So now my training to become a British Wheel of Yoga teacher has finally come to an end, I thought it would be a good time to share with you my experiences and feelings of the last four and a half years.
My first yoga class was about 17 years ago at a local school. A friend suggested trying yoga, I didn’t know one thing about it but was quite curious to see what it was like. As we queued up outside the school hall waiting to enter I glanced over at everyone who had mats, cushions and big woolly blankets and they seemed quite happy chatting and catching up. I didn’t think that this was a class that I would really enjoy - I must admit the blankets put me off as it looked like it would be boring and we would be sleeping more than moving!
After that initial class I loved it and knew that yoga was something very different to anything I had ever tried before. After a few weeks me and my friend ended up joining the local gym for our yoga. I tried a variety of gym classes from aqua aerobics to step classes as well as all the yoga classes. I found a very special yoga teacher who is a very good friend now. She shared her knowledge with me, helping with poses, we even went on yoga retreats together, and I still go to her classes now when I’m free…
I continued to practice Ashtanga yoga with another teacher for a few years and filled up my evenings and weekends with yoga. I went on to find a lovely local yoga teacher who is also a good friend that I practiced Hatha yoga with. She encouraged and supported me when I started training.
BWY Foundation Course
Initially I started off doing the BWY Foundation course which lasted a year. This was a great opportunity to explore yoga at a deeper level through different aspects of the yoga practice, and looking at the roots of yoga by dipping into the philosophy which I know now is the real backbone behind the physical practice.
I remember turning up the first day not knowing anyone and only speaking to the teacher briefly on the phone before the first class. I did feel nervous about meeting my class mates and of the unknown – what the course would actually be like and the things that we’d be doing.
I was working full time throughout the course as a nanny with very long hours. I did find it tricky to find the time to complete the homework diary that we were set, the pranayama exercises, yoga flows and to read the recommended books. I used any free time that I found and before I knew it the course had flown by.
Some people on my course didn’t want to teach but what we practiced and shared gave a great insight into what it would be like to teach by doing group work and making up short lesson plans. Those who didn’t go on to training found that the course gave them a deeper knowledge of yoga which they could work with within their own practice and life. I was excited to sign up for the next stage of teacher training.
BWY Diploma Course
After the Foundation Course I started the 3.5 years training with the BWY and Belinda Emberson. Again the first few induction days were very nerve wracking and again I didn’t know anyone - including the teacher. There seemed to be a lot to take in with all the paper work initially but I remember thinking how lovely everyone was. I was over the moon when I got accepted onto the course after what seemed a long wait to find out. Throughout, Belinda my tutor, was so supportive and made learning such a positive experience.
Early on in the course I was made redundant from my nanny job which actually worked out for the better as I ended up getting a part time job enabling me more time to study, research and set up my own class to teach as a student teacher. My partner was very supportive of me during the training and was very patient as I had lots of homework and assignments to complete and I couldn’t have done all this without him.
Each month that we met up we worked our way through the roles and responsibilities of a yoga teacher, safety and anatomy. We explored lots of poses and different ways in which we could teach them and the same with breathing practices, meditations and other Hatha yoga practices. The philosophy side was taught and we worked through the Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali, The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.
Bit by bit everything started to become clearer, and started to make more sense, changing my own practice, how I taught and how I went about my everyday life. Our class got on so well that we couldn’t wait to meet up each month to catch up and share what we had been learning. It was a very happy environment to be in, full of laughter and energy through learning and sharing the experience and knowledge of everything yoga related.
At the end of our last day, Belinda asked us all what we had learnt from the course and I have been thinking about this. For me it is that yoga is really much more than a physical pose. It’s not about how far you can push yourself into the pose. It’s about self awareness in a pose, making any adjustments so that you can stay in the moment by comfortably breathing, feeling what that pose feels like, softening and allowing space to create in the body, mind and the breath.
Yoga can be a very personal experience by listening to the body and respecting your limitations. The most important part is to enjoy it, if a pose doesn’t feel good then adjust so that you can enjoy the benefits. Props are great, and use whatever is to hand which may be a bolster, block, wall or even a chair.
There are many different branches to yoga that we can work with ,not just through the physical pose alone but through breathing, meditations, relaxation, bandhas, kriyas and working with subtle practices. Whatever resonates with you then go with it, it’s your yoga so make it your own practice.
Yoga is a never ending learning experience and I’ve only just touched the surface on the different ways it can be explored and incorporated into my life. Each time you come to the mat it can feel totally different to the previous. You may notice different sensations, or move physically or in subtle in ways that you haven’t explored before. There may be aspects that just click and make sense which you take away with you.
I always used to hear teachers say that you don’t just practice yoga on the mat but off it too, as part of your life. Before the course I didn’t fully understand this, thinking it just meant doing random downward dogs at home or the workplace but it’s clicked now and there is so much more to just doing the physical pose. It’s about how you responsibly live your life and the yamas and the niyamas (yoga ethical guidelines).
What you learn in the yoga class, kindness, patience, surrender, slowing everything down, being in the here and now and being true to yourself are just a few of the aspects that we can work with both in the yoga class and when we are going about our everyday life and connecting to everything that is around us and what comes our way.
I will leave you with a lovely passage that I often read from a book that was given to me which is called “Awakening the Spine” by Vanda Scaravelli .
Do not fight your body. Do not carry the world on your shoulders like Atlas. Drop that heavy load of unnecessary baggage and you will feel better.
Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose. Do not look at your body like a stranger, but adopt a friendly approach towards it. Watch it, listen to it, observe its needs, its requests, and even have fun. Play with it as children do, sometimes it becomes very alert and swift.
To be sensitive is to be alive.