Hip & Healthy contributor, Rachel Cruickshank, recalls her summer in Goa where she fulfilled her dream of training to become a yoga teacher. Here, she shares what it really takes to become qualified and what she learnt along the way.
When I first went to a yoga class, I hated it. I was so bored. If you’re re-reading the title of this article, wondering if you’ve ended up in the wrong place then stay with me. I was initially drawn to yoga because I wasn’t comfortable in my body, I wanted something physical that would make me sweat and feel like I had done a really hard work out. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some yoga classes that will do this for you, but this class was not that. So, there I was, in savasana, I couldn’t stay still, I was fidgeting and itching to get out.
Years later I came back to yoga. It was at a confusing time of my life and I wanted to calm my mind, I started doing some meditation and realised the amazing effects of breathing and moving and thus my love affair with yoga began. I found one class I loved and that was it, I wanted to be in that class every opportunity I could. I wanted to have this feeling that yoga gave me all day every day, and that’s pretty much what led me to the decision that I would be a yoga teacher.
I’m going to start with what a yoga teacher training course is not. It is not a holiday (sorry everyone). I trained in Goa, it was sunny and we were pretty much living on the beach that’s how close we were, but it was hard. It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Every day we started at 7.30am for meditation and practice which lasted until 10am. This was followed by more practice, lectures or theory for another five hours a day.
As well as learning about the history and theory of yoga, we did a lot of work on energy centres called chakras (if you don’t know about chakras, they are fascinating). This work is largely based on psychology and it felt like all of these layers that I had built up around me for protection and comfort were slowly pulled away from me to then build me back up. Habits in both my practice and my personality were pulled to the surface. It was like getting a magnifying glass out and inspecting yourself in a way you’ve never been triggered to before. It was quite terrifying in some ways, but it was a process and there is so much that I have taken from that process into my daily life back in London. Even thinking about it now is quite emotional for me. There were days when I was left wondering “who am I?”. We all build so many walls up around ourselves, subconsciously and without knowing it, walls that when we’re asked to bring down can be so frightening. The biggest lesson for me was accepting myself exactly as I am and learning that if I need a wall or a mask up to be around someone else who can’t accept me for exactly who I am, then it’s probably best that I don’t give that person my time or energy.
The hours on my mat left me with a physical strength I had never experienced before. Maybe more importantly, it left me with a love and appreciation of my body that I had never had before. This body had carried me through 200 hours of hard graft, day in and day out. No matter how tired I was or if something hurt, it carried on carrying me. It got stronger, more agile, more flexible. “You are stronger than you think you are”, was something my teacher said a lot during morning practice when we’d all be on our last legs and more than ready for closing. This line couldn’t be more true and, for the most part, it now replaces my inner doubter or critic that creeps into the back of my mind when I’m tired or fallen out of a posture for the fifth time.
I will be forever grateful for the whole training process, in particular my teachers Jamie and Dulce and to every single one of the other humans who were there alongside me. These people started as strangers and ended as some of the closest friends I have, they saw me in the rawest state possible, on good days and bad days and opened their hearts with love and empathy. These are the people we should all fill our lives with, there are beautiful souls out there and if you live with love, they will find you. I have learnt how to teach yoga, but I’ve learnt so much more about life and myself on the way.
The real beauty of yoga for me is progress, physically doing something that seemed impossible a few weeks ago and mentally dealing with things rationally that would have left me angry and frustrated before. Four weeks, 200 hours, three rest days and many a gallon of sweat and tears. These were the hardest and yet most rewarding days of my life and I cannot wait for where the journey takes me next. And remember, you are always stronger than you think you are.
For more information on my teachers, The Yoga People, go to theyogapeople.com. My advice on picking a training is do your research, try some taster sessions and speak to your teachers to see who they trained with. The person who first really inspired me with yoga was Tracey Mansell (@traceyyoga), queen of the handstands and of whom I am forever in awe. Find a yoga teacher you really connect with – the best way to do this is try lots of different classes and styles until you find something that works for you, one of my favourite places for lots of variety is triyoga with five studios in London (triyoga.co.uk)
If you want to practice with me and hear more of my worldly ramblings then please visit www.thebodynatural.co.uk
Words by Rachel Cruickshank @thebodynatural
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