Over a year ago, I started to play with the idea of going on and getting the next level of yoga and completing a 500 RYT certificate somewhere.
Thus, the investigation began. Numerous website visits, emails and inquiries led me on several fantastical mental journeys of who I might study with for this important next step. After several conversations with my trusted advisors, friends and family then a whole set of mental jumping jacks, I chose Dharma Mittra in NYC as the right person to study with for this advanced training.
Dharma Mittra, I didn't really know a lot about this interesting and somewhat mysterious gentleman that so many hailed as their teacher. As a young man he immigrated from Brazil to the United States, landed in NYC then immediately met and started studying with his guru. He spent years in an ashram, learning the ancient skills of yoga eventually going on to open his own studio and training program. This was all over the course of decades. Some say that he is the last of a certain era.
Now, he is getting ready to move on to the next stage of his life, his children are grown, numerous disciples run his programs and the studio space that so many have trained in is being bought out by a neighboring consulting firm. This would be the last year that a particular style of training would take place. This is the context I traveled off from Anchorage to the Big Apple this past fall for two different week long immersions in the lineage of Sri Dharma Mittra.
I trained over the course of a few months combining long days of immersion, independent work and teaching projects. It's nice to reflect on my experience now that it's almost complete. Admittedly, I started with many expectations for myself and for the training. Expectations are dangerous things; they paint pictures with and in the mind of possible experiences of events and outcomes that are phantasmal. I can be completely honest here and say that all and none of my expectations were met!
What did I expect anyway? Basically, it came down to three.
1. Feel Legit! Yeah, I know this may sound strange but there is this little voice somewhere inside me that always doubts my path, career and validity of being a teacher. All of us probably have such a inner whisper at times.
Well...now that's over, do I feel legit? Not at all and completely! At first, I felt even less so after training and being with so many advanced asana and serious yogis who bend like pretzels while sitting around speaking about veganism for long periods of time. But that was my own mind comparing and creating negative stories about what a yoga teacher is supposed to be. In this limited respect, I felt less than legit. But...if I go past this and look at the deeper teaching of yoga and what Dharma shared in his talks then I am more legit than I ever thought before going. I got what he was talking about on a cellular level even if I can't bend like play dough or describe raw foods very well. When in doubt, I just need look at my certificate and remind myself that I did the training, completed the course and currently work as a successful yoga teacher.
2. Connect to the greater yoga world. Of course, I live and trained in Alaska and wonder what yoga teachers from all over the world are doing. I was hoping to make all sorts of professional acquaintances and develop a connection with teachers from all over the globe. Well...it didn't happen. Yeah, I have a vast number of new social media contacts but on a deeper level, I didn't really make many lasting rendezvous while there. The training was long (twelve to fourteen hours a day for eight days) and truth be told most of us just wanted to be alone or connect with loved ones when we were off.
Still, I did connect to the greater world of yoga in a way never imagined. Walking around NYC during breaks watching all of its aliveness, journeying back home to Alaska and being with my students again, I realized that the real world of yoga goes way beyond the walls of pastel colored yoga studios. Life and all of its dance is the ultimate asana practice. Yes, I feel connected now to the greater world of yoga but in a way I never imagined.
3. Deepen my teaching. Sometimes it seemed I had slipped into a rut with my teaching and needed new inspiration to take me to another level. The hardest part about this desire was that I didn't really do very well in my teaching practices while in training. I received poor feedback and less than complimentary words on my style and skills from my instructors.
Ok, without sounding like a martyr this isn't a new experience for me. I don't really do well in staged and mock teaching settings. I have a hard time taking them seriously and regardless of how they are set up know it's not real. Besides, I feel judged in those moments and don't like it. I am probably not the best student. I know this is harsh but being on the path means to be honest about our own perceptions and recognizing how we learn. I do better and feel what I am learning by doing it in the field.
So in the end, I still feel like I am winging it a lot of the time. Maybe, we never arrive at some summit of knowledge that we then poor down upon others. No, it's from that place of being vulnerable and knowing that we don't know that our teaching starts to deepen. At least, this is my experience.
Yes, I am a 500 RYT now. I would like to share with you all sorts of answers and expertise but instead less knowing is all I seemed to get out of it. There are no external answers, formulae and solutions when seeking, just more questions and doubts. I accept this and see that this is the depth I sought.