My heart pumping in my ears and every cell shivering with self-doubt, I walked into the yoga studio for day 1 of my first Teacher Training weekend. The preparations that went into that first impression were, in retrospect; ridiculous. Like an 11 year old in the last weeks of the summer preceding high school, I carefully considered the ‘Jen’ I wanted to present. What does a ‘proper’ yoga teacher look like? Should I bust out the tie-dyed harem pants (staple of my camping wardrobe) or would my usual Lycra fit the mould? Should I keep my chunky silver jewellery on, fully aware these made me look like I’d just bobbed back from a meditative trip to Goa, or should I remove them in favour of the serious, safe, sporty type? I knew I’d nailed it with lunch. Fridge already full of smug, homemade, veggie preparations (I’m lucky to enjoy both cooking and eating rainbow concoctions almost as much as I enjoy pizza), there was little to do there. I’d stuffed the creations into my Indian, three-tier tiffin tin, picked up a banana, put it back down, packed a chocolate bar and exited the house. So, walking into the studio that day, mat rolled up under one arm, bag of yoga texts slung over a shoulder and tiffin tin swinging from my right hand; I felt… completely unprepared.
The day started with a yoga practice so the teacher trainers could ‘see where we were’. Paused in plank pose, my arms quivering with effort, my brain anxiously flicked through every bit of information I’d stored as I robotically shifted my limbs into each asana (pose). Inverted in ‘down dog’ my heels straining to reach the mat like the Yogis on insta, the teacher finally brought us back into a seated pose.
“Close your eyes. Gently rest your hands on your knees. This is your practice. Leave your ego at the door and focus on your breath..”
Leave your ego at the door?! Shit! I had completely lost sight of what this was all about. I breathed in, the breath filling my lungs; calming and centring.
The weekend was tough. Validated by the International Yoga Alliance, I felt rigorously broken down and over-whelmed by the end of a whole day of Sanskrit, seminars and sun salutations. But Day two was incredible and I began to feel the stirrings of an inner teacher emerging.
Back home I started the online learning. All in the name of research of course, I watched a few hours of footage of ripped young men going through ‘Rocket’ yoga sessions and, praying there were no hidden cameras; I huffed and puffed my way through a Kundalini youtube video, channelling my ‘feminine energy’ towards my sexy serpent who churlishly remained curled at the base of my spine. I learnt about true Gurus who forgo all material comforts in the pursuit of enlightenment and about those who have abused the power their status gave them. Student again, I wrote up and handed in my first assignments.
Truly enchanted, I am dedicating every spare moment to the course and fear I have become a complete yoga bore. A third of the way through now I’m starting to teach the family. The first hilarious session took hours. ‘Skype teaching’ the only person I could bear to try out (inflict) my new skills on, my yoga-newbie Mum patiently waited while I stumbled and hesitated through my set of cues. Glancing frequently at my notes, shifting and pausing the camera to get the best angle for my own teacher and concentrating on what came out of my mouth; I forgot all about my student who I’d left hanging about like one of my teenagers at a chip-shop. Eventually I heard a timid (she was speaking into her chest), “er, Jennifer?”
I shut my book and looked at my Mum. She needed to straighten her spine and stretch out her arms. Her wrists were hurting so I explained where she should be grounding down through her palms. Her knees were hurting so we rolled up a blanket underneath. And once I realised that this was her practice, I finally started really teaching. Something took over and it wasn’t mother and daughter anymore, but two Yogis. It was a beautiful learning and bonding experience and exactly the kind of moment I’m looking forward to in my own studio one day…