Yoke Quarterly co-founder Vanessa Gardner shares her thoughts on what inspired her to further her practice via the teacher training route.
Words: Vanessa Gardner // Images: Jill Futter
The idea of yoga teacher training has been something I've known I would do since I started practicing in 2003. The common restraints of time and money have been cause for delay, but only until recently did I realize that it's also been due to my personal growth and newfound connection to my practice.
I began practicing yoga in my third year of college. Inspired by an Ashtanga teacher who taught yoga P.E. classes at school, I began going to her studio to take more formal classes. The fluidity, strength, support and focus that yoga brought to my days was unlike anything I had experienced before. However, being a student and only living in one place for 3-6 months at a time made developing a consistent practice elusive for me.
Ten years passed with an occasional yoga class here and there. The same feelings always arose, but as easily as I was reminded how great doing yoga made me feel, I would just as easily get distracted and forget. Looking back on those attempts to re-start my practice, I've come to realize that I wasn’t in a place to experience yoga as more than an exercise routine. The combined lack of insight, personal growth, and dedication changed unexpectedly for me this past year, thanks to my good friend Jill--yes, Yoke Jill. What had been an everyday invite from her to join her for a yoga class (after one of many 6 month breaks) at a local yoga studio changed everything for me.
The teachers at this studio inspired a new focus within me. After the initial pain and soreness that come the first weeks of using muscles that have been idle for months, I began to find comfort in the mental stillness that was happening on my mat when I was focused on my breath, alignment and flow. I had experienced slight variations of this before, but this was the first time I noticed a change after a particularly rewarding asana practice. Walking home after class, I found that I was calmer, less anxious, and felt genuinely content. If I was happy, sad, or rattled from a bad or good day I was able to be more present with my feelings. This experience was a first, to feel the internal repercussions of the yoga practice outside of the studio. Practicing yoga did not miraculously make me happy or make my life stressors go away, but it did get me to start to learn more about myself, allowing me to be more present and focused even when my anxieties were working their way through my body.
With this new perspective I began a more consistent practice over the past year and a half. Now that my practice is not just about the asana (although it is a great benefit and I feel so much stronger), I have begun to feel whole and inspired. I am now at a place where I want to learn more, about my body, my mind, the world and how our energies are connected. This craving for knowledge has led not just to a more consistent practice, but it has also inspired other healthy changes in my life. This thirst for knowledge and connection has brought me back to the idea of yoga teacher training. Committing the time and money for teacher training is difficult to do and after going through all of the excuses I have, “I will be tired”, “It will cut down on my free time”, “It will take time to save up enough money”, I've since realized that if this is the next step for me, I just have to do it. There will always be the excuses of not enough time or money, but if this is what is best for me to continue my journey I need to just take the leap and do it now.
So here I am, going through my assigned reading list like an eager freshman in college. Classes began this past October, and I am excited to be a part of yoga teacher training at our local studio in Brooklyn. I am grateful that the right time, mindset and studio have all come together for me. Ten years ago, the yoga practice I began had the makings of a consistent practice with the right studio and teacher, but I was nowhere near close enough to having the perspective to understand what yoga could be for me and for my future students. I can only hope that I have found the right moment and have grown enough to fully focus on what lies ahead. I am humbled and grateful to have the support of my partner, Woody, as well as friends and teachers as I delve into my practice to learn wholeheartedly what has taken me years to only begin to recognize.