YOGA Teacher training helped Tiffany Jackson find peace in her practice.
Heading off to do an immersive yoga teacher training might sound daunting, but it can bring so much to your personal practice, whether or not you want to teach, says Tiffany Anne Jackson
About eighteen months ago, I decided that life was too short, and that I was going to India to do my yoga teacher training.
Let’s back up. I rst came to yoga, as many people do, as a way to nd a sense of calm. I itted between teachers and styles, enjoying the classes but not really nding a practice that resonated with me. Then I tried Ashtanga yoga, and everything clicked into place. I nally felt like I understood what all the teachers and the magazines had been talking about, and I would badger my teacher in every class with questions about how to take a pose further, what the Sanskrit names of the postures were, or what reading I could do to understand the philosophy more. Then I started toying with the idea of letting my teacher get on with teaching his class without my interruptions, and taking these questions to a yoga teacher training instead. ‘Have I done enough yoga? Am I good enough? Would I even be able to if I don’t plan to teach?’ These thoughts oated around in my head, stopping me from putting ideas into action.
“We are all lifelong students of yoga, whether we’ve done a teacher training, go to class or practise at home when we can.”
Then 2017 happened. The events of the
rst part of the year were a huge challenge for me, both emotionally and physically, and my yoga practice played a big part in helping me through. By May, I knew that I wanted to dive in and learn more than an hour-long class could give me, and hopefully get some answers to my endless stream of questions. Yoga teacher training sounded like the perfect way to do that.
I’d travelled to India once before, and previously spent time in Agonda, Goa. This sleepy little village had been my happy place then, so when I discovered that there was a yoga school there, Sampoorna Yoga, my mind was made up. I sprung into action; with support from work I booked time o , I arranged ights, requested visas and ordered the many books on the reading list.
But then it suddenly hit me – I’m going to another country to train to be a yoga teacher. I looked around at the teachers I knew. I was sure that they’d been practicing for so much longer than me before they even considered going to do their training. They seemed as though they’d always been wise and balanced, and that they’d done all the reading before they went (as anyone else who has dyslexia will appreciate, I was still frantically trying to make sense of the new Sanskrit language in front of me). Although I didn’t plan on teaching when I got back, I still felt like an imposter in even going to do the training.
Then I came across a quote by K. Pattabhi Jois: “Yoga is 99% practice, and 1% theory.”
I realised that not only was this true for me, approaching my training, but also for so many of us who are nervous about going to a yoga class and not knowing the poses or the terms. I put my books down, and focused on being in class and present in the practice until the time came for me to leave for training.
When you’re on a teacher training course, you realise how many things can happen in a month. You cry unexpectedly, laugh uncontrollably, feel annoyed at yourself, compare yourself to others on your course, make lifelong bonds with people you didn’t even know a few weeks before. It’s a complete rollercoaster of emotion and knowledge and experiences. But for the rst time in my life I felt calm and happy in my own company.
Of course, learning all the asana and the philosophy of yoga, as well as how to teach it, was a key part of the training, but for me, the most important learnings came from other aspects of the course. On most days we spent 5:30am-10am in silence, moving through meditation and yoga practice without speaking. On the rst day, I thought I was going to explode. All my feelings of self-doubt rushed back into my head, and with no one interrupting my thoughts, I had to just sit with them. I’d spent quite a lot of the year being fearful of facing up to myself, nervous of falling again into a spiral of dark thoughts. But one of my coursemates said something that really resonated with me on the evening before we spent 24 hours in silence: “I don’t want to be sad tomorrow”. It was so simple
– I could choose to be joyful, rather than feel sadness, during this quiet time. By week two, I was hooked on this calm start that made
me retreat into myself and enjoy spending time there, and when we spent that whole day in silence, I embraced the challenge.
The month ew past, and I left India feeling as though I’d found what it was I went there looking for – and more. I’d had all my questions answered; of course, they’d led to a whole new list of questions, which I can now enjoy nding the answers to as I continue on my yoga journey. But the most important thing I learned was that the teacher training was actually more about learning to be a student – we are all lifelong students of yoga, whether we’ve done a teacher training or not; whether we religiously go to class or practice at home when we can.
Since the training, my own practice on the mat has been transformed. I’m less obsessed with getting certain poses, and I know that being the bendiest in the class doesn’t make you the best! I’ve given myself permission to slow down, adding other styles such as yin and restorative ows into my routine. Even if I only have time for a short practice, I always soak in those deep breaths at the end, nding peace in the time that I have on my mat, no matter how long it is.
Although it wasn’t my intention, I have now gone on to teach, and I get so much out of sharing what I’m learning with my students. I recently heard a quote from a teacher and now friend that would have calmed me when I was preparing to go o to training: “You are ready to want to go, where you are in your practice is perfect, and you don’t need to be more than what you are right now.” If you’ve been considering making that leap, I hope this resonates with you, and that it brings you as much personal growth as it has done for me.
Clockwise from top: Tiff settlesinto her accommodation at SampoornaYoga; days off were spent practisingyoga on the beach in Agonda, Goa;make friends for life on ayoga teacher training course;mornings spent in silence allowyou to focus on your practice.
Above: the new yoga teacherscelebrate at the closingceremony. This picture: Tiffhas learnt to be happy withwhere she is in her practice.