Jamie Ebert is enrolled in the month-long Wanderlust Teacher Training intensive in Squaw Valley, Calif. Throughout the course of her training, she invites us to join her in her exploration of yoga, self and adventure.
It does not matter how much you learn, teach, or practice — new teachers and different perspectives will deepen your understanding of yoga. During the first week of my teacher training at Squaw Valley, I learned five important things:
1. Anatomy and alignment can and does vary for every single person
Listen to your teacher, but remember to listen to your body. We covered the alignment principles of some basic poses, like Downward-Facing Dog and Warrior I. I was reminded of how completely diverse every single body is — even within basic poses. For example, if you have tighter hamstrings, it might be more comfortable for you to start downward dog with your feet wider than hips-distance apart. It may be possible for some people to open their hips and hamstrings into a full split and for others, this might be a life-long journey. But if something feels painful, back off. Ask a teacher or see if there is a way to breathe and find a more accessible way to enter a posture.
2. Check your sources.
Not everyone in the yoga world is an expert. A huge lesson in becoming a yoga teacher is learning to say, “I don’t know.” Our teacher training group had the privilege of learning some history from a serious scholar of yoga history and Tantric philosophy (Tantra is a traditional yoga style that has influenced Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain traditions and has had many misleading rumors and conceptions spread over centuries regarding its practices). Do not be afraid to ask a teacher where their information comes from or research on your own. There are lots of ways in which important historical or philosophical information can become confused or misinterpreted by mistake.
3. Build a home practice.
Yoga classes are great and can certainly teach you a lot, but it is so important to take time out to give your body and mind what they uniquely need. At home, you can do whatever you need, and this can and will differ every single day. Taking the time to figure out what your needs are — separate from the energy of a class or directions of a teacher — can be truly transformative. Try closing your eyes and breathing or take your legs up the wall to restore your body and tune in to what is going on within your inner landscape.
4. Touching and being touched is intimate.
Learning to adjust another person in a yoga pose is a gift and can also be a challenging responsibility. It is possible for physical adjustments to stir up some intimacy or emotional issues, and important for the teacher and student to approach this with compassion. A great adjustment from a teacher can transform a pose and lead to a deeper understanding within your body. But not all adjustments are equal. Teachers do not always know what a student has experienced in their life or yoga practice so be sure to let your teacher know if touching makes you uncomfortable. Furthermore, if you plan to become a teacher, approach every student with sensitivity first, notice their energy and work with them and their breath to create an empowered experience.
5. Take a moment to admire the fruits of your practice.
The moment of peace and simplicity that you might find in the final moments of yoga practice or meditation is amazing and we should all acknowledge it and be grateful. See if you can be aware and grateful for quiet internal moments of peace without grasping too hard to hold on. It is the everlasting practice to learn acceptance of what is and that it will always change.
Jamie Ebert hails from the northern end of Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California. She spent her formidable, early adult years developing on the Eastern shores of Lake Champlain, otherwise known as Burlington, Vermont. She teaches yoga, manages the Wanderlust Yoga Studio in Squaw Valley, California, is incredibly geeky and passionate about all things photography, fantasy, pet-related, and of course yoga. Ever since she was a tiny person, she’s loved being a student and nothing has kept her more riveted than discovering the wide world of yoga. Now, she chooses to spend her time sharing, learning and refining her practice, while deeply aspiring to leave seeds of inspiration everywhere she goes.