becoming a yoga teacher

I have a secret. I am a counterfeit. A fraud. My sordid secret? I seldom make it to my yoga mat. There, I said it. I can offer a million reasons why, but mostly, they will be make-believe half-hearted excuses to hide the real truth. The truth, for me, and I suspect countless others, is that the act of arriving on the yoga mat is a daily battle. It isn’t just my full schedule, or the countless pulls on my time and energy. No. It is much harder to admit that the act of showing up and being with myself, in that way, is what I find harder to confront. 

There have been times in my life when I showed up to my yoga mat every damn day and felt transformed by the dedication, physically, mentally, and spiritually. During those years, I even began to teach, such was my devotion to my newfound passion.

 I moved from California to Nicaragua, discovering, much to my delight, a mother/daughter team leading yoga out of their living room right in the center of town! I was elated. I had discovered yoga before leaving California and it felt good to move my body that way. What a blessing. Imagine – yoga in a small coastal town in Nicaragua! I showed up every day, 6 days a week. Some days the teacher looked disappointed. I was the only one there. Smiling. Keen as ever. ‘Come on in’ she would say, sweetly.

Then, without any warning, life changed in an instant. One morning, I arrived for class and my mother/daughter team announced that they were leaving San Juan del Sur. Shock. Horror. After class that day, my mind was racing. What would I do? How could I survive? The transition into Nicaragua from my pretty plush life in California had not been easy. In fact, some days it was downright impossible. Power outages, water shortages, parasites, heat, humidity, bugs, dengue fever. You get the general idea. Life was pretty third world. Add on first world complaints of missing my family, a warm bath, a Costco type store with all your consumerism needs under one roof and you have a recipe for discontentment. But I had yoga. Or did I? My teachers were about to leave Nicaragua and take my yoga class with them!

So, as you might guess, that is how I came to teach. I was never cocky enough or even trained enough to think I should teach. It just organically evolved out of necessity to keep up the practice. Being an extrovert through and through, there was no way I could do it alone. Especially at that time in my life. Everything was better with others! Before they left, my mother/daughter teachers handed me David Swenson’s, ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ Manual and there, the legacy began. I would go on to lead a modified version of the primary series with a whole ton of chatarangas and that was where it started.

I moved into the house my teachers moved out of and placed a sign on the gate to the house, offering yoga and a cup of tea for a few dollars. I quickly became known as the “yoga teacher” in town. Hotels would call me to lead private classes for their guests. For the first time in my life I was doing what I wanted, I was living a purposeful life. I still had that sinking feeling that I was a fraud. If a “real” teacher came through town, I would ask them to lead the class, as I was certain they had more knowledge than me. The strange reality was that I was starting to build a little following and my regular students would get upset when I would have someone else lead the class. They would say they came for my class. Wow, that was surprising!

Over the next few years, I became officially trained by a man named Vedantin out of San Francisco. He led several teacher training courses in Nicaragua and would let me partake as time allowed. Eventually he pronounced that I was indeed certified, from a combination of his teachings and the fact that I had indeed already been teaching for a few years. The majority of my learning though had been self taught, from books and life experience.

Over the next decade life provided plenty of excuses to forgo my own yoga practice. The most obvious was also the most challenging and without a doubt most rewarding role I had yet to take on. Motherhood. I had three babies in the last decade and I will not down play what that requires. In short, kids drain your life force, if you nurse they literally suck the calcium from your bones!  Simultaneously they feed your soul and grow your capacity to love.

My yoga practice for the first two years of each of my boy’s lives was just that. Being their Mom. Working through the night. Nursing around the clock. Trying to keep calm and steady while they required so much of me. Even as I write this blog, my third boy (yes, all boys!) has been sick with diarrhea. He’s plain pissed off. My middle son has pink eye. Life is a barrel full of laughs at present. Which reminds me of something I always tell my students. Something I need to take heed of myself…

Suffering comes from resisting what is. When you want something to be different than it is.

It was true when my teachers were leaving and it is true now as my kids are sick. Wanting things to be different than they are is a great discontentment feeder.

The sweet reminder that I am doing the best that I can, can not be uttered often enough. My Mother-in-law told me once that she wants her headstone to read, “She done all she could”. I love this. Aren’t we all doing the best we can?

I suppose, the truth is that I can teach even without my own consistent practice. For at the end of the day, I am practicing. I am showing up every day to my life. I am breathing, moving, loving, crying, laughing, growing, shrinking, “MOMing”, reflecting, meditating, being still, running in every direction,  in short I am doing the best I can. 

Eventually, my path led me to open the first “official” yoga studio in San Juan del Sur. Although for me there was and will always be the memory of our first little studio right in my living room, in the middle of the market square in San Juan del Sur, where it all started. When life was so much more simple. When my day required only that I show up to my mat and nothing more. I can not say I miss those days. How can you miss what you were fully present for? Rather, I am grateful beyond measure that I had that time. It allowed me to really know myself. It prepared me for what was to come. It stamped the memory on my heart of the sweet self care time. It gave me a home to return to, time and again, as life became more complicated. 

I guess I am not a fraud after all. For a fraud sets off to fool you. I never meant to do that. I only ever wanted to learn more and give my best. Fourteen years and multiple certifications later, that is still true. Maybe more true. Maybe the definition of a fraud is one who thinks they have it all figured out. If that is the definition, then I could never be a fraud because the longer I teach the more I understand how much I have to learn and then the process starts all over again.

Started writing this 2017, just reread and published 2019 ~ Vanessa Pattison

There’s no doubt the benefits that having a regular yoga practice can bring to an individual. Maintaining a habitual practice of meditation and centering your energy can bring resounding enhancements to your body, physically and mentally. Studies have proven the benefits of yoga on the nervous and respiratory systems, not to mention improving your body’s ability to relax, focus, and build strength.

 

Did you know that taking a yoga teacher training can benefit you even further as an individual? Even if you’ve never wanted to become a professional yoga instructor, enrolling yourself in an intensive yoga teacher training could be the best thing that you ever do. Here’s why:

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Knowledge of Your Anatomy and How Your Body Works For You – So many of us take our bodies for granted. We don’t realize the complexity of how we function. From taking breaths to running long-distances, our bodies are working hard to be balanced and in shape for all our daily activities. In a yoga teacher training, you learn the mechanics of how the body works, the muscles and bones and tendons and how everything works together and stays in alignment. This is beneficial in the beginning by learning how to do each of the poses correctly, but understanding why you need the poses and how to get in and out of each pose helps you to understand that yoga is not just about flexibility, but how to maintain your body and prevent it from injury, on or off the mat.

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Gaining an Understanding of How to Breathe Properly and How This Affects Everything – Breathing is something many of us never focus on. However, breath is food for our body. Without understanding how to breathe properly, we cannot understand how to best fuel our body with the oxygen it so craves. Respiration is a huge focus of the training, and uncovering the knowledge that each breath brings with it nutrients that our body needs to function. Many of us will never learn to focus on our breath, and balance it in a way that removes anxiety, tension, and many other negative emotions. Delving into the art of Pranayama, you will discover breathing practices that increase your range of respiration, bringing a renewed sense of calm and energy.

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Discover the Philosophy of Yoga and How the Mind Works – Thousands of years ago, someone wrote down philosophies that incorporate yoga that still speak to this very time and date. Yoga Sutras explain how yoga is more than just a bunch of complicated poses. The wisdom from these Sutras can be so helpful when we are feeling stuck in any way emotionally and mentally. Each verse has something to offer that will enhance any religion you practice, or give you some meaning if you don’t have a religion. You learn how to think and how to work with your mind when life begins to overwhelm, as it always will.  That, in itself, is invaluable.

Peter Sterios, reknown yoga professional and international yoga trainer instructs hundreds every year, leading them in their intensive yoga teacher trainings. Many, he says, never teach a class.

“Over the last ten years of leading Teacher Trainings, I have observed more than half of the graduates never teach. If you ask many of them “Was it worth it? All the time, effort and money it took?”, rarely is there even a hesitation. They are excited to share how the training was a turning point in their lives – a personal, transformational experience which deepened their understanding of yoga and helped them integrate it into their life back home.. . . At the end of the program, you will possess a very personal and intuitive understanding of yoga, based on your own experience, that will serve your practice and ultimately bring more balance and grace to your life. . .Beyond becoming a teacher, what is beautiful to see is the connection we all benefit from when learning together and from each other, and finding how this moves beyond our yoga practice into all the relationships in our lives. That’s really what our Teacher Training course is all about.”

Join Peter Sterios and James Bailey this winter in an inspiring teacher training in the beautifully cultural setting of Nicaragua, learning about the art and philosophy of yoga on the gorgeous Pacific Coast. Spots are still available for this 200-hour intensive training, February 17th-March 6th. (You can sign up for this transforming training HERE – LEVITYOGA REGISTRATION.)

Experiencing a yoga teacher training abroad allows you to dive deep into your study of yoga and you. You get to walk, talk, breathe yoga. It allows for an opportunity to do all the homework and really digest the material. You get to spend time with your teacher, seeing how he lives the yoga, learning by example. After a period of time in such an immersion, your life does change, for the better. You will find yourself knowing how to sit to keep your lower back happy. You will be less annoyed at family members and friends, using the tips from the yoga philosophy.

Once you’ve experienced something as life transforming as a yoga teacher training, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.  It’s certainly not just for teachers. It’s for humans who have practiced some yoga and now want to learn more about themselves. When we know more about ourselves, we are less fearful and able to be present with anything that life offers us. In this world of constant change and unexpected turns, that is priceless.