So, as I’m about to embark on my Yoga Teacher Training journey in just a few days, I decided to sit down and take some personal stock as to why I want to do this. I mean, there are the obvious intrinsic reasons…proper health, peace of mind, altruistic feelings from helping others, extended learning…but is that enough?
Well, yes and no. But it’s a start.
I think an even more pertinent question that I need to ask myself is “Which qualities make a good yogi?”, and even more importantly, “Do I possess those said qualities, or are they qualities that I can develop or cultivate?”
Let’s begin by defining some ideal yogic qualities – according to me – at this point in my life and perspective on the world. These are either traits that I have, or that I would like to build within myself. I think that it’s a smart idea when you’re striving for something to visualize what it is you want to be, become or attain. I certainly don’t intend this be a comprehensive list by any stretch, it’s just more like a snapshot, sketchpad or a framework to build from. Let’s see where it goes, shall we?
Desire to learn
This is a biggie because in my opinion, there’s no half-stepping in yoga. I’m either in this or I’m not. And what I have to realize is that I’m going to embark on a transformative journey – or in essence continue the one I am already on – and learn knowledge that is 4000+ years old. And this knowledge is going to be counter to most everything that I’ve been taught as a Westerner. I have to trust that what I’m learning is true, real and has spiritual value. The depth and breadth of yoga is vast, so my goal is to find the areas that ring truest in me and explore them to their fullest. Pranayama here I come.
Patience with yourself
A relatively healthy state of body, mind and spirit from which to begin is a “nice-to-have” but is not a must-have. Yoga is for all of us, no matter where we are in our lives. As a whole we’re used to being on the go, striving to “attain” and judging ourselves (mostly negatively), but yoga is different. Sometimes it’s best to just sit back and let yoga come to you. Let it meet you where YOU are, not where you think you should be. I’m fortunate in that I have a healthy body with relatively few issues, and I’ve worked at that, but yoga has shown me the chinks in my own armor and what I have to work on both physically AND mentally. I like being armed with that valuable information.
Sense of humility
This is another biggie as I am about to be tested. In my experience, I find it best to approach most things in life with a beginner’s mind, that is, with as few expectations as possible. That way, things have a better chance of being just as they are, rather than me influencing or coloring them with my own perspectives and baggage. And yoga is no different. Look, yoga and Hindu philosophies are mind-blowingly ancient and deep. I have a lot to wrap my head around, not only with essentially having to learn an entirely new language, but also with a ton of self-discovery that is going to arise from this. I’m overwhelmed AND excited about that. That’s why I’m doing this.
Ok, on to the next part of the introspection: Do I possess these qualities?
Yes, I think that on many levels I do, but just through the course of writing this post, I’m realizing how many more ideal yogic qualities I could add to the above list and expound upon: open-mindedness, sympathy and empathy – not only for others, but for myself, curiosity about the world, dedication…This list could be endless, but in my estimation, I do think that I possess the bulk of these qualities, or at least enough of them so that the others will have a chance to be watered and flourish as well.
But ultimately, I don’t think the answer lies in whether or not I can attach certain labels to what I think qualifies me as a yogi. It’s more of a willingness to commit to the craft and understand that I’ll never stop learning; I will always be a student while at the same time being my own teacher. This is true for all of us whether we realize it or not.
Interestingly enough, these are all qualities that are not easily summed up in one word. They are not simple and trite, as if I causally listed “kind”, “nice” or “fun to be around”. They are more like multi-layered conceptual descriptions. And that’s how yoga is and that’s what it does for you. It allows you to still your mind, gain the ability to peel back the layers, and to learn to watch things unfold, all the while realizing that everything is one, and one is everything.
Tat tvam asi. You are that.
And that’s a lot.
* I’ve since gone on to complete my 500 hour Teaching Training. I highly recommend it.