Steph Sidwell's journey from Yogi to Teacher

By: Steph Sidwell

What has yoga teacher training taught me?

Where do I even begin? I guess aside from being able to stand in front of group of people for an hour and a half and instruct them to move their bodies in ways some of them have never moved before…I have also learnt a lot about myself.  Not only in my yoga practice but also in my day-to-day life. 

As for my yoga practice, I learnt a lot about my body; why certain poses hurt, some poses I can’t get into, some poses look extremely different than others… It’s because every single body is different! No two people are going to look the same in a pose, because no two people look the same! Unless you are identical twins (I have yet to see identical twin yoga)… All of our bodies and our bone structures are very different, so it’s important to know how your body works. I’ve learnt that pushing yourself until you are in pain to get into a certain pose is not going to make you a better person. It’s not going to make you stronger. If anything, it’s going to injure you and then you will not be able to perform the poses that you are really good at to your maximum potential. It’s good to take it slow sometimes, to listen to what your body is telling you, and what your body needs that day. Before I took this course I would listen to teachers tell me that at the beginning of the class but I would never fully listen. In my mind I was there, I was on my mat, I was going to give it my all and push myself even if I didn’t want to. 

But what I am so much more aware of now, is that its better if I just listen to what my body needs. Now when I practice, I usually grab blocks, I skip vinyasas, I don’t fly to handstand every time I jump to meet my hands; but some days I do! Some days I feel like superwoman and I do crazy things, but I think its because the day before I wasn’t feeling like superman, so I took it easy and listened to my body so that my body could perform the rest of the week. I’ve also learnt the importance of proper alignment; sometimes it doesn’t look as cool as we see in yoga magazines… but trust me, it’s for the better. We’re fixing you to help you avoid injury, not to make you feel bad for doing it wrong. 

All of this stuff that I have learnt about myself on my yoga my mat, has also taught me to apply this to my own life, off of my mat. I have learnt so much about myself through my emotions, and in our philosophy sessions at teacher training. When I am feeling a certain way, I stop and think about it. Why am I feeling this? What just triggered it? And what can I do to fix it? It has taught me to be compassionate. Not only to others around me, but also to myself. It’s amazing that some people can be so incredibly nice and compassionate to their friends and family around them, but so hard on themselves. We need to find love for ourselves and if we can’t find it, we need to change something. If something in our life is slowing us down, we need to take notice of it and find a way to fix it so that we can reach our full potential as human beings. Sometimes it means letting go, sometimes it just means acknowledging a situation and finding a way to make it work. We are so caught up in what other people think of us, how we look on the outside, that we forget to stop and think about what feels right for us. A yoga teacher can only adjust your alignment a certain amount of times… but at the end of the day, you’re the only one that can fix it.

You are the only person that controls your body, and you are the only person that controls your mind. If you are stubborn and you stay in the same pose because you think it looks good on the outside, you are going to feel the pain later on. It’s going to affect your body. It’s the same thing with your life; if you are stuck with the same job or the same person, or anything in your life that is not serving you, but you think it makes you look good… in the end it is going to bite you in the ass. You can only stick with it so long until you are going to break. So it’s up to you if you want to fix these situations now while you’re ahead, or wait until they break you. Teacher training has also taught me to be non-judgmental. 

Everyone has a story, on and off of his or her yoga mat. Whether it’s a story of their body and why certain poses may not be suitable for them, or a story of their past, and certain poses may bring up certain emotions. It’s so important to be non-judgmental and accept everyone where they are. If you are lucky enough to have them share their story with you then take that gift and run with it. Be grateful they felt comfortable opening up to you, and do not judge. This has also helped me to understand the importance of being non-judgmental outside of yoga, to everyone I meet. It’s so easy to judge people when we first meet them by how they look, or something they say or maybe even something you’ve heard about them from someone else. But the truth is, when we are judging someone, we are really only hurting ourselves.

We are limiting the amount of knowledge we can obtain from these people because we have already given them an image in our head of what we think they are like. It’s amazing how much people will open up to you if you greet them with an open mind. It’s also helped me to be non-judgmental of certain situations. When you judge a situation, again, you are only causing yourself pain. The universe is going to work how it wants to work; you cannot control or change a situation, you have to take it for what it is. If you are struggling against a moment, you are struggling against the entire universe. 

This brings me to another thing I learnt; you cannot change people. You have to love them for exactly who they are and if you don’t, you have to let them go. You can only change yourself. Often when we see things we don’t like in other people; it’s a great reflection as to something that we can change within ourselves. Often when we change ourselves for the better, people pick up on it and it will inspire others to change as well. They will see how happy you are, that you are glowing, that people want to be around you, and they will want what you’ve got. 

You cannot change people; you can only be an example. Yoga teacher training has been an incredible, inspirational and transformational experience for me. I have learnt way more than I could have ever imagined. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. I am still discovering things that I have learned in my teacher training and each day I am so grateful for it. I’m sure I will have more to write about soon…