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  • Writer's pictureChristie Vella

What the True Practice of Teaching Yoga Can Teach Us All

Published April 18, 2017

It is hard to believe that six months ago, I only practiced yoga.

I adored my practice and I took classes three to four times a week. My yoga practice helped me survive some very dark times. It forced me to breathe through all the pain. Pain so dark and all encompassing I didn’t want to remember to breathe. Times when my mind wanted to let go.

Many things in my life helped me through this time, my family and friends most of all. But yoga created a shift that started to open me up to infinite possibility.

In March, when the darkness started to release, I found myself at a cross-roads. I needed to stop letting life happen to me and re-engage, my yoga practice was there to hold up the mirror to let me really see myself. It helped me find my path. I made the choice to go deeper emotionally, physically and spiritually. I signed up to take a 200-hour Yoga Teacher training course.

In April, I started my yoga teacher training. And shit got real.

Twenty-two beautiful humans showed up to learn how to become yoga teachers that very first Friday night in April. Four teachers showed up. Most of the students weren't entirely sure what we had really signed up to do.

That evening in April, while we waited together to take our first yoga class, we were unaware that we formed a powerful community. We stood around and nervously made eye contact with each other. Small smiles and small talk got us through the first 15 minutes before our class started. And then we flowed together, we moved together.

Our yoga practice was awkward and far from light on our toes. When we jumped to the front of the mat, it sounded like a small herd of elephants. You could same the same about our interactions with each other, awkward and unsure. But our teachers had, unbeknownst to us, created a community and a safe space where we could truly explore the peaks, valleys and “the edge” in our bodies, but more importantly in ourselves, in our lives. They told us that first night, this is the quietest you will ever be together. They were so right.

Week two (and four days of class into the program), I called my friend who had completed the same Teacher Training program years ago, and said; “What the hell have I signed myself up for? I just wanted the hot yoga body?” She laughed into the phone and said: “You thought it was just yoga, tell me what happened?”

I was encountering bits and pieces of myself I didn’t know existed. We did a chakra opening meditation and practice and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I heard the voice of God.

I had the first of many moments since then, where I realized there is so much more to this thing we call life. We get so bogged down as humans in the details - who has the best car, house, vacation.

While it is amazing to be able to reward ourselves with creature comforts, I do think there a real shift happens where we realize that real life experiences are far more important to our growth. The fancy car gets you a fancy car, while a trip to an exotic world can teach you who you are when things get tough, how you deal with cultures that aren’t the same as your own, or just slow you down and allow you to see all the natural beauty in this world.

There is so much to be learned from facing your challenges and struggles face on. For most of my life, I’ve been really good at boxing up all the garbage and putting it on nice tidy shelves in my mind. I would tell myself that I’m FAR too busy to deal with that crap today. Maybe I’ll deal with it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll deal with it tomorrow, became maybe I’ll deal with it next month and next year, never.

I found that dealing with the tough stuff, moving through the garbage it is the only way to grow as a human. It builds grace and strength. And one hell of a backbone.

I’ve also learned that it’s not as bad as you fear it will be. There is always a way if you’re honest with yourself and committed to do the hard work.

People and moments in your life for a reason. Rather than anger at encountering them, ask yourself why? Try to see the purpose in the challenge. The reason might become clear that moment or years from now. Either way, know that those who are willing or able to share parts of life (yours or theirs) are to be treasured.

I’ve learned that most of the time, it’s not all about you. So stop comparing yourself to others. You have no idea what their lives are really like, even if they appear “Facebook Perfect”. In fact, the more “Facebook Perfect” they are, the more likely there is something they’re struggling through.

I’ve also learned that there is always time and reason for compassion. Compassion for yourself, for others, for the world.

And I’ve learned that I’ll always be a student, even though I am a yoga teacher now. I have officially taught 20 classes (for money).

I have regulars who, when I tell them I’ll be out of town next Sunday, get bummed. They show up for me just as much as I show up for them. They trust me to move them through pose after pose. They’re learning crow pose – they’re really getting it. The first week we worked on crow, only a couple tried it. I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy.

They’re learning, like I did, that the hardest part is trusting in your ability and letting go. Giving into to this life and committing to be present for whatever life throws at you.

And the most amazing part for me – at the end of all this effort, my class lays in savasana and trusts me to hold space and time for them. Nothing compares to the experience when 20 humans place their trust in me and are willing to lie in corpse pose while I hold their hearts in mine.

I am beyond grateful that life has brought me to this point.

Published first on Elephant Journal

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