Back to school, back to school. To prove to dad I'm not a fool
Ok, ok...if you know me personally, you know I may not have done this for my dad, but if I'm being completely honest with myself...as much as I wanted it to be, it wasn't completely for my students either. Just like it always does, my ego ended up making things a little more about me instead.
Before I jump right into to things assuming we're best friends and you already know everything about me (I mean if you're reading this, it's likely that we actually are friends and you're only reading this because you love me and I excitedly asked you to read my first bloggity blurb) let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Brandie. At the time of writing this I'm 33 years old, happily married and living my my hubby, mom, 3 dogs and 2 cats and no...I don't think I have enough animals, I'd like a calico kitten and a muffin puppy please and thank you. Back to the yoga, skipping a ton of background I'll be real and let you know that I kinda cheated the system a little the first time around and started teaching about 8 months before I was certified so at this point I've been a "teacher" for almost 3 years but certified for only a little over two of those. Basically, I'm still a baby teacher with a long way to go and even more to learn. The thing to know here is that I'm a yoga teacher who is currently teaching, but also retaking their certification/training. I've been practicing yoga off and on since I was 18 years old (you do the math) heavy emphasis on the OFF (please note that the off parts sometimes lasted for 5+ years). I had initially gotten into yoga after a really bad break up my senior year of high school and time after time seemed to stick with it until the ship of my heart was just barely repaired enough that I could ease back into the water and sail on to the next phase of life. Just like a lighthouse guiding ships back to shore, yoga was always there for me throughout the years. It caught me when I was falling and never judgement me. It was there day in and day out...if I wanted it to be. That was the thing, I got to choose. It was the physical release I needed. It didn't seem to push or trigger my sometimes disordered limits yet at the same time gave me space to grow. A few years ago, after one of those long breaks, I came back to yoga after a series of car accidents and found it's benefits so powerful that I was encouraged by my mother to take my first teacher training. I don't want to spend too much time focusing on the trainings that I've already taken as much as to emphasize that retaking a 200 hour training (or any training for that matter) is like rereading a good book or watching your favorite show again after a while. It's usually just as good (if not better-& bonus- if you're already a teacher, there's no pressure!) and you really do tend to get something new out of a training, each time. If you've been considering retaking your 200 or 300 hour training but can't commit to the whole thing for you know, reasons....see if the teacher or school you love offers it in module form so you can get continuing ed for your Yoga Alliance Requirements at the same time!
Back to the point-coming to terms with reality. I went into this YTT with good intentions. I wanted to learn all that I could for my students. To broaden my scope and understanding of the human body. I was fully ready to soak up everything on anatomy, form, function, Sanskrit, yoga poses & tradition and all the things that I thought separated the really, really good teachers- the ones who make you feel all feels from the ones who just left you feeling a little stretched out but equally underwhelmed (we've all been to those classes and if we're being real, most of us teachers have probably taught at least one of these classes too *cringy face*-but what I'm coming to realize is that what I've been missing is the follow through. The leading by example. The emphasis on yogic Philosophy & Ethics. Oooffff, ok, now ...Ethics, this is a tricky one. I'm going to start this off with a confession...I'm not perfect. I know, shocker, lol. It's hard to for bring up topics like ethics without clamming up because I'm instantly reminded of any awful thing I've ever done and feel the paralyzing weight of my past mistakes dragging me back further and further away from the future I want and need, and deep down might even deserve.. In these last few months I've come to acknowledge something that we might all already know...that as individuals, we can only control so much. How we take care of ourselves, how we talk to ourselves, how we react to others, how we allow ourselves to be treated. Creating clear and healthy boundaries is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and everyone around you. Your past is just the past. Once you know better though, it's your mission to do better.
I don't know about you but as much of a lifelong struggle it's going to be, I'm ready and willing to do my best to let go of the attachment to the actions and reactions of mine and anyone else's past. Moving forward I hope to identify my destructive patterns and thoughts more quickly and work towards the path of non reaction as well as begin to connect more and identify with the first two limbs of yoga.
Although teachers have touched on the Yamas (yoga's code of external ethics aka do unto others kinda business) and Niyamas (code of internal ethics, how to treat yourself) I was never able to truly connect with them until I met my new teachers Lana Reed (Wild Thing School of Yoga) and Courtney Morris (Hamsa Yoga School) and they spent hours teaching and now testing our retention of the details and it's only been two weekends. I can't imagine all that's in store for us. They joke that these principals are 5 am facts aka something they should be able to call us up at 5am and ask us and get a perfect answer because we know it so solidly. That's the type of dedication you need to take a practice or philosophy and begin to truly integrate it fully into your life. You can talk about something all day, but until you put in the work and make a change, there's no point in pretending something's going to happen.
Just in case you haven't been exposed to the other limbs of yoga, outside asana (aka the poses) I'll take a moment to go over the first two in a teeny tiny bit more detail. One of our challenges this week was to begin a short meditation practice (1-3) using a kitchen timer, the timer app on your phone or maybe something like the free version of insight timer because it has a sweet little bell instead of an obnoxious horn or buzzer. Sit up comfortably in a way where you body feels at ease but you can also stay awake, set a timer and then simply begin focus on your breath. We learned that meditation is not so much about letting go of all thoughts, as it is about realizing when your attaching yourself to something and then letting that go. If you're having trouble just focusing on you breath, your meditation practice can be a perfect, safe space to consider some of these complicated subjects in a deeper way.
The first limb of yoga is the Yamas aka the external code of Ethics-there are 5 of them. You can think of these as rules that govern how to treat others. The first Yama is Ahimsa or non-harming. Ahimsa can be seen as not doing harm to your body on and off the mat, still pushing, while respecting it's limits. This can translate off the mat by adopting the habit of pausing and thinking before talking to consider another's reaction or more obviously by enjoying a crulety-free vegan or vegetarian diet. Mastering this one Yama makes the rest so much easier in every way. When you're truly kind to yourself and others, the rest comes along naturally. The second Yama is Satya aka Truthfulness So much conflict can be avoided by unblocking the throat chakra and speaking your mind. Try it out sometime and see if saying no to something you truly don't have time for or interest in clears up more space for things that bring you joy. The third Yama is Asteya or Non stealing and we're not just talking about physical things here. This means not stealing love, attention, affection, power or control or self sufficiency from others. It also helps creates balance by not stealing experiences or opportunities for growth as difficult as that may be to be a part of or watch sometimes. The fourth Yama is Brahmacharya, or restraint of sexual energies aka keeping sacred relationships sacred and not diluting the power of that type of connection. I don't really think I need to explain this one, pick your person then keep it in your pants. If it doesn't work, split up first, then move on. Rant over (totally not damaged over here). The fifth Yama is Aparigraha, non possessiveness/non hoarding. Taking only what you need and moving on, finding contentment with what you have and releasing unnecessary want or suffering along the way. In such a material world overloaded with advertisements and media, this is could easily be one of the biggest challenges..
The second limb of yoga that I'd like to focus on is the Niyamas- aka the internal code of Ethics according to the yogic tradition. These are considered the personal duties or activities required for an enlightened mind and to achieve a healthy body and spirit. The first is Sauca, considered to mean purity or clearness of mind and speech. This one alone is a tall order. You can imagine why the road to enlightenment is paved with so many obstacles, I know I can't be the only one out there who has a hard time asking for what they really want or saying to no to that pizza or burger more often than I'd like. I know that struggle all too well, and let me tell you, it's real. The second Niyama is Santosha, or contentment...genuinely being ok with your surroundings, where you're at and all you feel. No faking it until you make it, just being ok with all that is RIGHT NOW. Next up is Tapas, our fiery friend self discipline, perseverance or motivation. The deeply embedded desire that drives you and keeps you going. After that we have Svādhyāya or self study/inquiry (in my opinion) one of the most important. Introspection, self study and awareness and keys to releasing attachments and ending suffering. Recognizing that you're a work in progress. Lastly, there's Īśvarapraṇidhāna or surrender to the divine. At the end of the day, you can do your best to take care of yourself, the people you love, create the most enriching environment, but there's only so much you can control. A secret to happiness is remembering to always do the best you can with what you have, but remembering that at the end of the day, it's ok to let go of the rest.
Long story short early on in this experience I discovered that I needed to retake this training not just for my students, but for ME. To honor myself and my journey. To discover the ever expanding uniqueness that is this life. To recognize that looking at my flaws and failure in the face with love and kindness rather than judgement to help identify the old, unhealthy patterns that led to my sometimes less than graceful reactions in hopes of learning and moving forward. In hopes of creating new patterns that I can then pass along to others. Slowly and surely as more seeds of self realization and inquiry are planted the culture will begin to change. It never happens over night, so recognize that it WILL take time, but if we don't start with ourselves, and we don't start now, the conscious revolution this world needs may never come. Start small, start now, knowing that leading by example is the surest and fastest way to lasting positive change.
If you're interested in learning more about the 8 limbs of yoga, yoga philosophy and tradition, be sure to check out Wild Thing School of Yoga and Hamsa School of Yoga in San Antonio, TX.