Becoming a yoga teacher: the journey of the perpetual student

Lisa Soede (left) during her Vedic Chant Teacher Training photo Mari Kadanik
Lisa Soede (left) during her Vedic Chant Teacher Training, photo Mari Kadanik

Foundation course students are famous for saying, ‘there is no end in sight to this yoga learning’. At first this comes as a deeply troubling fact to them, but slowly over the years it transforms into acceptance, and then again into something quite comforting. There is always more to learn. Perhaps in part because yoga dates back so far and there are so many ancient texts to study, but also because yoga is about self-study, svadhyāya, and this journey of the self surely never ends. Therefore, no matter how many courses we have taken and qualifications we have in yoga, no matter how far down the line we go, we are always students of yoga. 

I did not discover yoga until late in life compared to many. After my last child was born, at the age of 31, I thought I would drop-in to a yoga class since I was not allowed to start running again until after my post-natal check. I was fortunate to ‘land’ into Sue Delf’s class at a gym. From the first class, I was hooked. Sue, a TSYP member who teaches in the tradition of T Krishnamacharya, had a very logical approach and she took us step by step through a challenging but fair practice. In hindsight I can see this approach as being a hallmark of this particular training, where teachers are taught to Lesson Plan thoughtfully, with a clear rationale and process to take their students from Point A to Point B in a sequential way, called vinyasa krama. At the time of that class, all I knew was that I felt a lot better after the class then when I started. From that point on, I went to every class of Sue’s I could manage to get to and then took her advice and enrolled on a BWY Foundation Course. Back then, the foundation courses were enormous. I was one of 60 people and I had no idea what they were talking about most of the time. One thing remained, though, my desire to learn more about yoga. Onwards and upwards…

I enrolled in a 300-hour Teacher Training Course. I had three children under five and managed to pass the course and begin teaching but it was a stretch. This training was not in the tradition of Krishnamacharya but gave me a good overview of yoga and propelled me onto the road to teaching. Then one day I was covering a class for Sue, and I was checking before the start of the class with regard to their injuries and one lady said to me, ‘I have had surgery for breast cancer and was told to go to yoga to help with my recovery’.  I froze. I was at a loss as to how to help her, and was frankly terrified of having her in the class. What if she hurt herself? After this class, I spent some time reflecting on this. I realised my prior training did not give me enough grounding on how to teach all the people who come into a drop-in class. This is when I decided to train, as Sue had done, in the tradition of Krishnamacharya and his son TKV Desikachar.

The Teacher Training course was over 750 hours and took us just over four years to finish. The course also included training in yoga therapy, which entitled us to a qualification with the Complementary and Natural Health Care Council (CNHC). My personal circumstances were now slightly more manageable with the children being older, my youngest was 9 years old.  Since that course, I have never again had the feeling I cannot help the people who come into my classes. At times I can feel nervous about a situation, but then I remember my training, lean into that learning and the answers usually come. If the answers do not come, then I have Mentors and colleagues who can help me to answer my questions. I can also lend my support to others. I will be forever grateful to my teachers past and present for this amazing training, a real gift. 

In this present time of turmoil, I am once again proud of and grateful to this tradition for teaching us all how to navigate these uncharted territories. As a perpetual student of yoga, the truth is, there really are no shortcuts.

Article by Lisa Soede

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