Finding Myself and My Inner Teacher in 200 Hours

For my STEP Project, I pursued my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through a program created by Katie Brauer, owner of The Yoga ProfessionalTM, and facilitated by Colleen McFall. Proceeding my project, I worked for Alice Gantman at Heartfelt Yoga Studio as an Engagement Manger to learn more about the professional aspects of yoga and have continued to do so throughout the program. During this project, I dedicated myself to my practice, learned about the power of sequencing, the history of yoga, and how to skillfully lead a class.

This project helped me to see the beauty of myself and all of the power I hold within me. This training is based off of a Shakta Tantric lineage, which focuses on finding empowerment through small moments of bliss that you obtain throughout life. This lineage also subscribes to the belief that the power of enlightenment is already within us, and we use practices such as yoga to connect our souls to our bodies in order to find this. This style of yoga could not have been more perfect for me, as I have struggled with self-image since I was in high school. For the first few weeks of training, I would walk into the studio and feel unworthy of being part of this process; however, Colleen did not agree. Whenever I would share this message with her she would remind me that there was something that brought me here, and she wouldn’t have let me join the program if she didn’t believe I was ready. Teacher training heavily focuses on self-reflection, because it is imperative for good teachers to be able to connect with themselves, and the practice of yoga is the practice of being mindful. So, I spent a lot of time getting to know myself and through that I discovered just how powerful I am.

One of the people who helped me the most to see the beauty in myself was Colleen McFall. Colleen is originally from Canada and has been teaching yoga for 13 years, but this is her first teacher training. She has led sections of trainings before, but never liked one enough to put her name behind it until Katie reached out to her. During the first week of training, I was struggling to find my place amongst the other participants and was getting angry at myself for feeling so emotional about it all. At the time, I really missed my family, but had been unable to make a trip to see them between school, work, and training. I was feeling lost and a little alone. During one of our breaks, I went out to the hallway to cry and Colleen saw me as she was leaving the restroom and came over to embrace me. She asked me what was wrong, and all of my thoughts began to spill out. I told her I hated how rough around the edges I was and how easily I cried. It reminded me of being in elementary school and being labeled as the girl who cried every day. She told me she was my teacher now, and she was happy that I was crying. It meant that I was working through something and that I was meant to be here. She told me this program was meant to elicit strong emotions. After I had calmed down she thanked me, and we entered the room together. My strong feelings of isolation had dissipated, and I was starting to open myself up to the possibility of being a member of this group. This moment with Colleen led me to the events that would help me find myself.

Another quintessential moment in this program was when I made peace with my self-hatred. In yoga, part of the 8 Limb Path are the Yamas and the Niyamas, which are restraints or observations that help you to reach enlightenment. One of the Yamas is ahimsa, which means non-violence. During the second week of practice, Colleen read each of them out and had us journal about the ones which we needed in our life. At first when I was journaling, I didn’t pick ahimsa because I didn’t consider myself a violent person, but another girl asked a question that hit me deep. She asked if it could be considered violence towards yourself, and Colleen told us a story of how ahimsa picked her. She had just finished her first practice teach and was sitting amongst the other participants in her group. The Teacher opened up the question of how everyone felt, and most people said they were satisfied, but she was staying quiet in the back. She felt stupid. She felt unworthy. It felt like everything went wrong, even though no one said that to her. So, when the attention was turned to her, she couldn’t help but break down into tears and admit it all to her teacher, who was grinning as he watched Colleen finally be vulnerable to her classmates. He said,” That, Colleen, is the yoga.” Me and another girl connected to this story and both broke down into tears. Colleen had us gather in a circle and we grabbed each other’s hands and affirmed that we were all worthy, and that this was part of the process. This is my story of how ahimsa chose me.

The full realization waved over me during my first practice teach. The week leading up to my practice teach had been a pretty emotional time. I was spending time with my family, getting ready for my boyfriend to leave for Texas, and considering finding a new job. That left very little time to practice. For this, I had to memorize a 30-minute sequence and teach it to my fellow classmates, who were going to do the same for me. I was not as ready as I wanted to be when it came time for me to lead the class and I could feel the nerves all over my body. The voice in my head began to berate me. You aren’t good enough. This isn’t going to go well. You’re wasting everyone’s time. However, I had to push forward and teach. I made it through centering without too many hiccups, but as soon as I had to teach the sequence my mind drew a blank. I stared out at my peers as my body seized, unable to work through what to do next. One of my friends looked at me and smiled, then whispered “Begin Again”, a phrase that our training had been built on. I took a deep breath and did my best to center myself, and then decided to move forward with something that wasn’t in the sequence but was how I often began my personal practices. As I continued, the sequence came back to me and the rest of my time continued peacefully. Once I had finished my friend gave me a hug and told me she was proud. In that moment, I realized that I did not have to hang my mistakes over my head, because they did not define my work. These events led me to a deeper understanding and appreciation for myself.

My 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training helped me to find a deeper value of myself. Not only did this aide me in gaining more tools as a professional, such as connections to people in the field of education, more experience leading classes, and the ability to self-evaluate, but it also showed me how to appreciate the aspects of myself that are unique. As someone who grew up as a straight A student, a lot of my identity was predicated on this fact. I was “the smart one”, but when I started at Ohio State I quickly realized that I was surrounded by people who were all “the smart one”, and a lot of them did even more exceptional things than I did in high school. I struggled a lot with my identity and my sense of self-worth was slipping away, especially after my first semester when I was no longer a straight A student. Yoga helped to connect me to a part of myself that went ignored for a long time, a part that reminded me  that my worth was not supposed to be predicated on my GPA, but rather on my personal character. Through this teacher training, I learned how to find value in myself outside of the academic universe.

One thought on “Finding Myself and My Inner Teacher in 200 Hours

  1. Hi Madison,

    Seriously, thank you for sharing these thoughts/experiences/stories with us. I can tell that you put thought into your words here, and that you did a lot of thinking during your 200-hour training. Your teacher sounds like an amazing person and reminds me of a couple people who have had a positive impact on my life.

    “My worth was not supposed to be predicated on my GPA.” This is powerful stuff, Madison. Isn’t it wild that something that seems so obvious can be so hard for so many people to accept? I know this was a huge lesson for me as well!

    I am thrilled that you learned so much about yourself and about teaching during this experience. I truly hope it continues with you!

    Thanks again for sharing these meaningful thoughts, Madison.

    Caleb – STEP Team Member

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