I didn’t want to be a yoga teacher. I just wanted to learn more about the thing I loved. Yoga had made a big difference to my life at a time when everything seemed to be falling apart. I was depressed, anxious and facing many challenges that seemed insurmountable. As my yoga practice developed, my fractured, confusing existence began to evolve into a rich and full life that was filled with hope and opportunities. Once things were back on the rails, I wanted to learn how and why yoga had made such profound changes to my body, mind and relationships. After signing up for a few short workshops, I realised that teacher training would be the best way of getting a thorough and deep understanding of yoga.
I joined a course in Sydney, explaining to everybody that I was never going to be a yoga teacher, I was only there for personal discovery. Over the next two years (yes, that’s how long yoga teacher trainings used to be), we explored yoga postures, breathing techniques and meditation. The training introduced me to Ayurveda, India’s ancient system of healing, yogic nutrition and ritual cleansing techniques. I learned daily routines that helped me to synchronise my body and mind with the season, time of day and my stage of life. Yoga teacher training touched ever single aspect of my life and changed it for the better.
Just as important as the training itself were the friendships that developed during the course. It’s impossible to go on the healing journey of yoga teacher training without building transformative relationships with fellow trainees. The word ‘Yoga’ means ‘Union’ and one of the key learnings of yoga is that we are all connected. As my training continued, I experienced the truth of this teaching through the connections – sometimes fleeting, sometimes long-lasting –that formed because of our shared learning.
My friends on the course helped me to understand and appreciate the differences between bodies, temperaments and learning styles. I learned that no two people experience a yoga posture in the same way and that a breathing technique that brings deep relaxation to one person may provoke anxiety in another.
As I learned to adapt yoga to the needs of different students, I learned how to accept my own limitations – how could I be compassionate towards a student struggling with a practice if I couldn’t extend that compassion towards myself? Discovering how to cut myself more slack was one of the most valuable things I learned in yoga teacher training. The people and teachings on the course provided the support I needed to let go of deeply ingrained patterns of self-criticism. I began to free myself from the rigid thinking patterns that had been the cause of so much of my own suffering.
Despite being quite sure I’d never teach yoga, I found myself standing in front of a dozen students just a few days after graduation. One of my fellow trainees convinced me to cover a class at the last minute. I was petrified. But I did it. All the hours of learning the postures, putting together hypothetical classes and practicing breathing techniques paid off as I stretched and breathed my way through my first ever class as a teacher. It wasn’t great, but it was a good start.
Nearly 25yrs after I first experienced yoga, it is still my rock. It still provides the calm sanctuary that I need in the midst of a busy life. I never meant to be a yoga teacher, but it’s been my work for over 15 years now. It’s still changing me, I’m still growing and I’m still learning more about the thing I love.
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Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.