Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Yoga Book Report: Introduction

A few weeks ago, I signed up for yoga teacher training.

It's a 200-hour vinyasa certification, starting in March and running through mid-June, every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, from 1PM - 9PM each day at the studio in Brooklyn. This, when compared to my current schedule of commitments and extracurriculars (zero), is no small undertaking, but for whatever reason I really need to do it. I am admittedly not very good at yoga, but I like it very much and have a fairly regular practice and when I heard you could go to teacher training, I knew that it was inexplicably and unequivocally for me. I knew it was for me the same way a child knows when he or she first learns that Disney World is a real-life place you can go.

I knew I wanted to do teacher training for about a year before the suitable program presented itself. When it did, I was ready. I filled out my application and turned it in early. I happily handed over my (not exactly small) deposit. Immediately I jumped way ahead of myself, planning the magnificent side crows I'll fly into as my aura guides helpless souls into moving meditation. I was So Very Excited to start.

About a week goes by before I receive an acceptance letter into the program, kind and welcoming words from the people I have come to admire so. My letter is accompanied by a reading list and details of the pre-training assignment. You know, the book report? The book report that definitely nobody ever told me about, ever?

A BOOK REPORT. Ten pages, double-spaced, to be turned in on the second weekend of my teacher training. A book report. On a book. That I have to read. Off a reading list.


It is not to my credit that my immediate thought upon tripping over this tiniest of non-obstacles was, "this teacher training thing, maybe it's not for me..."

It's a very small seed of doubt, but it causes me to lose focus and tumble out of my arm balance. Ugly thoughts begin to bubble up over the course of the next couple of weeks, spluttering and foaming and stampeding about as they try to choke me with their arguments. It's a monologue and a battle at once, my inner voice trying to rationalize while my fears throw a tantrum. I imagine that it looks a little something like this:

I can't write a book report! A book report??
Yes, you can. You totally can! 
I mean, obviously I CAN do it.
You can!! You can do it! 
But I don't want to!
Yes you do! You love yoga, you love books and writing, you paid all this money... 
Ugh exactly - the money! I paid so much money to learn to teach YOGA and I'm being assigned a BOOK REPORT like a... like a child! Don't they know I have a JOB? Don't they know I have a LIFE?
Oh, I see - you had planned on becoming a yoga teacher by doing no work at all. Just showing up in your LuLu for a pat on the back. That makes perfect sense.
Well I mean, sure! Obviously I hadn't planned on doing nothing! But I cannot read one of these books. They're non-fiction! They don't have stories! They're going to be so gawdawful BORING!
How do you know?
Come on! Are you seeing this list? These titles sound like titles people make up when they're making fun of yoga books. There's like... seven of them with 'chakras' in the titles! CHAKRAS!
Well, then why are you here?

Of course, I know the answer before I even have time to ask the question. I'm here, I signed up for this thing because I WANT - desperately, in fact - to believe. Because my body is starting to crave the practice and my being is so obviously improved by the stillness. Because there's a yawning chasm under my ribs where my Catholicism used to be. Because I feel I'm ready to understand it, in all its soothing simplicity. Because the whole thing looks so beautiful and peaceful and I just want it, I just need it all. Because the potential is there for me to resemble the yoga, and for the yoga to resemble me.

So, I give in and pick a book. Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, by Erich Schiffmann. I start reading it on the morning A train, and immediately feel like a terrible person for having judged it as non-fiction because it starts right away with a lively story about the author and how he came to find yoga. Which happens to be one of my favorite storylines. I then feel vindicated on the evening train, when I get to the part where he explains that this book is not a story, but a how-to - HA! Non-fiction snooze festival, just as I thought. My thoughts move back to shame with how much I like his colorful instructions, and start to churn over to panic when I realize that I can't read this on the train, because how am I going to do the meditations and the poses he describes on the subway? And when am I going to read this godforsaken thing, if not on my commute? At home? During my LIFE?

Yes, at home! In the midst of your wonderful, incredible, unbelievably amazing life!

I'm fairly certain that my italicized inner voice is going to do much better at teacher training than the rest of me. I'm also aware, by the way, that this is the point.

Anyhow, before I get too far into things, this is it - my book report. The story of my preparation for teacher training; the shirt before the shirt, if you will. Really, I just can't imagine reading a 600-page book and then remembering the details of it well enough to churn out a ten-page paper (my thesis-writing friends are finding this hilarious, I'm sure). So, I'm going to instead write down my experiences with the chapters as they unfold. If nothing else, hopefully these notes will help me to cobble together something coherent when the time comes. First up: intro to meditation.

Namaste, bitches.


  1. Good for you, Jen! There's a yoga studio around the corner from me that offers 200 hour yoga training and I always wondered if "normal" people did it. You just answered my question. It's funny how one can graduate college in peak mental fitness, conditioned to write 50 page eastern art history papers (the worst weekend of my LIFE) and now... 10 pages is scary. I guess if you can conquer the paper, you can conquer the chakras.

    1. Eeeep thanks Anna! PS I was just talking about you with Reagan and how it makes no sense that I've still never met you. And now I have no free time until June, so maybe we should put a date on the calendar for then, haha! I'll wow you with all my chakras...

    2. I knooow it's so weird! Let me know next time you're bumming around and want to get a drink.

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