Submitted by Jeff Lutes, RYT500, E-RYT200 from Prince George, BC.
There are profundities in many experiences in life. We have the opportunity to experience them every moment of every day in the interactions we have with people, our environment and with ourselves. This is what I learned in my Yoga teacher training.
The experience of teacher training itself was unexpectedly profound. When I began the training I had been doing Yoga on and off for about ten years. My interest in doing Yoga teacher training was not to become a teacher but to learn more about the ancient practice and to understand the philosophical foundations better. What occurred in the SOYA training was much more. At the time, it was like a magnificent dive into the infinite pool of energetic power that exits in the universe and how we as individuals embody, contain and manifest that power. Today, the lessons learned are a source of inspiration that I can draw on when I feel an illusory dark reality descending.
The experience of teacher training is to be in an ideal nurturing environment. While I would imagine there are some teacher trainings where group dynamics may go sideways, what I experienced and what I have witnessed others experience is that as an individual you are immersed into a completely supportive group environment. It is recognized through constant dialogue, re-enforced by the philosophical texts that we all come to the mat with our own respective dysfunctions and that it is these dysfunctions that make us who we are, the unique individual expression of the universal energetic source. The teaching is constructive, the texts and lessons learned are all about positive intention and energy. The constant theme reinforced is to learn to accept and love yourself and others with your best possible effort. Whatever it is you can contribute towards achieving that-it is enough.
The experience is framed within an ancient practice of holistic well being, a physical and mental cleansing of the body and soul, ten to twelve hours of concerted application of well being per day. Morning kriyas (cleansing techniques), daily pranayama (breath and vital energy manipulation) practices, two or more times per day, to help balance and cleanse the energy channels in our body, mind and soul. There is Asana practice twice per day to stretch and strengthen the physical body and build capacity within to maximize the application of the increased vitality built throughout the training.
Through this daily work we inevitably encounter our own personal limitations and obstacles towards our goals. These become our challenges and as they are recognized they are learned from. The group of students in the training all face challenges and the magnificent thing that takes place is that we begin to apply the philosophical framework for the discipline and practice of Yoga-love and compassion towards our fellow yogis. We learn from each other and realize that as we are compassionate toward others we learn to be compassionate with ourselves. As others are compassionate towards you (the individual you) you begin to see the positive feedback loop strengthening. You become stronger the more love and compassion are experienced. This is the ultimate lesson, we are learning beings, built to absorb the lessons of the environment and world around us, and when properly enforced with positivity and prosperity of spiritual growth lessons, we manifest the true nature of our beings, lightness and love.
By the end of the training it is not as if you have become a permanently enlightened being. Though euphoria and glimpses of the infinite universe led me to think I had achieved permanent enlightenment, the reality that it was not so was a major bummer. For most, the embodiment of lightness and love are fleeting experiences, throughout the training and in life. In teacher training though, when these moments of enlightenment arise, they are nurtured and the experience may linger longer than it otherwise would have. The moment of enlightenment will probably pass though and we encounter the challenges within ourselves once again. This is a natural ebb and flow. The highs of these experiences are amazing and in the context of the training the lows are made less by the support of those around us.
The difficulty is in applying the experiences of what we learn to our every day lives. Re-entering reality can be challenging. Describing your experiences to others who have not done a teacher training or do not understand the practice and principles of yoga can be met with ponderous looks of bewilderment and disbelief. In the teacher training you have been surrounded by reflections of your own experience, and the magnification becomes brighter and enhances your own experience. In your normal reality the reflection may not be as bright or exist at all and as time goes by the magnification of the reflection diminishes within yourself. The framework of positive re-enforcement disappears and it is up to you, on your own, to keep the light shining. Many people are overwhelmed by this prospect. I am one of those people. Within this there is a vital lesson though. While it is up to you to maintain the discipline and path in the experience of lightness and love, understand that what the environment of a teacher training provides is a community of people to keep the flame burning strong. It was through the experience with others and the provision of compassion and love to others that created a brighter flame within the personal individual experience. The lesson within this is that while the community you live within may not initially embrace your knowledge with open arms, trust that there is a community who will. As you seek out and find that community, the continued application of the lessons of lightness and love will only serve to help the people and loved ones who viewed your knowledge with skepticism see the brilliance within what you have to offer. Maintaining the lessons learned is difficult but through persistent effort the benefits will continue to grow and the experiences of enlightenment will become more and more natural.
To Immerse or Not to Immerse: That is the Question
There are different options for how one can do a teacher training. I did my initial training as an immersion-it began with completing a number of philosophical lessons at home on topics like chakras and the Gita, followed with an immersion of 16 days/12 hours per day.
Another method is to do it over a longer period of time. Some schools provide opportunities to do it over three or four months, every other weekend and other schools provide the student an opportunity to work toward a certification in several short modules which amount to the required number of contact hours with approved teachers. Obviously there are no right and wrong ways of going about getting certified as a teacher. Each method has its own strengths.
Going the immersion route seems to manifest more dramatic shifts due to the consistent application of the lessons from Yoga day after day. The armor most individuals have built up over the course of life is stripped away quickly. A few days of feeling raw and vulnerable may take place but the support of those around you helps to ease the difficulty of the process and feel open to the depths of the practice of Yoga. The result is both a positive and a challenge. Due to the immersion the cathartic changes that take go to deeper depths. The realm of constant positive re-enforcement forms a more innocent integration of the lessons learned. Upon re-entry into regular life the bluntness of reality may overwhelm the innocence. A trust is required that the seeds of what were planted during the training will continue to grow as long as they are nourished.
Doing a teacher training over a longer period of time gives one the benefit of integrating and experimenting with applying the lessons over the few months the training takes place. The stripping of armor may not go as deep though. The constant reentry into “normality” may cause a student to put the armor back on before they have experienced the lessons of what vulnerability has to offer. It is a more pragmatic learning experience and as such has its obvious benefits and limitations.
Whatever a student chooses to participate in will be beneficial to themselves and the world as a whole. There is nothing to compare that one is experience is better than the other, rather, it is important for a student to choose what seems right for them.
Profundities v. Normality
Acceptance, love and compassion are fundamentally important experiences and attributes to have in your life. These form the foundation for a healthy community. Understanding and experiencing these through a Yoga teacher training has a profound long term impact on your own reality.
Other experiences may happen during the teacher training. Through the consistent balancing, cleansing, strengthening and stretching or our energetic beings some interesting shifts and happenings can occur. The subtle energies in our mind and body and spirit can manifest cathartic energy explosions that have profound impacts on our understanding of ourselves our own energetic connection to the universe around us. In some form or another a student will experience a connection to the Chakras, the raising of Kundalini energy and a depth of connection to the vital life force-Prana. The connections may be subtle or may be dramatic. What is certain is that a student can experience and learn that the energy they are comprised of is as magnificent and mystical as the energy contained within the power of nature that surrounds us.
What is important to learn, whether you have done or will do a teacher training, or if you are a regular practitioner of yoga, or an aspiring practitioner, is that all of this, yourself and our universe are profound. We see the profundity every day and it is this that sparks the awe of our unique, individual and collective reality: the smile on the face of someone who needs to make a connection to community and does so, the amazing power of the natural world we live in, the power within ourselves to be compassionate and loving towards others, this is what our practice is about. Acknowledging that. It is profound and yet the more it is practiced, the more normal it becomes.
Jeff Lutes is an enthusiastic teacher of Hatha yoga with a little vinyasa, power yoga, the yoke, and good times thrown in. He is an owner of Chinook Yoga in Prince George and our newest addition to the SOYA Lead Trainer faculty.