Imogen, a student on our 6-month August 2018 course, will be sharing her experience as she becomes a yoga teacher.
I’ve always led an active lifestyle. Aged 4, my Granddad taught me to swim and by the age of 14, I’d mastered most racket sports. I felt alienated in school because I was terrible at hockey and netball which were prerequisites! By 24, I’d completed half marathons in the UK and abroad, climbed the tallest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales (aka the National Three Peaks Challenge), and dabbled in Muay Thai.
Mum’s the word
It’s thanks to my Mum I found yoga. Growing up, she would take me to the odd class and my younger self thought this was just a place where older ladies came to have a lie-down. Not only was I bored, but I also had fits of giggles if ever someone broke wind or ended up sound asleep (snoring loudly) before Savasana!
The benefits of yoga didn’t really hit home until my Mum invited me to a restorative yin workshop with her good friend, Jac Godfrey. I suffer from really tight hips and shoulders and remember afterward feeling completely blissed out and a little more open. I wanted to do more.
When I flew the nest to live in Putney for my first full-time job, I was intrigued to find a hot yoga studio on my doorstep. Being five minutes away, I had no excuse! I went three times a week and enjoyed seeing noticeable benefits in body and mind. Vinyasa flow was new to me but something about this style resonated deeply as we danced from one pose to the next. My first experience with Downward-facing-when-will-this-end eventually led to a fairly comfortable Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Each time I moved, yoga came with me, from Dylan Ayaloo’s classes in Clapham to Guzel’s North Greenwich.
Mind over matter
I’ve suffered from mental health issues at different stages in my life – some exacerbated by climbing the career ladder, others from losing loved ones. In 2016, my Grandma passed away. The grief didn’t surface until a few months later, and when it did, it hit me like a bus. It was during this difficult period I invested in a yoga mat to practice at home with Maris Aylward – I couldn’t face the outside world. At the start of 2018, I had a breakdown and couldn’t sleep and began to suffer from panic attacks. I knew something had to change.
Fortunately, yoga was a constant for me, as were friends, family, and colleagues. I stepped up my practice and had an epiphany during a holiday. What if I could become a yoga teacher and help others improve their mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing? I was giddy with excitement and the moment I returned, I bought a copy of OM Yoga magazine, which happened to have a teacher training special and the research began.
YogaLondon really stood out for me with their video testimonials, down to earth teachers and emphasis on developing your own teaching style. The ‘Try Us’ evening sealed the deal for me and needless to say, I enrolled shortly after!
Objections up until this point had been:
- I’m not flexible enough
- I’m not vegan and enjoy the odd G&T/glass of red
- How could I possibly remember all of the sequences!?
When I told friends and family, they all chimed in with ‘oh you’re going to be an amazing teacher!’ I was getting teaching requests before I’d even started, which boosted my confidence.
Preparing the foundation
I was so excited when my course texts arrived. Having studied French at uni, the linguist in me was especially interested to learn a new language (Sanskrit), not to mention yogic philosophy and anatomy. From what I’ve read so far, the texts are really accessible and I’ve been avidly discussing Patanjali’s life lessons, or, ‘sutras’ with friends and family.
In the weeks leading up to the course, I tried becoming more disciplined with my practice. Strength-wise I’m pretty solid, Dolphin (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana) and Side Plank are not a problem for me – however, there’s a TON of poses I can’t do. Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakpotasana) and Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana) are…let’s just say I’m working on it. I’m confident though that in committing to yoga these will come in time. If it takes years, decades, or even eons, I’m ok with that; life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Before I knew it, the first weekend of my Teacher Training arrived. Around 15 of us arrived at a converted chapel just off Great Portland Street on a quiet Friday evening. Everyone appeared somewhat frazzled, not quite knowing each other and wondering how the weekend would unfold.
After some shuffling and minimal chat, we assembled for our first practice. It was one hour and our course Director Jonathan Thompson led the class with the help of two recent YogaLondon 200RYT graduates. We would later learn that these two graduates, Abby and Ian, are halfway through their 500RYT courses with YogaLondon and would provide ongoing support.
Breaking the ice
The class flowed with quite a pace and I was relieved to have survived till the end. I had to lift my mouth off the floor when Jonathan said this was the exam sequence we’d be assessed on! To break the ice, we went around the room opening up about why we were here. Similar themes resonated and in doing so, we removed our masks in front of complete strangers revealing our motivations and our true selves. It was quite intense and intimate and as we went around the room, I thought we could be renamed ‘Yogaholics Anonymous’.
Jonathan put everyone at ease while introducing the plan for the next six months together and invited us to set an intention for the course. The one that resonated with me was let go and explore – I could open my body and mind in developing a deeper understanding of myself and discovering yoga in a new light.
I’m pleased to say we all came back the next day and began with a dynamic asana practice. The class was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and I was stiff and sore, worrying about how my body would fair during the morning’s practice. Jonathan’s class flowed with grace, humility, and fun – it was a special experience. He also peppered the class with an acoustic version of Beyonce’s Halo (bae!) and Ave Maria…need I say more?
By the end of what has to be one of the best classes of my life, I was in tears and in a state of complete emotional release. Why was I crying? I was moved by my decision to be here with these people and felt so lucky to be in this moment. Without trying to sound too ostentatious, I was contemplating if this was my spiritual awakening? It certainly felt that way.
We had our first lecture on yogic philosophy before breaking down correct alignment in Sun Salutations. Our second lecturer Rachel Perry led the rest of the afternoon, speaking about the importance of the breath and the practice of Pranayama. The class felt utterly enamored by her happy-go-lucky-self. We also ‘mapped the mat’ marking our mats with permanent ink to help us with our form as we trained. Having marked my yoga partner’s mat, we joked we’d be forever blood brothers/sisters! We finished day two feeling tired but uplifted. Stiff but energised.
On Sunday we resumed our Pranayama work with Rachel. Jonathan joined us in the afternoon to continue our work on pose analysis. We also learnt how to correctly adjust students in sun salutations which was incredible! By the end of our first weekend workshop together we felt more connected as a group and were galvanized. Everyone shared their excitement for this process and even through we will confront some fears, we couldn’t wait to resume in two week’s time.
A lot of things can happen in six months…but one thing I know is that I’ll be a qualified yoga teacher by the end and I can’t wait to get stuck in!