Finding Community in Barcelona!
I wear a bracelet on my left wrist from myintent.org that reads “MANIFEST”. A few months ago I decided to make a huge life change: quit a very rewarding but intensely stressful job, become a yoga teacher, work international travel back into my life while continuing to serve people, and connect with people. I bought the bracelet to serve as a constant reminder that these are the things that I want in my life, knowing that it would be a hard path with doubts and second-guessing and that I’d need reminding of what I was trying to achieve.
I was right about the doubting and second-guessing. I’ve done a lot of both. Was quitting that job really the right move for me? I miss it, a lot, but I don’t miss the cumulative effects on my mental and physical health that accompanied the high level of stress. Do I really have what it takes to be a yoga teacher? Can I actually have the kind of impact that I want on people’s lives as a yoga teacher?
If you’ve been following along, you know that I have already started teaching yoga and you’ll also know that I am in the process of getting certified (in the program I’m in through Yoga Teachers College, we are encouraged to start teaching right away). Last week was a manifestation of several of the things I mentioned above.
I spent 12 days in Europe starting with 4 days in southern Germany with one of my best friends whom I hadn’t seen in 9 years – it was amazing and like no time had passed at all!
I spent the remainder of my time in Barcelona, Spain with 15 other people from 9 different countries for our first of 2 immersion trips to study with the Yoga Teachers College.
But, since this whole site is about yoga, I’ll focus on that. We spent 7 or 8 hours a day either practicing yoga, learning how to teach and adjust specific poses, or talking about other aspects of yoga. In between we had breaks for meals that usually involved quite a lot of walking – I averaged between 5 and 7 miles a day. In short, it was exhausting. But it was SO much more than that too. (As a traveler aside – Barcelona has the BEST gluten free bread I’ve every had everywhere that I had it.)
That first day felt like a week and by the end of it, I knew that I was going to get a lot more out of the week than just more knowledge and skill in teaching yoga. I knew I would leave with a community of people who cared about each other, who were supportive of each others’ paths and who would genuinely have each others’ backs. It didn’t take long for personal stories of struggle and triumph, of the power that yoga had in people’s lives to come out. On the last night, one of our teachers said that this week involved a lot of tears. He wasn’t lying. We cried – for ourselves, for each other, for our shared experiences.
It was these powerful stories of transformation that most struck me. Those stories are theirs to tell, not mine, but I was blown away by the extent to which yoga had improved the mental and physical health of every person there. There wasn’t a single person who said they had chosen the path of being a yoga teacher because they wanted to be in great shape, though that’s a welcome side effect in my opinion. We all wanted to share the transformative, healing power of yoga with others. In YogaBody Fitness classes (Yoga Teachers College is the training branch of YogaBody Fitness), they end classes with the following mantra: “May this practice heal and strengthen my body and my mind. May this practice heal and strengthen your body and your mind.” While YogaBody classes are very centered around challenging your body and pushing yourself physically, those things don’t happen without also being challenged mentally. Regular yoga practice results in growth on so many levels and growth is often really hard. A YogaBody practice doesn’t shrink away from the difficulty of growth and the stories of my classmates demonstrate the same about each one of us.
Imagine if you will, 16 people all wanting to teach yoga to improve other people’s lives. How many lives will the 16 of us transform through our teaching? There were a few points in our training when we were asked to talk about a class or a teacher that had a particularly strong effect on us or on our practice. Someday there will be people who tell someone else about the class they took with one of us and about how it changed their lives. That’s amazing to me. The ripple effect that us choosing to be yoga teachers will have on those we come into contact with. We are choosing a path of self-reflection, of mindfulness, of compassion, of healing, of forgiveness (of self and others), of unity (yoga means to unify), of strength, of growth and we’re choosing to do it in a way that will result in others incorporating more of those things into their own lives.
I started this blog post with my doubts. I will continue to have doubts, I will continue to wonder about alternate paths (that seems to be in my nature) but I do not doubt my love of yoga, my desire to use it to improve the lives of others, nor the incredible transformative power it has had on my life and can have on others. The big difference for me now is that when those doubts creep in, I have this incredible support group sprinkled all over the world, of people who believe in me, in yoga, in our collective power, and who will not hesitate to remind me, as I’ll not hesitate to remind them, of their worth and their strength. I love you guys, thank you for being part of my journey!