When I first heard of yoga, I wasn’t really into it. I looked at it as stretching, and stretching was not something I was good at or liked. I was so inflexible my hands would barely pass my knees when I bent over.
Through time and education, I learned yoga was more than postures and flexibility. It included aspects like pranayama, meditation, concentration, and visualization. This was what I was actually looking for. So I became a mind yogi before I began practicing the postures.
I ventured into my first yoga class about ten years ago. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t until I took my first class with Brynn that I realized how important the postures, or asanas, are to a complete yoga practice. An area I lacked flexibility in most (and remember from above, I couldn’t touch my toes) was my hips. I had a great desire to not feel pain in my legs or lower back while meditating for some time.
I can clearly remember my first 6am class at the yoga studio I now work at. It was challenging, which I enjoyed. And it was challenging in an unexpected way. I felt I was pretty strong at the time, but when Brynn asked me to hold certain warrior or balance poses for a prolonged period of time with correct alignment, I struggled. I would even say I failed.
Laying on the mat in the last pose, savasana, I felt my whole body tingling as if I was a child waking up on Christmas morning. I smiled and felt a relaxation I’ve never felt, not in weightlifting, soccer, martial arts, or running. This was something different. Something I wanted permanently in my life.
As I continued taking classes, my body changed. I was able to touch my toes within weeks, chronic knee pain from a past injury went away (mostly due to my newfound quad flexibility), and I was able to sit in meditation comfortably for a longer period of time, which was my goal. Like many things in my life I enjoy, I wanted to facilitate this feeling in others. I wanted to teach, to help people heal their own stuff, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. So, I enrolled in Elemental Yoga’s 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training.
I should insert here that I was asked to run Elemental Yoga with my then girlfriend and now wife, Brynn Byrne Dardanes. I now had another reason to enter the teacher training and a different perspective from most people entering. But I treated it the same. I wanted the full teacher training experience. I knew many of my fellow trainees that year. They were friends or acquaintances who were from the studio, people I knew years before, and people from the apartment community I lived in.
I didn’t know what kind of transformation was going to happen to myself or to the group at large. All I knew was something would change, within me, within every student and teacher participating in the program. This helped our group grow closer with each passing class. It was a family within a sacred space, a family of people focused on bettering themselves and helping those around them. We each had different goals and different demographics of who we wanted to teach to. And some of us didn’t want to teach, although that changed somewhere throughout the six month process. By the end, everyone wanted to teach. And everyone did. Practice teaching was part of our homework- to teach those we love: friends, family, partners, etc. I didn’t have family nearby but I had friends. I started teaching private sessions to a friend two weeks into training. These sessions lasted over a year and were a great experience for both of us. Thanks, Jason C.
I also taught my two sisters, my father, and mother on a less consistent basis. One of my sisters was on her way to getting married. I believe the breathing in yoga and the strength and flexibility needed in the postures helped her to relax and feel better in her body. She was also a gymnastics stud and was practicing yoga before I even knew about it. Thanks, Lauren, for being a guinea pig :)
I felt joyous through parts of the training when I looked around at a room of people (12-15 depending on the day) and knew that we were all here to learn something important, something very real and tangible. I felt frustrated when I couldn’t get a particular pose. I was puzzled by some of the philosophies I didn’t understand and drove myself to wrap my head around it (to this day I still feel this way with many concepts). I felt happy to find new ways to connect with myself through breathing techniques, meditations, mudras, and chanting.
I think back on my time in teacher training and I’m in love with that experience. I didn’t know that would be my ultimate takeaway, the joy of connecting with myself and others in ways I can’t describe. The getting to know others through conversation in a way that’s intimate, that feels like I’ve known them for a lifetime. It’s an incredible experience, one I continue to do over and over. And each time I wear a big smile at the opening ceremony, not understanding, guessing, or knowing what I’m going to experience for the next six months, but knowing it’s something special. And that something special is felt within every person in the room.