Finding togetherness through yoga teacher training. By Victoria Jackson
Om saha nāvavatu, saha nau bhunaktu…
May we be together, may we be nourished together…
These are the words I chanted every morning of my vinyasa teacher training course earlier this year. Each day began with us sitting together in a circle, chanting, meditating, and sharing our thoughts from the previous day. This was very different to how my mornings usually start – with a rushed coffee before I attack my inbox – so given my first day nerves, I was glad I was at my local studio. It was already a home from home and there were familiar faces around me. In fact I’d rolled my mat out next to some of these yogis for more than a year, but without ever knowing their names. Now we’ve spent so much time together I know not just their names, but those of their partners, children and their cats!
Teacher training offered many unexpected things, of course, and one such surprise was how close we would all become during our time together. I’m normally quite a private person, not much used to sharing my practice with others: even in a packed class my yoga mat always felt like my refuge, my private island. But during teacher training we did everything together – and I found I loved it! We shared lunch, we laughed and cried in each other’s arms, we sweated together through classes, and during all that teaching practice we exchanged encouraging hugs and jubilant high-fives as we started to find our voices as new teachers.
Together we travelled an amazing journey in our understanding of yoga philosophy, of anatomy, and in shifting from practitioners to teachers. When we started from our first mumbled instructions in basic poses with a partner, who would have thought we would end up confidently leading the entire group through flowing sequences! Baffling anatomical descriptions like ‘anterior pelvic tilt’ and ‘dorsiflexion’ somehow crept into our everyday language. And by the end we were all happily bandying about Sanskrit terms like raga (attachment) whenever anyone expressed a preference or avidya (ignorance of who we really are) if someone had a confidence wobble and doubted their ability to teach.
And now that the course is over, I’m finding that the togetherness goes on – even after the chanting has faded out of our daily lives. Each time I come to class it feels like a teacher training reunion, with plenty of smiling faces welcoming me to practice alongside them. We share a muffled giggle when one of us overbalances and we support each other with encouraging smiles in the more challenging parts of class. And as we variously explore our teaching paths, we continue to exchange ideas, hopes and plans.
In the months following the training I’m reflecting on the oldcliché that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. Well, this certainly isn’t true when it comes to teaching yoga. My own practice seems more important than ever, providing the bedrock for teaching and continued learning – but now I have more friends to practice with when I need some yogic nourishment and some more togetherness.
Victoria Jackson completed the Spiralling Crow Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training at YogaVenue, Oxford (yogavenue.co.uk). She hopes to remain always the student.