I first attended a yoga class when I was a teenager. It was not that popular at that time, especially in a small town in southern Italy where I am from. I went only to accompany my friend, who had been told yoga was a good way to defeat anxiety. It was by chance, and it was an absolute disaster. I could not stop thinking that everything we were doing was completely non-sensical and awkward. My friend and I spent the whole time looking at each other, laughing and annoying everyone else around us, until we had been asked to leave the room. It was not love at first sight!
That embarrassing episode didn’t stop me from trying it again after a few years when I met the yoga teacher in a different context and we ended up talking about yoga and how good it could be and beneficial for my concentration during my university studies. This time I did not give up after the first class, I stuck with it, did my practice, and it didn’t take me long before I could see the first benefits.
Slowly, I started to become more and more interested in yoga as a physical activity but also I was extremely curious to understand what the universe hid behind simple movements and breathing exercises. I decided then to attend the theory classes held at the local yoga centre, as-well-as going to various workshops, and talks, and started to read more about the subject.
When I moved to Edinburgh in 2014, it was one of my priorities to find a place for my practice. I was super excited when I discovered the variety of yoga styles that the city could offer, plenty of yoga places to choose, and, last but not least, the most beautiful studio in town was just around the corner from my place.
I was lucky when a job opportunity opened for me at the same yoga centre. I had the opportunity to see what was going on behind the scenes of the classes, what was involved in running a yoga studio. I met lots of people from students and inspiring teachers, and it was then when it came to my mind for the first time the idea of starting a teacher training course. Thousands of questions stopped me from acting on it: is this the right thing for me? Am I ready? What kind of course? How many hours?
Despite the fact that I was working in a yoga studio and surrounded by amazing teachers from different backgrounds, it was really difficult to find answers to those questions and I did not have any idea where to start searching for the right course for me. I wasn’t ready.
Later that year, I was aspiring for change and looking to get some new experience. I found another job, and by pure chance, it was related to the yoga world again! So I started a new chapter working at Yoga Alliance Professionals, where I am in daily contact with yoga teachers, trainees and schools speaking to them, of course, about Yoga.
Only a few months ago the time came and this time it was the right that course found me. No big research needed, no doubts about length, location, and prices. Surely, having had the experience of working for YAP for over a year helped me to have clearer ideas on what to consider before enrolling into the course, such as the experience and background of the teacher, her availability to help us build confidence to teach, the hours spent face to face, how many people and what kind of experience required before being accepted into the course, what to expect during the modules, and the criteria for assessment at the end of the course.
My only concern was that I didn't know the senior teacher (and director) of the training. So, before making the final decision, I got in touch with a few people that completed the same course in the past to ask for their feedback. I also took a few yoga classes with her to get further confirmation through my impression and to check if her personality would work for me. Since everything seemed to be quite appealing, I have decided to join the course. However, I must admit, until I started it I was a bit anxious about what to expect, and if it had been the right choice or just a waste of time and money. I could not see myself as a yoga teacher and even the idea of teaching a class scared me!
My next step was to focus my thoughts on the positive things that the experience would give me, whatever may happen afterwards. The main reason for me doing a yoga teacher training was to deepen my practice and learn something new to help me become more aware during my practice.
When the course started, I was extremely happy to meet the fellow students, who I get to share this journey with. People with different experiences and reasons for being there, but everyone has the same big motivation as me, willing to learn from each other, sharing our peculiarities or, as we like to call them, our “superpowers”, deepening our practice and understanding in yoga under the guide of a truly experienced and knowledgeable person, our Senior Yoga Teacher.
In my personal point of view, not having taught before, it was precious to have the opportunity to learn from more experienced yogis, and have their support and advice. It was important at the same time to be a small and intimate group so that we could have the full attention of the teacher, and focus our time and energies on the subject. However, also in this case, between questions and chats, sometimes it is really hard to keep track of the time, making sure everyone has the chance to share their thoughts and points of views. Respect and sensibility towards the group is the key here.
Another point that I would like to mention is the length of the course. Most of the foundation courses offered are 200h, but you can choose between intensive and longer courses. Personally, I quite liked the idea of a yoga holiday where you can get your qualification in less than 4 weeks, but just after completing the first module I realised the importance of gaps between every meeting. This way I had the chance to review and digest the considerable volume of information, time to practice, to observe, assist and put in practice what I learned, arriving ready to assimilate new information during the following session.
Gradually, I overcame one of my greatest insecurities - the ability to build safe sequences and teach a class in complete autonomy. The first class I taught was during the training, together with a fellow student. I did not expect to enjoy teaching so much and never realised how many things you learn only by observing a class. From there I then realised that I had to push myself a bit and start teaching out-with the training course, even to family and friends. I bought trainee insurance - which I kept postponing so I had an excuse to avoid teaching - and the following day I took my first class, away from the comfort zone of the training and the moral support of my teacher and colleagues.
I cannot say that all my insecurities are now over. From time to time thoughts rise about everything, such as the saturation of yoga teachers, if there is space for everyone, but at the same time everyone is different and has something unique to share with the community. From my experience, I am realising that teaching is another way of learning, and getting a certification cannot be considered the end of the period as a student. This is the start of a new phase of my yoga journey. I can already see the difference in my own practice and I am aware that I have new tools to understand the sensations during the practice more in-depth. I understand that a foundation certification is not enough to label myself as "yoga teacher”, but it is the first step to start sharing my little experience and what I have learned so far with other people.
I am looking forward to my graduation, but at the same time, I will miss all the meetings and discussions with the group and my teacher. Luckily there are so many courses and further training courses, also designed for people like me that want to know more about topics that in a foundation course you don't really have the chance to cover. We all know that being a yogi is a never ending journey...
Nardina is a yoga teacher graduated in 2018 and also part of the YAP Team since 2016. She now teaches hatha, vinyasa flow, yin, and aerial yoga in different studios around Edinburgh.