For the love of it
Written by Brook McCarthy
You hear lots of claims that yoga teacher training ‘will change your life.’ This made me skeptical seeing as how I was already working as a yoga teacher when I began my level 1 course. Yet, I began my level 1 course in a publishing job I despised, and finished level 2 having started my home-based business, in a new house with my first child.
You cannot predict the future – that much is sure. I had harboured the desire to do a yoga teacher training course for many years. A chance encounter with John Ogilvie some years previous made me keen to do it with Byron Yoga Centre, but I’d assumed this would have to be in Byron.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could do the course, part-time over a series of weekends, right here in Sydney in the leafy north-side suburb of St Ives. Better still, John shared lead teacher responsibilities with Judy Krupp, a formidable teacher with more than 20 years experience who had worked with such industry greats as Donna Farhi and Simon Borg Olivier.
Judy and John teach like ebony and ivory, each playing to the other’s strengths. Their passions differed over aspects of yoga, but they were clearly united in their enthusiasm, eloquence and desire to spread the practice of yoga.
The St Ives, Sydney group from the part-time level 1 course, who graduated August 2008
As the months sped by, our little group bonded over the agony of pronouncing Sanskrit terms, locating the Sartorius muscle and keeping our pelvises correctly positioned in space. We were a diverse bunch, at different life stages and with different expectations of the course and what we would get out of it. Some of us partook out of desire to study more deeply, some to begin a new career and others to attain well-regarded qualifications in a pursuit we were already undertaking.
There were a host of challenges, from teaching each other almost from our first session together, to teaching the public in supervised classes, with proceeds going to a charity of our choosing.
In between weekends, when John and senior Centre teacher Kara Goodsell flew back to Byron, Judy opened her studio to us and gave her time helping us prepare for practical assessments, assist yoga teachers and discuss the finer points of asana, anatomy or sequencing. We were a satellite Byron Yoga Centre community in Sydney.
When level 1 finished six months later all too soon, my appetite was well and truly whet. There was no way I could stop now. Just before I began level 2, one month after level 1 finished, I discovered I was pregnant. This put a completely different slant on things.
Initially I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of having such senior mentorship to deepen my asana practice. My first trimester of pregnancy involved a lot of ‘couch yoga’, interspersed with Adho Mukha Virasana (down face hero pose), wondering what on earth I’d done, and Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose), appealing to the heavens for help.
My fellow teacher trainees were naturally delighted to have a plaything to experiment upon and our pregnancy yoga classes provoked many a questioning glance in my direction. Luckily, I got my yoga mojo back in my second trimester, and began my race against time to complete the requisite 50 yoga classes as part of our assessment.
Doing Adho Mukha Svanasana (down face dog) 8 months pregnant
No prenatal classes for me, my mojo demanded I move. My enthusiasm for strong asanas was tempered by Judy, John and Kara’s insistence that I abide by pre-natal yoga guidelines. No such guidance was given in the general yoga classes I attended where, more often than not, I was left to my own devices to decipher poses with the aid of bolsters, blocks and blankets, or come up with alternatives to poses restricted to me.
Bandhas took on a new meaning in my practice as I sought to avoid overstretching my ligaments and contain my ever-expanding girth so that I didn’t hyperextend my lumbar spine and provoke lower back pain – a common complaint of pregnancy. In fact, I never felt better, all aches and twinges gone. My pelvis moved in ways that were previously inaccessible, freed by pregnancy hormones.
A pregnant friend asked if strangers had stopped me in the street as they had done her, to touch her belly and inquire as to her due date. I looked at her blankly; no passerbys stopped me, they couldn’t catch me as I raced around the city between client appointments, yoga classes, and running errands. I was on a mission.
My little yoga baby was quiet in utero while I breathed through Surya Namaskar (salute to the sun), lunged low into Virabhadrasana II (warrior 2 pose) or lifted my pelvis in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose). It was during our phenomenally long and deep yoga nidras (conscious relaxation) led by Judy, John or Kara, that my baby danced, flooded with happy hormones.
The course moved to a crescendo with long anatomy sessions with Dr Ed Franklin, Ayurveda with Mary Woolley, finalising our extensive self-study log books, and – perhaps most dreaded – preparing our final philosophy talks. I had my baby three days before our final weekend.
My labour was natural and thankfully quick – a credit not only to yoga and chiropractic care, which I had regularly throughout my pregnancy, but also to my new peace of mind.
That’s what people mean when they say ‘it’ll change your life.’ All the students in my course had different reasons for undertaking the course, but all shared the same love of yoga. To pursue something for the love of it is not only liberating, but empowering. Giving you courage to make changes to live more authentically in pursuit of your passion and purpose.
Brook McCarthy runs a home-based business, Yoga Reach, for the yoga and wellbeing industry and is looking forward to returning to teaching when her baby is a little older.