Why I Decided to Become a Yoga Teacher
I have been practicing yoga for almost a decade. Most of the time I practice for at least 20 or 30 minutes in the morning, sometimes longer. I started my yoga practice as a ballerina and Bollywood dancer in high school because my dance teacher had us take yoga to maintain our flexibility. While I did feel mentally better, yoga seemed to be more of a physical practice back then. It was only when I started college that my lifestyle completely changed. I was no longer a high school student that rehearsed for upcoming shows 7 days a week. I woke up early to go to morning math and engineering classes instead of early morning stretching and choreography classes. I chose to become an engineer instead of a professional dancer (which most of my high school classmates pursued). I just couldn’t see myself performing for a living. I started dancing as a hobby and after four years of constant performing, I realized I didn’t want the rest of my life to be that way. My decision to be an engineer was a risky one because I honestly had no idea what was in store for me. And while I loved being in engineering school and I knew I made the right decision, I fell into a deep depression in my freshman year. It started out with intense anxiety that led to depression. In the beginning, I didn’t do much about it because I didn’t know how to cope with what I was going through. I continued to try to maintain my grades because I felt that that was the only thing that kept me going. I couldn’t reach out to my family, friends, or boyfriend at the time. I felt completely alone and isolated. Until one day I decided it was time to get help.
I can save the details of what I did to cope with my anxiety and depression for another post because there is a lot to talk about. Yoga is just one of the many things that helped me. I continued a minimal yoga practice after graduating high school because I remembered how it made me feel. I wanted to feel that contentedness as often as I could. But one day I stopped going to my weekly yoga class because of the toll my stress was taking on me. I made excuses that mostly consisted of how much of an academic workload I had. But I realized if I just stopped and made the decision to go and practice yoga for just an hour, I would feel better.
One day I sat down on a Sunday morning to work on my weekly homework assignments. My hands were shaking and my breathing felt like it was too heavy. I wanted to cry but I didn’t. I was having a panic attack. Somehow I made it to my yoga class that morning after 2 months of skipping it. I always sat in the front when I did attend. My yoga teacher saw me and smiled as I rolled my mat out in front of her. She looked at me and said, “Hey, long time no see.” I don’t know if she could see the state of panic that I was in but I just smiled back and sat down to start class.
I am not sure exactly when, but at some point during the session, my breath started to feel less heavy. My hands were still. My heartbeat felt normal again. But emotionally my heart still felt heavy. We went to child’s pose and I started to cry. Not just a few tears but a salty waterfall had started to stream down my face. But not out of sadness. They were tears of joy. I realized that I had not been taking care of myself. I didn’t love myself for a long time. I punished myself for not doing well enough in school. I punished myself for letting my anxiety and depression get in the way of achieving my goals. I punished myself by not taking time for myself. And that morning going to that yoga class was a small act of self-love.
I cried and cried until there were no tears left to be shed. That’s when I knew yoga was going to be a big part of my life. I started making it a priority. And yes there were times after that I would go through periods of not practicing because I thought I was too busy. But I always came back to my practice and I always felt better even if it was only a little bit. And the more and more I had this experience the more I realized how much of a mental practice yoga was for me. I decided one day I would become a teacher and share this experience with others as much as I can.
Yoga is not just doing a series of flexible poses and handstands. It’s not people chanting sutras for an hour. Yoga is a different experience for everyone. My practice has evolved immensely since I started. But the root of my true practice always begins with the intention to love myself and take care of myself. The decision to become a yoga teacher is a decision I made when I realized that I want others to have this intention as well. Practicing yoga is not the only way to achieve this, but it’s what made me realize how important it was. Because of that one yoga session, I was able to set all of the other important aspects of my life in motion. It wasn't easy and I still fell down a lot. But I was able to pick myself up every time. I don’t owe it all to my yoga practice, but it does feel like that’s where it started.