am awful at this,” or “I’m not going to be able to stand up and walk again after holding this pose for so long.” After a session, I would stand up and walk just fine without any pain. Yes, I would be exhausted, but I would not feel pain, which amazed me.
There were many times that first week when I kept looking into Krishan and his wife Bharti’s eyes thinking they were going to shake their heads at me with an awkward look of annoyance and point towards the door saying, “This really isn’t working. It’s time for you to leave.” Of course, that never happened – it was just doubt overwhelming my mind.
I doubted whether I would be able to do all the poses. My body is still recovering from a car accident I was in two years ago. It was a significant accident. I had neck problems and mild traumatic brain injury from the wreck that affected my speech and short-term memory. I would think about that as I was sitting crossed legged listening to Krishan teach the class. Maybe Sejal was wrong? Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do this.
So much doubt!
Working through mental and physical blocks
Several years before the car accident, I blew out my Achilles tendon while training for a marathon and had to learn to walk again after having a new tendon created. Maybe I just couldn’t do yoga because of that, never mind the car accident…
I kept doing all the poses to the best of my ability, taking the meditations seriously, committing to the breathing exercises, arriving to class early, and listening to what the teachers were instructing. At some point during the first week the doubt I was carrying became unimportant. It was still there. At times, it would wash over me in waves, but I found it best to acknowledge it and move on.
Maybe it was the fact that I was constantly busy? Perhaps the yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditations were giving me the strength I needed to ignore the persistent nagging doubt? Maybe I was just too exhausted? I don’t know, but I stopped listening to that voice in my head that said, “You can’t do this because of…” I began to concentrate on one step at a time.
We would break for lunch between 1 and 1:30, walk up the steep hill, eat lunch, and I would work in the kitchen again. That first week, as I got to know my classmates better, I began to notice that we all had voices of doubt to overcome. Life is difficult for everyone. It doesn’t matter what kind of doubt someone carries. Doubt is doubt, and for every individual, it can stop progress.
Finding a rhythm
Some days, my classmates and I would talk a lot while doing seva. There were days when we wouldn’t talk at all. Then there were days where we would laugh and sing. It all depended on what we were working through that day. Our struggles might have been different, but our paths were similar.
By the end of week one, we had learned all the Sri Sri Yoga poses, and we began learning anatomy and ancient yoga knowledge. Class started at 5:30 am and ended at 10 pm, followed by a daily written homework assignment and studying. After week one, the battle between myself and my mind had quieted. Now I wondered, can my body withstand the course?
To Be Continued…
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