It was one of the coldest winters I had ever felt. December held an overwhelming amount of changes while the world around me seemed to stand still in hibernation. Within days, I walked away from my college campus where I had spent energy listening and trying to listen to lectures. I picked up my last paychecks from jobs that had formed families. I packed my apartment into boxes, and I left the key in the mailbox. I left a relationship because it had become a chaotic mess, following closely from my lead. I hadn’t felt right in a long time, but it was Christmas, and there wasn’t time for processing.
We seek movement in times of struggle. Yoga gives us a chance to use movement as a meditation. It gives us the space to find stillness within the chaos. It gives us the time we need to process. Something I had been neglecting for a long time.
So I moved myself. In this case, it was in the form of a plane to Nicaragua. And then another plane to an island. And then a boat to a smaller island. And then I finally found stillness after weeks of challenging changes that had been exhausting not only my body, but my already fragile mental health. I hadn’t felt like I hadn’t taken a breath in weeks, and there I was, at the end of the road. The road being a walking path on the tiny island of Little Corn Island. It’s so small, cars aren’t present on the land. You can walk from one side to the other in under an hour. I literally had nowhere to go anymore. I had no choice other than to find stillness.
I believe the universe works the way it wants to. When we try to control every bit of our lives, we end up feeling more out of control when things don’t work out the way we plan. Yoga is a practice of letting go and moving into the opportunities that present themselves organically. For me, the Yoga Teacher Training fell right in front of me during a time when I didn’t realize just how much I needed it. I graduated from college the end of December. The training began on January 4th.
On the surface, a yoga teacher training seems pretty straight-forward. A training of which you learn to teach yoga. Simple. Initially, I was more so interested in deepening my personal practice. I didn’t have any true expectations to become a teacher after the training. I also didn’t realize a teacher training held the power to make me conscious of the mental health issues I had been struggling with for years.
I felt like I had hit a brick wall. After so much time running around and running away from my issues, I was now trapped, literally. Every road lead to the sea. Sitting in workshops and class made me feel like I was crawling out of my skin. Sitting in quiet meditations made me feel like I was screaming and no one could hear. Every asana cracked something in my body that triggered an emotional release. I cried almost every time, unable to control my reactions; unable to distract myself with life’s daily responsibilities. It was now my responsibility to process what I had been going through. It was now time to bring light to the things I had pushed deep into the dark. It was time to truly understand what a yoga practice is.
The training held some of the most powerful moments I had ever experienced. Before the training, I had made a handful of significant lifestyle changes. During the training I had made the most drastic mental and emotional changes I didn’t even know I needed. While I was learning proper alignment in chatarunga, I was also learning about my negative patterns, and my lack of ability to see vulnerability as a strength. I had been hardened for years, and letting people in felt uncomfortable; especially that winter. The cold had seeped into my insides and made my heart feel cold. The tropical heat began to melt the ice, and I started to feel the heavy throbbing in my chest. I felt life being pumped back in my blood and through my body. I was healing.
The relationships I built during the 30 days were some of the emotionally closest I had felt. The other trainees experienced their own version of healing and were quick to surround for support. They helped me heal, and they taught me how to love again. I speak to some of them still, three years later.
Though the training was heavy, it began to feel lighter as time went on. Weights had been lifted, and my mind became clearer. The last few days made me realize the sense of presence yoga teaches us to embrace had just began to set in, but my plane ticket date was approaching. But I let it go without me.
When I arrived to the airport, I didn’t feel anything. My heart kept drifting to the idea of getting in a taxi and driving anywhere else. I emailed my mother using the spotty WiFi. I told her to not pick me up from the airport back home. I got in taxi and drove further into the foreign world. The windows were down, the air was hot, and I didn’t understand the Spanish banter around me. I remember smiling, knowing I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Something I don’t think I had ever felt before.
I spent the better park of the next year living on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua where I taught yoga classes at the local studio and let the vitamin D continue its healing process. I fell in love with the ocean and learned how to take my yoga practice off the mat. I continued to grow in a direction I don’t think I would have had I not been, on the surface, trained to be a yoga instructor. I only wish everyone could have an experience as life-changing as mine. It’s hard to go back once you do. For me, this also meant literally. This training will teach you to walk through the doors that open as you move through your life.
In short, you must:
• Have a dance party with Rachel Wainwright.
• Journal every day.
• Take advantage of the community work.
• Learn from your fellow students and not just your teachers.
• Cry, laugh and open your heart to those sharing the same experience.
• Be vulnerable and open to what the training has to offer you, even if it’s not what you expected.
• Never forget to get acquainted with the live-in dog or cat or iguana or whatever creature that nestles its way into the home of the training!