By Sarah Wilner
An acquaintance asked me this question the other day. As we conspired in her classroom one rainy afternoon recently, it was clear my teacher friend was considering ways to create a second source of income. Currently a middle school teacher, my friend is also a regular bikram practitioner and mother to two children. We know each other only casually, but have spent some time talking surface level about our love of yoga.
Having seen on Facebook that I just graduated from the 500-hour IYISF AS/TT program
, my friend was curious. Was it something she could do on the side perhaps? I could see the wheels turning as she inquired about my training. I began my answer, “well, first I did this 200 hour program locally, and it was…” ”easy?” she interrupted, with a look that showed desire. I laughed. “NO! In 200 hours we hardly even touched on teaching!”, and then I was stuck. How do I explain the depth of what it has taken to become a yoga teacher, or, more adequately, to consider myself a yoga teacher? We only had a few minutes to converse, not nearly enough time to tell my whole story. I continued. ”…and after the 200 hour training I was accepted into the Iyengar Institute in San Francisco, where I spent one weekend a month for the past two years in training. Let’s just say my training so far has cost more than my masters degree. And, quite frankly, teaching yoga is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” ”Oh” she replied glumly, a look of discouragement coming over her face, and then she quickly changed the subject.
This brief conversation perhaps meant little to my friend, but I have hardly stopped thinking about it since. What does it take to become a yoga teacher? What have I gone through? Nothing short of walking through fire. I have spent thousands of hours in classes and cars and studios and practice. I have invested my time and money and soul. There have been tears and laughter and confusion and clarity. What did it take? It took everything I had! And I gave it, gladly.
Becoming a yoga teacher has meant challenging my beliefs and opening my heart, not to mention my hips! It has meant sleepless nights and missed engagements and reevaluating myself on a daily basis. And the list goes on, because you don’t go through a training and then become a yoga teacher and that’s it, you’re done. No. Every day I wake up a student, and every night I go to sleep humbled by my endeavors. Becoming a yoga teacher has meant committing my life to something, to yoga. And although this is what I want, it certainly hasn’t been easy. But, so far on my journey in life, it has been so deeply rewarding. It’s funny how the hardest things we do end up returning the greatest rewards. And teaching yoga is no exception.
So, for awhile I worried whether I had discouraged my friend from perhaps realizing a dream. But in hindsight I know I told my truth. The truth that teaching yoga is a great responsibility, not meant to be entered into blindly. And if my friend really wants it, my words will fuel her fire, not extinguish it, as my teacher, Tom Hess’, words once did for me, when years ago I looked at him eager-eyed and said, “I want to teach yoga” and, with a look of intensity and not an ounce of encouragement, he said,” well then, you better start reading the sutras.”
And you know what? I did.
SARAH WILNER is a recent graduate of IYISF’s 500-hour teacher training program. Sarah passed her Introductory 1 assessment in 2012 and plans to go up for full certification in 2013. Sarah lives and teaches yoga in Chico, California.
Words of encouragement, practice and inspiration through the experiences of the students in our Advanced Studies and Teacher Training Programs.