When I received an e-mail asking me to write about my yoga teacher training experience, I immediately had a vivid memory of the first session of my training. We were asked a similar question that evening, twenty-odd strangers sittings in a candlelit circle. "Why did you choose to do this?"
That night, I dutifully fell to my task earnestly and honestly. And then we were asked to share. Share! With a group of strangers! I was not ready to expose myself to these people. As the first person in the circle began to read from their journal, I frantically composed sentences in my head to say aloud instead of what I had written. I want to teach because I want to learn! Or I want to spread the joy of my practice to the world with a pageant smile. Content with that lie, I relaxed and anticipated my turn.
It would be a narrative device to say that I was the very last person to share and by the time it was my turn, my heart grew three sizes and I spilled my guts and that is what my teacher training means to me, blah blah blah. As it was, I was somewhere in the middle of the circle, and I was no yogi grinch, but listening to the others share openly did touch me a little. Not enough to reveal everything, but enough that when it was my turn, my voice wavered as I spoke these words of truth, "Because I need this."
The truth of the matter is, I turned to yoga teacher training in a very dark time in my life. I have suffered from depression and anxiety for a long time, and about a year ago I had been let go from a job that was entirely the wrong place for me. My immediate response to this was to shut down completely. Going to the local yoga studio was the only thing that got me out of bed. A few months passed in this state, and I decided to do a teacher training, more out of a desire to see what else I could get out of this yoga thing than any real notions of teaching. Hell, it was either that or become an alcoholic.
I'll follow that joke with a caveat. I am not saying that yoga teacher training solved all of my life problems. It was not a silver bullet. It was not a replacement for medication and therapy. But it was a tool that helped me in a difficult time. Yes, I learned the Sanskrit names for poses and how to sequence a class, but I also learned so much about myself, and how to share that self with others in an authentic way.
It's funny how when I got this request, I had also just received a letter from my past self written during my training. As I opened my letter, I turned to my roommate and best friend and asked, "Do you remember how unhappy I was a year ago?" And, as if my past self heard my question, I read "Remember, future Joyce, you are not the same you of six months ago, or even six minutes ago. You are not the same as you will be in six minutes, or six months, or six years. You are who you are now, and whoever that is, it's okay." And perhaps that is the greatest thing I learned from my teacher training.