Thinking Upside Down: What is Yoga Training?

By: Caroline Scudder, Contributor

This past summer I completed a yoga teacher training. To become yoga teacher certified, you must complete 200 hours of training plus additional requirements of observing and assisting classes, service hours, and teaching hours.

This all felt a bit daunting. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be flexible or strong enough to consider myself a yoga teacher of an art form that so often displays people with their feet around their head or holding a minute-long headstand. The night before the first day of training my teacher sent the group an email saying, “The moment you walk into this studio you are a teacher. You will be taught like a teacher and treated like a teacher.” With this positive affirmation, I felt less scared and more excited for the journey ahead.

Before the YTT (Yoga Teacher Training), I had viewed yoga strictly as a form of exercise—something that kept me active and reduced stress. In the training, we spent maybe 25 percent of those 200 hours focusing on the physical aspect—the asana—of yoga. For the majority of the time, we studied yoga’s ancient teachings and philosophies to dive into the spiritual side of the practice. Much of this aspect of yoga has been lost through the westernization of the art. Many yoga studios have taken on a pure barre style that incorporates high temperatures and weights. Don’t get me wrong, part of the allure of yoga is the muscle tone it brings. However, studying and being aware of its origin makes the practice all the better.

To me, yoga is best described as intentional movement that is linked with the breath. The breath in yoga is used as a tool for connecting the body and mind. Yoga in Sanskrit, the Indo-European language of India’s ancient religious texts, translates to “union.” By connecting with the body through yoga poses and syncing it with intentional breath, the body experiences a sense of calm that permeates the nervous system.

My relationship with yoga has changed over the years from something that strengthened my core, increased flexibility, to something that releases stress for me. Currently, its greatest benefits are mental. The meditative aspect of what I am learning is teaching me about the power of stillness in our busy lives. Even if I only can make time for five minutes on my mat of just simple stretching and breathing, my awareness of my thoughts and tension in my body is heightened tremendously.

If you’re interested in yoga, want to learn more, or are already a practicing yogi, I encourage you to attend a class with the intention of connecting with YOU. If you want to exercise, you can go to any other exercise class out there. But if you’re interested in deepening your connection with yourself, I would suggest entering your practice with a mindset of self-love, understanding, and grace. I’d encourage you to remember that it’s not about achieving the perfect pose or comparing yourself to other people in the studio. What matters is reaching your own edge with your body and maintaining awareness of your breath throughout the practice.

At its core, Yoga is connection.

Yoga is being brought back to the present moment.

Yoga is appreciating yourself.

Yoga is strength.

Yoga is grace.

Yoga is forgiveness.

Yoga is being open.

Yoga is living from the heart.

And most of all, yoga is being you.

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