Yoga Teacher Training Changed My Life…and I don’t Teach Yoga

By Sondra Matara

“Reach your right hand forward as your left reaches back, drawing your inner thighs up towards your pubic bone.”

It was my voice, but it felt like it was coming from someone else. The words seemed to come from the heavens and flow outwards from my mouth, and as I watched a roomful of yoga students moving in unison doing the movements as described, I realized I was doing it! I was teaching yoga!

I had been practicing yoga for a few years when one day at the end of class the teacher made an announcement for their next teacher training. I had heard the announcement a few times before, but never even considered it applying to me. I thought, “I can’t do a headstand yet…I can’t get into full hanumanasana (forward splits)…heck, I can barely touch my toes!” I thought I wasn’t “good” enough to teach others a practice that I had embraced with my whole heart.

But this announcement was different. He called out exactly that insecurity – that you didn’t need to be a “master” of anything to take that step, just have an open heart and willingness to commit to learning. I did not decide to embark on a teacher training that day, but a seed was planted. The seed eventually sprouted and took root, and several months later I found myself attending an info session for a teacher training that I ultimately took and completed.

The program I undertook was a 200 hour teacher training, spread out over several weekends over the course of 5 months. Through this training, I gained invaluable knowledge of the yoga practice and tools I use for my own physical, spiritual, and emotional well being. This was an outcome I expected, but I also came out with several unexpected benefits, which I can now see with the benefit of hindsight.

After graduating from teacher training, I initially pursued some teaching opportunities, but for a variety of reasons ultimately decided that teaching in a traditional sense wasn’t for me. But the gifts I received from completing my program had a far-reaching impact that I never could have predicted. Here are 3 ways I benefited from teacher training that surprised me:

Finding my voice

As a committed introvert, I dreaded public speaking. The idea of getting up in front of a roomful of strangers and trying to explain anything was the opposite of the cool, calm feeling I cultivated during my yoga practice. But working with my fellow cohort of students – all who struggled with different aspects of teaching as we learned – gave me a safe space to be vulnerable and gain confidence in speaking in front of groups.

Learning how to manage a group setting, how to hold space for a variety of needs and emotions, how to give clear and concise instructions, understanding the importance of language and word choices, how to give and receive good constructive feedback…these are all part of the “soft” skills that are useful in so many applications of our daily lives, not just teaching yoga. I have found myself drawing on this skillset repeatedly since my teacher training, in tons of different ways.

Expanding my world

I did not grow up in a family of huggers. As a consequence, I am not by nature a “touchy feely” person. When we learned how to give hands on adjustments, I felt so strange at first being close and physically touching other people. Eventually, though, as students came up to me after class to tell me that my adjustment had really helped them or felt especially good, I started to get over that fear and actually started to enjoy it.

I later made the decision to go back to school for massage therapy, and my experience giving adjustments definitely was a factor in pursuing that line. I’ve been practicing massage now for 4 years. And although I don’t teach yoga in a class setting, I teach my clients everyday about how their muscles work together, how different stretches or asana might benefit their body, or how a breathing technique can help them release tension. I can now see LOTS of applications for teaching yoga outside of a class setting: mental health professionals, people working with older adult populations, early childhood educators – the possibilities for ways that yoga can complement a myriad of professions are really endless. 

Rooting into community

While I had practiced yoga for several years before teacher training, I had never really connected with anyone through my practice. Since it can be such an inward looking endeavor where the focus is on cultivating an exploration of Self, sometimes it can be tough to move past superficial “hellos” and really connect with other like-minded practitioners.

Through my teacher training, I met some amazing people that I was able to learn and grow with. They exposed to me so many new ideas and ways of being in the world that were totally new to me. After graduation I ended up moving to a new state, but I knew the first thing to do was find a home base yoga studio. I signed up for a retreat, and met some really special people that I am still close with. The confidence that I built by going through the process of teacher training allows me to walk into any studio and feel like I am at home no matter where I go. I can connect with people through our shared love and knowledge of the practice in a way I wasn’t able to before. Of course, you don’t need to complete a teacher training to be able to do this, but for me it caused a shift in my mindset and perspective: I went from being a person who does yoga, to being a yogi.

Taking the leap

If you are considering taking a yoga teacher training but like I did think, “I’m not _____ enough,” or don’t really see yourself showing up at a studio every week to stand in front of a class, know that there are LOTS of ways that a teacher training will benefit you in ways you can’t even see yet. You don’t have to be a specific type of personality, have mastered a certain level of physical practice, or teach yoga in a way that is traditionally seen as “teaching.”

What I shared here are just a few ways that my teacher training transformed my life in unexpected ways; if you embark on a TT, you might find many other ways it influences your life as you integrate both the teachings of the practice and the process of going through such a challenging and enriching experience. If you feel called to take your study of yoga deeper, then listen to that voice and let your own path unfold before you.

3 OMS’ next teacher training starts in January 2020! Learn more here, and join us for a free info session on Aug. 30th 5:30-6:30pm.

Sondra Matara is the Director of Marketing and Community Builder at 3 OMS Yoga, where she is thrilled to share the practice of yoga with our students in new and creative ways everyday.

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