Here we share the objectives, expectations and personal challenges of Ana Miranda who has just begun her teacher training at the Shala School of Yoga.
"After my very first yoga class more than thirteen years ago, I have now make a conscious decision to not be guided by fear, not to regret life, to take on new opportunities, and therefore complete a 200-hour teacher training programme and begin a journey of transformation, self-discovery and growth.
My main objective for the teacher training programme is to deepen my own personal connection and understanding of yoga. I have come to realise, that my knowledge of yoga is so limited. Even though I have had amazing teachers in the past, I have only really focussed on the physical aspect of yoga – asanas. I know that yoga is much more than stretches and physical postures and that the philosophical and spiritual aspect of yoga is often, if not always, missed out in the Western culture. By taking this course I hope to learn more about this ancient practice, to expand and deepen my understanding of the yoga tradition and the yogic path.
Initially, one of my fears was of not being a physically accomplished yoga student. So to even consider the teacher training programme was seen as absurd. For instance I still find it hard to sit crossed legged for a long period of time, or that I can’t hold a headstand, or that, when doing downward facing dog my heels still don't reach the floor. However,I have come to realise that those aspects are not what makes a good yoga student/teacher, but that yoga is more of a personal journey and that everyone is at different stages. Looking back at my previous teachers, many of the common traits that they possess and make them great teachers, is that they are humble, passionate and enthusiastic about sharing what they know with others. They also have a vast awareness of how the body works – anatomy and physiology – guiding you safely into the different postures, without holding judgment or comparison. I hope to emulate those characteristics with the ultimate goal of being able to confidently teach these skills within a class and translate those same values and knowledge into my teachings. In the end, for me I believe yoga is about knowledge, authenticity and being of service, not being able to do the most advance postures. Nevertheless, I am willing and ready to practice, take instructions and pay attention with equanimity.
Another one of my reservations earlier on was on how to reconcile some of the beliefs I grew up, and that in some way shape me, with those of yoga. Even though I have always considered myself to be more of a “spiritual person”, rather than a “religious person”, my early upbringing was in a Christian household, with Christian values and beliefs. Whether, I like it or not, these have shaped some of my own character traits and views on life. Those yoga beliefs that have a deep Hinduism and esoteric influences, for instance the veneration of deity forms, reincarnation, the chanting of gods and goddesses and words I don’t truly understand to cite but a few, could be said to conflict with those of Christianity. So how do you truly bring the two together? Can they even co-exist? Or can they mutually enrich one other?
I do believe that yoga has a lot to offer in the pursuit of the spiritual path and that in some way yoga can actually enrich many of the Christian values. For instance, you just need to look at the first limb of yoga by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the high moral principles – Yama – such as non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity and greedlessness, not just in action but in thought and speech as well to see great similarities in both practices. Again, I hope to expand my knowledge so I can better answer the questions and situations that I posed above and more, which I am sure will surface with time in this journey of self-growth. Ultimately my intentions and hopes are to become a discerning intelligent and mindful student of yoga.
On the aspect of personal challenges, I believe, trying to balance work, family life, and carve out time to reflect (quiet time) will be something that I need to be conscious of. By nature, you can say I like to please and have a self-inquisitive mind. So, learning to say "no" more often to plans that really aren't crucial is a skill that I need to embrace. Hopefully, this will free up valuable time for practice, study and coursework, as well as spending quality time with my family.
I choose to believe I come into the yoga path with my eyes wide open. I recognise that yoga will not always enable me to live in a continuous state of ‘love and light’, far from it. I do get angry – just ask my partner and sons – I occasionally drink alcohol, I don't always eat “clean” or organic food, and I am not a perfect mother or partner. However, I believe that at some level, yoga gives me the space to better hold my darkness as well as my light as I continue on this journey of self-discovery and growth.
By having not just a physical practice, but a spiritual and present practice which connects me to the part of me which remains unchanged – soul, spirit, and connection with the divine consciousness – I hope to be able to hold space for my emotions in a healthier and more accepting way. To cultivate self-observation, self-acceptance, self-understanding and self-discipline, and of course a fit, flexible and strong body won’t hurt! These are just some of the tools I hope to learn, absorb, foster and share with the people I come into contact with, that being a fellow yoga student, my sons, family and friends, rather than some misguided belief that yoga somehow takes you beyond being affected by life or having human responses.
And finally, intrinsically connected to the above, I hope to create true connections, not perfection, by choosing to be real about still facing challenges and struggles. I understand and fully accept that the ups and downs of this journey will be immense and physical and emotionally painful at times. I am prepared to embrace a beginner’s mind, keeping an open mind and letting go of expectations is an important part of the journey. I know that this journey will not be easy, but I believe, that I am now mentally and emotionally prepared to transform. I am committed and have the loving care and support of my beautiful family (Jason, Theo, Daniel and Mum). Namaste"