Why Becoming a Yoga Teacher Was the Best Thing I Have Ever Done for Myself
And Other Tales of Vulnerability
Through my years of desperate despair, I found the comfort in yoga. It was what truly gave me a sense of belonging in the ever confusing world of pressured young-adulthood. Gah, being in your late teens and early 20’s kind of sucks, right? I mean, they’re simultaneously a wonderful cap for adolescence as they are gross coercion.
It was the end of 2014. It was beginning of 2015.
There was a rough 6-month patch of heartbreaking blues that rung over me like a grim reaper from a horror flick. It was a sickening rock-hard feeling that would first foster in the pit of my stomach and creep up to the back of my throat. I would choke the sounds of my tears in the bathroom by turning the sink faucet on to its fullest capacity in hopes of drowning out any unwarranted sounds; I lived with my father at the time and didn’t want him to notice. My eyes looked bloodshot every morning after an attempted 5-hour sleep. Swollen lymph nodes, cracked cuticles, and a complete lack of motivation to get anything done.
What felt particularly awful about this entire situation was that I never could quite pinpoint the exact cause of such depression. A melting pot of broken relationships, career existentialism, college blues, and mental exhaustion might have triggered certain emotions I’m sure. A maze with no escape. A circle of insanity. This only perturbed my frustration and left me feeling helpless and confused. I believe my self-deprecating loneliness seemed only to encourage my blindness…
I did stupid things, said awful things, and overall… felt down about myself and the way I handled my emotions. Many of these “things” aren’t worth repeating; such memories should remain in the past. Chronic anxiety and anger management issues don’t mix well together, let’s just say.
And I was, at that time, conspicuously vulnerable to ambush.
One afternoon in 2014, while perusing my computer with the windows covered by a dusty curtain, my lungs jumped out of my chest. I just so happened to push an annoying ad the size of a fist on my internet’s sidebar. But — with slight reluctance — I began reading the words: “Yoga Teacher Training Certification”.
My eyes glazed at the sight of fruition. I began reminiscing about all of those silly afternoons spent in middle school on the yoga mat at lunch. I went to a private school from kindergarten to the 8th grade and my teacher(s) felt it was necessary to incorporate zen philosophies into everyday teachings. My principal would guide us little youngins through a Vinyasa flow and calm our hearts in svasana nearly every week. My mother first bought me a mat in the 7th grade, and I’ve kept it ever since… my sweet little purple best friend.
Feeling utterly defeated by all of life’s faults and mishaps, I envisioned myself teaching yoga in some remote tropical paradise sipping on salt-rimmed margaritas and laughing up a storm with local strangers. These simple, yet overly pretentious and highly jaded dream-like thoughts warmed my heart nonetheless. I felt like maybe, just maybe, I could revive my at-the-time broken soul by doing something for me.
And only for me.
Yoga, personally, has always been about self-love. A warming sense of peace washes over me each time I set out my mat. It’s like I was made to be there at that exact moment of time and nowhere else. Self-love is so fucking important, you guys. I encourage all of my brothers and sisters to be selfish once in a while and focus on nourishing your heart, body, and mind. I’m not talking in poetic prose in fake profound Rupi Kaur vignettes (oops, I went there), this is me begging my readers to allow openness in your hearts and find that one thing that is for you — something that no one else could take away.
For me, that one thing was yoga. No one was able to yell at me for not getting my life together, no one denied me touching my toes, and not a single soul bashed me for my anger management issues as I laid there on the mat in the complete silence of mediation. I allowed myself to only be the best version of who I already was, the version I so desperately longed to meet again.
The day grew a little a brighter that afternoon. I shut my computer, rolled out the mat I so rudely stashed in the back of my closet, and boldly stretched my tight-as-hell hamstrings. I felt… effortless. My body sang and sunk in stillness as I nourished each muscle with a little bit of love with each push and pull I took. God, I love being on my mat. And it was in this exact moment — this beautiful, heart-wrenching moment — I knew I needed to get that certification.
The next morning over scones and coffee with my father at one of my favorite restaurants in the PHX valley, Liberty Market, I discussed options with him.
“I’m not feeling very well mentally, and I need to change,” I embarrassingly muffled under my breath.
“I know,” he said as if he were trying to tell me this for the past year.
Feeling slightly reluctant to tell my father that I wanted to do the yoga teacher training, for fear that he might think I was acting being dumb or naive, he reacted with the exact opposite notion. His arms opened wide as we embraced a tight hug.
“That’s cool as hell. Let’s make it happen”.
I don’t think I could ever adequately thank my dad for the lifetime amount of love he’s given me. I am very, very lucky to hold such a widely inspirational man as my father figure. For those who have yet to read a more in-depth personal essay on our relationship, go read it here. He’s a fantastic human being, and I love him more than words can amount.
It wasn’t more than a week until I signed up for the teacher training. It was a 9-month course for 6 hours every single week; 6pm-9pm every Tuesday and Thursday. I knew how much of a commitment this would ask for, especially as a full-time college student, but I didn’t care in the slightest. I knew that this was what needed to happen. I put down every single broke ass penny I had in my savings at the time to pay for the training in full.
To say the next nine months of my life were life-chasing would be a total understatement. Not only did the love I had for yoga grow exponentially, but I finally stopped hating myself and fully embraced every single part of who I was (and am). The individuals who were apart of the same training group I was couldn’t have been a more perfectly imperfect group of loving people — the people, I think, is what made the experience so worthwhile. I still can feel the warm embrace of my fellow yogis who were also going through their trials. Good god, it feels so good to talk to someone who listens. They all heard. And without even the slightest utterance of words, they all understood.
While I now feel like an expert in the mechanical art of downward dog… the teacher training was never really about the yoga. Those short, yet highly significant six hours every week became therapy. A safe, communal space of love and support from people of all different genders, sexuality, race, ethnicity, socio-political background, etc. It wasn’t about how well you could touch your toes or how flexible your low back became — not at all. Everyone’s emotional health felt stable in the presence of one another. I couldn’t have been more grateful for such a supportive experience. And to those in the program that are reading this — y’all fucking rock! I love you.
I began to treasure the simplest of pleasures again. Most afternoons were spent outside under the sun with a side of tart grapefruit topped with brown sugar. I’d make myself a glass of hot tea with fresh lemon every night and found company in the characters of the books I loved. My heart grew tender to films again and the mornings of swollen eyes became few and far between. I felt like myself still, like a little 6-year old riding their bike for the first time.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you might have heard your teacher quote from Pantajali’s Yoga Sutra; a guidebook of classical, or raja (royal), yoga. Written at least 1,700 years ago, it’s made up of 195 aphorisms of wisdom. It is — in its very essence — the end-all authoritative text on yoga. Us little yogis throughout training read this book as if our life depended on it, so desperately breathing in each word for revitalization and hope. While diligently taking notes as I sifted through each page, I then fully understood the notion of yoga being more than just a physical exercise.
Yoga is a philosophy. A lifestyle. A path to growth and love and acceptance.
This fruitful practice helped me because loneliness and unintentional anger were just a manifestation of my desire for happiness and, as I became more happy and contented, I realized that I didn’t need to wreck my emotional health with these emotions anymore.
I no longer felt the need to force happiness — I merely already was.
It takes time to work on not being alone. You have to call a friend. You have to take a shower and eat breakfast with your mom. You have to put in the effort to feel loved and be loved by the people around you. Passiveness leads to loneliness. Be active and spread your sadness to the people you trust your feelings with. Be understood. And be okay.
— Juansen Dizon, It Takes Time