My first yoga teacher training was on a whim with zero research into my teacher, a chance that paid off beautifully. The class consisted of me and one other woman, so there was no hiding or shirking participation. I paid for it with a student line of credit, and even entirely separating out my teaching career, it remains the best investment I’ve ever made.

This educational journey is an ever-abundant gift because of the diversity and depth of what’s happened since that first day I seriously stepped into my yogic studentship. Yoga teacher training, or YTT, has….

·      Taught me to make peace with negative body image. Many people have reaped this benefit from yoga. In a culture that dices our bodies into bits of “works in progress” that are one product away from being likeable, yoga encourages a holistic treatment of our Selves. Now that I’m post-partum and my body has gone through this miraculous, intense, exhausting change, years of steadily accumulating self-compassion are here to buoy me. I’m not going back to the body I had or mourning its loss: I’m grateful, present and resilient, and that is radically different than my outlook before my first training.

·      A community of open, curious, compassionate people. It’s hard to make friends in your yoga classes, since chatting other people up is the opposite of acceptable class-time behavior. Participating in community-building trainings and events was where I’ve made friends, and aside from my rich, always growing group of people in Ottawa, there are yogis in my wider circle for socializing and practice across Canada and in many spots around the world.

·      Spirituality without dogma. With no strong cultural or religious affiliations, I didn’t even realize how impoverished I felt spiritually until my practice grew into depth. To be clear, this was not even a little bit the reason I began my teacher training, but I now have a sense of friendship with the divine that continuously brings me peace and fortitude.

·      A code of ethics. Yoga has so many rich concepts for how to live in this world, and they’re meant for living, not simply knowing. When I teach philosophy, I remind students that this is worth knowing to be of use, and use it I do. Not a day goes by where I’m not scanning an experience against my beliefs of right action within a yogic lens. I’m less fatigued and less worried about making the right decision, because these concepts provide guidance when I need it.

·      Acceptance of my imperfection, and a path to progress upon. Before yoga, I lived in fear that I was undeserving of the good in my life. Yoga revealed that I was wasting my energy with such fussing. Since perfection is impossible, the philosophy of karma (action) encouraged me to strive for excellence and accept that some errors will be made. These errors are teachers, and their lessons can be lived out. Best to put your energy to being of service to others, living well, and improving the world.

·      Self-care healthcare for life. In more recent years I’ve been smitten with Ayurveda’s rich system of self-care, but it all began with that first introduction to how the body works and how yoga asana (postures) and pranayama (breath control practice) are incredible systems for robust physical and mental health. I started to see how I moved in radically new ways, and everything I did on the mat was so much more informed that my yoga practice became radically more efficient. For the busy years that followed as a young professional, I never did less yoga-asana, but made greater leaps in practice than I had before YTT. 

The arc you follow throughout and after your teacher training will be unique to you, but whatever you choose to do with the “teacher” portion of that certificate, your commitment will take you on any number of amazing, illuminating paths. The return on investment is manifold, and I remain eternally grateful that I stumbled into the gifts of self-awareness and self-care that yoga has given me as I strive to offer it to others.

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