There was ‘life’ before I did my yoga teacher training (YTT), and then there is ‘life’ as it exists now, after my YTT with Janati Yoga School. The two are starkly different.
Dramatic, I know. But truly, this has been my experience. The past and the present are so completely different, that I can barely believe that it hasn’t even been a year since I finished my training.
Before I embarked on the inner journey known as YTT, I was a blocked artist and repressed dancer. I had no idea what a chakra was (sorry, an invisible vortex of energy within me? *scoff*), and no idea or sense of what place God might inhabit in my life. Like many others, my childhood taught me to sit on my hands. Having shut down the spirited sprite within me years ago, my experience of life was riddled with dis-ease in the form of fibromyalgia: insomnia, chronic pain and fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and poor boundaries that kept my fire burning as small as possible. I indulged in self-victimization and blamed others. I was a law student banging my head against dusty rules, and all the banging chiseled my heart, willing it to break.
And as I broke open, my heart and soul burst out – and I suddenly could hear myself very, very well. I felt called to do all sorts of things that my ego didn’t want to do; I knew that immense change was needed, and I was mortified. The idea of undergoing radical change put me face to face with a sort of psychological death.
“There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought you were” – Hazrat Inayat Khan
And in all that darkness, a little voice whispered: “Yoga. Learn to teach yoga.” And me oh my, I am so grateful that I listened.
My YTT was nothing short of a 7-week miracle, and the blessings continue to unfold. YTT was the construction of an incredible toolbox that truly empowers one to live fully in their heart, fully connected. Here is an (incomplete) list of what I’ve left with.
An ability to:
- Ground myself: regardless of whether I am in a forest or in a sardine-packed-subway. Through grounding, I am content even during times of intense discomfort – and oh, isn’t human life just full of discomfort? Too hot, too cold, too wet, too loud, too busy…
- Understand and honour boundaries: that are so pivotal to self-care, preventing burnout, manifesting soulful creations, and truly being independent (rather than codependent)
- Let go: of behaviours, beliefs, and relationships that belittle, limit, and toxify my being
- See myself: with honesty, without judging, criticizing, or punishing myself
- Forgive: myself and others for their perfect imperfections. Any wrongdoing done to me is truly a flashlight showing me where my work is. Discomfort shows me my path to soul evolution
- Express: challenging and potentially conflict inciting messages to loved ones – and a genuine willingness to apologize when I mistakenly blurt rage (see #5)
- Express: my love in tangible forms without fear or feelings of unworthiness, whether it be through visual art, dance, poetry, or song
- Love and accept: myself unconditionally, which ultimately has revolutionized the way I relate to others. Unconditional self-love and self-compassion leads to unconditional love and compassion for all beings
- Create and hold space: for what’s real to come forward; my willingness to witness vulnerability and true intimacy heals myself and those around me
- Discern: between illusion/reality, ego/intuition, nourishment/toxicity
- See: all of life as sacred; see the beautiful in the un-beautiful
When I first learned these tools, they were just ideas, little seeds.
You are what you practice. With time, focused energy, and devotion for practice, these tools have permeated my nature. Being human, I still slip and make mistakes, but being a yogi – I will get back up, apologize, forgive, and devote even more to my practice.
Today, about 9 months later, my life is so much more. As someone who used to feel faint during public speaking, I cannot believe how healing it is for me to teach a class. Physical postures (asana) relieve tension in my body. Breathwork (pranayama) eases my anxiety as I continue to embrace change as universal law, moving us all towards a world that is brighter, more loving, and non-dualistic.
It is incredible that not one year ago I was a law student that, at times, felt little will to live, let alone thrive. These days, I paint, dance, and chant with reckless abandon, and encourage others to do the same. Come as you are! Because that’s how I’m going to show up.
It is challenging to express the power of completing YTT, because the inner shifts are experiential, leaving the concepts and tools cerebral, vacuous. These words fail to really showcase their depth and power.
Here is an easy remedy for this: sign up, and find out for yourself.
Jessica completed her YTT with Janati in Summer 2014. She is a life enthusiast, artist, and yoga teacher at Jaya Yoga Centre in Toronto. Not so long ago, she was a commerce and law student. Her studies these days revolve around holistic health and spirituality. Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in November 2014, her priority in life is to learn how to heal herself and others through self-empowerment. When she isn’t painting or teaching yoga, she is dancing, baking gluten-free, sugar-free goodies, and romping in forests trying to keep up with her beloved husky, Shilo. Connect with her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Yoga schedules and more art here: www.jessicacheung.biz