I’m going to start right in the middle of my story. I’m a 200 hour certified yoga teacher. So, there’s that. It wasn’t really a plan or a goal. Not at first. Actually, it was never even on the radar.
When I took that first yoga class, I was a disaster. And, that is putting it mildly. I had no clue what the poses were, regardless if they were being presented in English or in Sanskrit. But, what I lacked in knowledge and skill, I made up for with total ignorance, a lack of pride, and sheer visceral-fortitude. The fact that I DIDN’T know how to do anything only made me want to do it MORE! Luckily I didn’t feel intimidated by the advanced students. They actually had quite the opposite effect on me. I saw them as inspiration!
I never knew that the body could be so strong and could be contorted in so many simple, beautiful, and unusual ways. So, I kept showing up to my mat because I liked seeing from practice to practice that I was making progress. I eventually dove into beginner and fundamental workshops (which probably would have been a better place to start, but…hey, hindsight is 20-20). I moved from practicing one day a week to two…and then to three. I found changes happening in my body and in my overall mindset and well-being. It took me an entire year of continuing to show up and put in the work to finally be able to hold crow pose (bakasana) for 5 breaths. And, once that happened…I felt that anything was possible in my practice.
I was a regular at the studio. I was “friends” with the teachers. When a teacher-training was finally being offered at the studio location that I frequented, my favorite teacher suggested that I sign up. I LOVED the idea. I really wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga and to fine-tune my personal practice. I didn’t have any desire to teach, but not everyone who goes through teacher-training actually wants to teach. So, that wasn’t an issue. When I presented the idea to my husband, he was fully supportive…in as long as I chose to MONETIZE my training. He didn’t feel it was a great idea to spend a somewhat large sum of money to get certified if it was solely being used as a self-exploration and personal growth tool. And, because I REALLY wanted to do this, I agreed to his terms, and I signed up (still not personally committed to the idea that I actually would teach).
The five and a half months worth of teacher-training classes were set to start in September. In July, I unfortunately was unexpectedly injured. In a freak occurrence, I was bitten by my own dog. I had to have a plastic surgeon brought in to perform emergency surgery on my mouth and face. My upper-left-lip was mostly detached, and it took countless numbers of artistically placed stitches to put me back together.
Recovery was physically brutal. I wasn’t able to eat for 10 days, and I was in constant pain. Emotionally I was a wreck, too. In an effort to make sure our young daughter (and everyone/anyone else) would be safe, we made the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to our well-loved 12 year old fur baby. Through the course of all of this, people began sympathetically talking to me about how sucky it was that I also now wouldn’t be able to go through with my yoga teacher-training. That really struck me in an odd way. That thought never even crossed my mind! At that moment, more than any other, I knew that I HAD to go through with teacher-training…that I NEEDED it. So, I stuck with that plan as I continued to move forward.
I made my way back to my mat after a month of healing. I slowly started to move through the practice and re-establish what yoga was to me right then and there. Two weeks into it, I was feeling strong and motivated…so much so that I was engaging in a full-practice, including arm balances and inversions. That is when another blow was delivered.
I was in side-crow, and I felt something “tweak” in my wrist. That tweak turned into a whole bunch of pain. Pain that didn’t get better. Off to the wrist specialist I went where it was determined that I had torn my TFCC (triangular-fibrocartilage complex) and had perforated a ligament. I was given a cortisone injection and was put in a fiberglass cast for 4 weeks, with the talk of surgery after that. Again, everyone assumed that my opportunity to go through with the yoga teacher-training process was going to be inevitably delayed. The way I looked at it, though, was that the universe was simply testing me. It wanted to find out HOW MUCH I really wanted to do this….how much it really meant to me. So, my game plan? Show up. Just as I had been doing, cast and all. I determined that the only way that I wasn’t going through with the program was if one of the studio owners told me that I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to give them any reasons to think that I shouldn’t be there. And, luckily, no one ever openly questioned my showing up .
So, TAKE THAT, UNIVERSE! I plopped down on that mat cast and all, full of excitement and naive anticipation. I’ll mention that there is no preparing for the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with yoga-teacher training, injury or no injury. There are days that we practiced for the better part of 4 hours straight with little or no breaks. I gritted my way through it all. I modified my practice and did everything on my fists. My knuckles were bruised and calloused. But, I wasn’t going to give anyone any reason to say that I wasn’t putting in the work. I wasn’t going to use anything as an excuse nor was I going to jeopardize my certification. So, on it went. 10 hours a weekend for most weekends. Time away from family. Time filled with mom-guilt. And wife-guilt. Time spent not knowing if I would get through, because, shit, y’all…yoga teacher training is H-A-R-D! But, it is when you push yourself through in the toughest of moments that you tend to reap the biggest rewards, and that is what I wanted. I wanted the reward.
When the cast came off, I again had to rebuild my practice. I spent the entire teacher-training working to lift back into crow pose and fumble my way back into hand-standing. Hell, down dog wasn’t even “easy.” But, that is one of the beauties in yoga. It is humbling. You never know where your body might be from one day to the next…but there is still a place for you on that mat. There is an opportunity to practice and progress, regardless of where you are at any given moment. Drop the ego, pull yourself inward, focus, let go…and just see what happens. That right there…that is what KEEPS me coming back. And, that is what kept me going through the grueling and soul-searching process that is yoga teacher-training. And, that is what eventually earned me my certification to teach yoga.
I just graduated in February 2016. About 6 weeks prior to my final, I started teaching donation-based classes to get in additional teaching practice. I taught my first “real class” the week right after I graduated…at the studio that has been my “home” for three years, the studio where I also took my teacher-training. I’m not only teaching vinyasa, but I’m also combining my loves and am teaching running yoga classes! And, I feel I am exactly where I should be, unintentionally or not. Some things in life may not be planned, but they might turn out to be exactly what you need. I discovered that I DO want to teach yoga. I want to share my love of yoga with others. I want people to discover that they have an inner-strength that maybe they have not yet explored or found. I want people to know that yoga is accessible to EVERYONE, and that even if you can’t or don’t care to ever emulate all of the crazy poses that you see plastered all over Instagram…that you can still progress in your own practice. That even in the most basic of poses, you are still “doing” yoga. That it is ok to fall and to laugh at yourself, and then get right back up and try again. I want people to know that yoga takes place on the mat, yes…but that most of the work of yoga takes place off the mat, and that is where the real magic happens. I am a living example of that. I am a healthier, stronger, more calm and patient, life-loving person than I ever thought possible. My yoga practice makes that a reality. I never thought at the age of 42 that I would be a head-standing, balancing on my arms, hand-standing, mantra-singing, peace-loving, breath-focused yogi…but I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I encourage you to: Throw down a mat. Get on. See where it might take you. You might be surprised. Om, shanti, shanti, shanti! Namaste!
Megan currently teaches at Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, NJ. If you’re not close by (and even if you are) you can follow her on Instagram.