28 Oct DON’T DOUBT YOURSELF: MY STORY OF BECOMING A YOGA TEACHER
Written by Malinda Hayward ・ 10 mins
I’m officially a Yoga Teacher! And you know what, no word of a lie – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel like my life has been building up to this moment of feeling unwavering contentment with everything in my life.
So how did I get here? Why was the teacher training so great? Why am I so happy? What does it all mean for me now?
When people think of Yoga – their mind either goes 1 of 3 ways…
- “Yoga is just for women & ‘alternative’ people”
- “Yoga is a class that can be done to increase flexibility while toning my body”
- “Yoga nourishes my mind & body at the same time”
Before you read on, figure out which one you are. With no judgment, just notice which answer you gravitated towards.
Personally, I was convinced of the second option (flexibility and toning) for about 5 years.
I started yoga when I was 23 and practiced 2-3 times a week at Power Living (fun fact – they were the first studio I went to). I loved the newfound flexibility I felt in my body & I always walked out of class feeling on top of the world. I always put this down to the endorphins that people experience after exercising. It wasn’t until a big injury resulting in 2 surgeries & a year of rehabilitation that I noticed the impact NOT doing yoga had on my mood.
After about a year I went back to Power Living and BOY, did I struggle. I couldn’t do the most basic moves I had been able to do before. I was incredibly self-conscious and walked having only practiced approximately 20% of the poses. The teacher approached me after class and asked me how I went. She then gave me some modifications to try for next time. Flash forward 3 years; I have just completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training with them.
When I first signed up for Yoga Teacher Training with Power Living, I was nervous. I knew I needed a change in my life and I’d noticed that I found myself happiest when I was on my mat. I had just taken on a dream job as the Creative Director for a new rooftop bar in Sydney and found myself torn between the two.
I decided to do both. I thought maybe I just wanted to deepen my practice doing the YTT, learn the correct ways to do the poses, and learn a little more mindfulness.
When I walked into the classroom on the first day, I saw a room of 28 wide-eyed humans, looking slightly nervous and excited. Seeing them with their text books in front of them reminded me of how I felt like I on the first day of school.
Emee was one of our lead facilitators for the month & I remember the first big question she asked the class: “What does yoga mean to you?”
A few of my favourite answers from my peers were:
“Connecting the mind with the body”
“A place of no judgment”
“Calming my busy mind through movement”
“Yoga is teaching me how to be more gentle”
Of course there is no wrong answer, each answer is different depending on the individual. What I did not know was that yoga as I knew it was only a fraction of what the whole word meant. When most people think of yoga, they think of the strengthening poses that we do in class, which is called asana. I discovered that asana, the physical practice I had done, was only 12% and one of eight elements of the yoga practice.
Over the next month I would learn the other seven elements of yoga, and I would feel like a different human.
The first few days we dove right into anatomy, which I personally struggled with. One thing Power Living is renowned for is having a big Anatomy & Physiology aspect of the YTT so that as a teacher, we have a deep understanding of the human body & all of the muscles and their functions. I felt overwhelmed, I had never studied anatomy and high school was over 10 years ago. Our teachers, Emee & Sol, kept reassuring us that it would all make sense and come together and to just absorb what we could. We had a few physiotherapists in the room who breezed through it. One of them comforted me by letting me know that some of the anatomy we were learning she hadn’t learnt until her second year of University. This eased my mind a bit, but at the back of it, the perfectionist in me was still worried I wouldn’t retain the information.
When we got to the philosophy, I was blown away. It was like I was hearing everything I needed to hear at that exact moment. One thing that stood out in the first philosphy lecture was that yoga is NOT a religion, which I found interesting. I didn’t realise yoga was anything more than poses and meditation until a few days ago so never considered some people might think it was a religion. Just to clarify: yoga is non-denominational and non-judging, which is what I absolutely adore about it. Anyone and everyone are welcome, and nothing is pushed on you. If you are just there for the strengthening physical poses, great. If you would like to join in with the breathing and meditation, wonderful. If you would like to lay down for the entire class, incredible. You do you. The teacher will happily help guide you to do what is best for your mind and body.
About a week in, I had a little hiccup with my Epilepsy, which subsequently resulted in a panic attack. I freaked out about the fact I couldn’t physically get myself out of bed for teacher training. My teachers, Emee & Sol were so understanding and urged me to do what my body and mind needed me to do and to just come back when I was ready. I was so nervous to go back, all of the familiar fears of being judged came up.
Still, I got up as soon as I could muster up the strength and I went back to class. Everyone was so kind and caring and wanted to make sure I was okay. A few friends offered to sit with me and go over notes to catch me up in our lunch breaks. The kindness shown by people who were strangers only a week ago made me feel at peace. I thought to myself, THIS is why I love yoga. Everyone is so kind and generous and doesn’t judge. The sense of community is real and only deepened as the weeks went on.
I learned pranayama (breathing) and meditation techniques that have really helped me manage my anxiety. For years, when I felt a panic attack coming on, I would take Valium to calm my nervous system. Learning these coping mechanisms via breath and meditation has been a game changer. I learnt to be kinder to myself. I learnt patience. I learnt to not speak when overcome with emotion. I learnt to be kinder to strangers, you never know the pain someone may be concealing.
In week 3, we had Duncan Peak, the founder of Power Living, come and teach us. Out of all the valuable knowledge he gave us, the biggest piece I took away was to learn about myself without judgment. What was my primary question? What made me tick? What were my flaws? What were my strengths? What made my heart and soul sing?
I started looking into this and getting to know myself, and I mean ALL of myself… This included the parts I always tried to suppress and didn’t necessarily like. I looked for what drove the behaviours that were undesirable, and I learnt to forgive myself. It was around this time that I made the realisation, I was the happiest I had ever been. I was so interested in learning about the philosophy and studying the human body and how to help people through mindful movement. I made the decision then and there not to continue with my work as a Creative Director for the bar and to give my all to becoming a yoga teacher.
In the final week, nerves were high among my new friends. We had two exams to pass to get our certification to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). We had to demonstrate all of the knowledge we had just learnt in the last month. We had to teach a class, and be told then and there whether we had passed or not. In a time that usually would have made me sick with anxiety, the community I had found made everything seem less scary. We studied together at lunch, after our 9 hour days of lectures, and on the weekends. Everyone had each other’s back and was so giving with their time, knowledge and patience.
On the last day I felt elated, so proud of everyone for giving it all they had. Our teachers gave us feedback and told us how proud they were of us. After all, they had been in the exact same spot we were. Emee & Sol ran us through all of the support that Power Living offers at no cost to us after we graduated. There are monthly teaching coaching sessions at each of the studios that I’ve already started attending. We were encouraged to get involved and stay a part of the community and continue learning.
It has been a month since we graduated and I miss seeing those faces every day. But it’s not over, I still catch up regularly with my YTT friends who live in Sydney and still chat to the ones who live not so close. I’ve become a much more active member of the yoga community since graduating and after careful consideration have decided to take the next step to start my 500hr advanced teaching path with Power Living and I could not be more excited.
My advice is, if you have ever considered doing your Yoga Teacher Training, DO IT. There is never a convenient time and there are always a million excuses you can come up with to not do something. In the YTT at Power Living you’ll find support, love & incredible amounts of kindness. What have you possibly got to lose?
I just can’t wait to start my 500hr journey, I’m even looking forward to studying Applied Anatomy & Biomechanics this weekend! If you had told me that a month ago I would have laughed in your face. Don’t doubt yourself, if you want and can do something, do it today. Be happy, be kind, especially to yourself.
Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, I’m an open book.
Malinda Hayward is a Power Living Yoga Teacher Training Graduate. She is also a self-described epilepsy warrior, environmental activist, mental illness advocate, lover of the arts and a blogger at Life Without Filters.
Want to take a transformational retreat with Power Living, which counts towards the 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training pathway? Find out more about upcoming retreats here.