Peace be with you all.
I have just completed the first three days of the 200hr Anahata Rising Yoga Teacher Training at Bliss YogaSpa and am admittedly feeling a host of emotions that run the spectrum. I am feeling a wash of emotion come over me in this moment, but the one emotion I feel most powerfully is that of gratitude.
Gratitude for everything and everyone that has helped me – for good or bad – to arrive at this precise moment in my life. I feel so very much alive and awake in this moment, as though I’ve been asleep most of my entire adult life staring longingly into the clouds. Someone or something has nudged me so that I might awaken and smell the potent garden of roses around me.
This feeling of gratitude is not, however, the only emotion I felt in the last 72 hrs of the opening session of our YTT training. I had embarked upon this next chapter in my yoga journey knowing that I would likely be faced with a host of competing emotions in the first few days of our training. This must reasonably be so in my mind, as it is not every day that one makes a decision to embark upon an intense six month journey of self-exploration of the mind, body and spirit! Indeed, in the last three days, I have experienced a diversity of emotions – from elation and wonder , to fatigue, confusion, and self-doubt.
Self-doubt? Yes, even self-doubt. Self-doubt in the sense that on Day 1 I did not feel I was ready to embark on this life-changing experience – that I was not worthy of it somehow. The interesting thing here is that even when noticing where I am at now – 17 months after I began my journey in yoga and mindfulness – this unsettling emotion of self-doubt still bubbled up from time to time this past weekend. It was like an old friend paying a visit to remind me of my past trajectory, my past attachment to habitual patterns of thinking and responding.
I want to tell you that there is a significant lesson here that not only I but many who are on the path of self-actualization have embraced wholeheartedly. It is this. Instead of running away from the toxic odours of self-doubt, each of us has the power to cast this emotion to the depths by residing in the courage of our breath – a state of authentic self-remembrance – and pronouncing these words upon it: “You have no power over me.”
With the feeling of self-doubt cast aside – mindful of course that at any point such emotion could again rear its ugly head – I approached the introductory session of the YTT training with an attitude of openness, engagement, and self-remembrance. In this way, I was ready to start the next chapter of my journey in yoga and mindfulness.
My YTT Soul Family
I am honoured to walk this journey with a diverse, talented and inspiring group of fifteen individuals who hail from all manner of cultures, religions, languages and occupations, but who are all deeply committed to the path of personal growth, exploration, and excellence. One of my classmates, Chrissy, perhaps said it best when she turned to me during a snack break and said: “You know, it’s just so great to be with people who I’ve only just met but who completely understand why I’m here.” I re-assured Chrissy that I felt exactly the same way.
I knew from the moment I walked into our yoga room – from the smell of sage cleansing the room of negative energy, to the silent but powerful altar piece at the corner of the room, to the vibrant energy emanating from my fellow classmates meditating sweetly in their seats with their hands at prayer centre – this was exactly where I needed to be. It felt like I was arriving home to a place of comfort and safety.
The opening session began with an introduction by two of our beautiful yogini YTT leaders, Lindsey Park (above left) and Sheena Mason (above right). I could not have asked for a more inspirational pair than Lindsey and Sheena to help guide me through the next six months of this process. Lindsey and Sheena are the perfect energetic match: Lindsey’s strength abounds in her clarity of communication, steadiness, focus, and drive; Sheena’s strength resides in her creativity, self-expression, fluidity of thought, and channeling of the heart. Together, they bring an immense wealth of yogic knowledge and experience in the practice of yoga that continues to inspire me every time I step onto my mat.
I think it is wonderful that our YTT group is comprised of thirteen women and two men. Among these powerful and inspiring women are: Jen (a senior registered nurse and busy mom of three amazing kids); Pomy (learned mother of two adult children who is extremely well-versed in the Sanskrit language); Kelli (a new Edmontonian who successfully completed the ‘Insanity’ course and is also a mom of one!); Donna (also a busy mom of three kids and corporate fitness instructor); (Robyn, a karaoke DJ/bartender); and Shannon (beauty esthetician and practitioner of yoga for 8+ years).
I am also honoured to walk this journey with Kelly, my yogi brother who I travelled with to Spain to attend our unforgettable yoga retreat in Mallorca this past November.
And then there is my “yoga buddy”, Lassey. Lassey is quite simply an amazing woman. I knew from the minute we were paired together that we were kindred spirits. Originally from South Africa, Lassey practised as a criminal lawyer there for a number of years before she made the decision to move to Canada where she met her husband and eventually the two of them raised four wonderful children. Lassey and I are bonded together as kindred spirits because in the same way that yoga saved my life, it also saved Lassey’s. You see, Lassey expressed to me how in raising her four children, she lost her identity. She lost a sense of who she was, what her purpose was. That isn’t to say that she didn’t see her purpose as being a loving mother and wife to her husband and children, but there was always a piece of the puzzle missing. In this way, Lassey’s journey is very much a journey of self-remembrance, of self-compassion and love. I am honoured to walk this journey together with Lassey as kindred spirits.
Together as a soul family, we move forward in body, breath and mind
In the last few days, Lindsey and Sheena gave us a brief introduction to the various aspects of the non-physical practice of yoga. These topics included the energetic, historical, ethical and philosophical dimensions of yoga. I will not summarize that material in this post, suffice it to say that in future posts I intend to set out my own reflections of this very rich material that we were only just briefly exposed to in these opening days of our training. Put simply, I need the time to absorb, process, and synthesize this information before possibly offering any intelligent commentary on the topics raised in our discussions. I am not even sure I could offer anything intelligent given many yogic scholars have spent their whole lives studying these topics. Many of fellow classmates feel the same way as I do, so this makes me of course feel much better knowing I am not alone in my state of both wonder and confusion.
Having said this, Lindsey and Sheena explained to us in a very comforting way that our task is not to master these historical texts by the end of our six month training. That is simply an impossible task. Our task is to undertake a program of self-study, of which only one component is to familiarize ourselves with the leading texts in yogic philosophy and record the general principles that can be drawn from these texts. One such principle is the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-harming, which is a “yama” or principle of universal morality in the Eight Limb path to right living set forth in the sacred text The Yoga Sutra by Patanjali (written in 200 AD). I anticipate that in the months to come, we will have an opportunity to engage more rigorously and thoughtfully with these texts as they are part of the required reading for our 200hr certification.
The focus, however, in this opening weekend, was on building an energetic foundation within which our soul family would reside over the next six months. Together, we moved in body, mind, and spirit during our asana practice and also in guided meditation (i.e. yoga nidra) and pranayama (breath control) practice. I can say unreservedly that a lasting bond has solidified between all of us. I feel completely safe and accepted in this community of kindred souls. I am simply overwhelmed with joy knowing I am and shall be a witness to the personal transformations that are already unfolding in each of my classmates. Indeed, there is something truly wondrous and magical about this experience I cannot put into words.
In closing, I draw upon the words of Joseph Campbell, who said this:
If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
Breathe with all your might from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head. Reside in the nectar of your breath. Know that you are as you have always been – perfect and worthy of all this moment has to offer you. Breathe deeply with intention, reverence, and love for yourself. In this place, surrender to the potentiality of the courage of your breath. Do this in memory of yourself, in self-remembrance, and you shall cast your fears into oblivion and find what is rightly yours: bliss. Here, now, and forever.
I wish you happiness, love, and hope – always.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. Peace Peace Peace.