Sometimes, you don’t know how transformative an experience will be until it’s done. You leave something— a job, a school, a trip— behind and re-enter your normal life, only to be struck at how much you’ve changed between then and now.

For me, this experience was the three weeks I spent getting my yoga teacher certification. I walked into the studio one version of myself and left happier, healthier, inspired, more confident and with a newfound understanding of who I am.

Even before my training, I told people all the time that yoga was the best thing I did for my health. In the years I’d been practicing, I’d certainly noticed my body becoming stronger and more flexible, and I’d acquired an arsenal of tools to combat stress and anxiety. One of the things I love most about yoga is that it is truly a holistic practice of mind, body and spirit. Most people’s concept of yoga is that it is either completely physical or completely spiritual, but it is truly a balance of both. No matter what your goals are on the mat— physical, mental or spiritual— yoga has something to offer and to teach you. 

In the months directly leading up to my teacher training, I was struggling in all areas. My body held a lot of tension, and I was always exhausted. I was also going through a long period of anxiety (basically a months-long anxiety attack) that made me indecisive, insecure and grumpy. And my spirit was low; fresh out of college, I had no idea what to do with myself. I was unmotivated at my job and uninspired to make any change. As someone who is typically a happy, optimistic person, I really didn’t feel like myself. 

During this time of my life, I noticed how going to yoga class made me feel instantaneously better. My mood would lift as soon as I walked into the classroom, and my whole being would almost sigh in relief as I laid out my mat. If you do yoga, you also know that good yoga teachers exude joy and peacefulness in a way that is infectious. I began to wonder: what about yoga makes us feel so amazing? 

My decision to go to training was sort of a combination of this focused curiosity, good timing and, as cheesy as it sounds, a calling. I wasn’t sure that I would ever teach; mainly I wanted to deepen my yoga practice. I had been doing it long enough that I could move through a class without looking around for guidance, but I wanted to go to the next level by learning new concepts and getting on the mat every single day. If nothing else, my goal was to get some space and reflect.

I went on a three-week retreat-style teacher training in Maui, HI. In many ways, it was idyllic— we began our days meditating on the beach, practiced in a breezy open-air studio and rehydrated with coconut water straight from the coconut after class. Our few hours off were spent swimming, surfing or exploring the island. It is a beautiful, magical place to spend a few weeks. 

The program had a fairly rigorous schedule, but the intensity was exactly what I wanted. Usually, the first class of the day was philosophy, followed by a fast-paced Vinyasa flow class and a slow Yin class, then anatomy and movement workshops after lunch. That meant more than three hours a day were spent moving. The days when we covered advanced poses like arm balances and inversions were the most strenuous. More than once I went home after class, drank two liters of water and immediately went to bed. It could be very physically demanding, but the challenge was worth it because I got stronger and gained endurance. 

What changed me the most though was the investigation into the spiritual and mental aspects of yoga. We had fantastic teachers who guided us through powerful meditation techniques, with specific themes like opening the heart or understanding your divine purpose in life. I remember during one meditation for activating the third eye, which is about intuition, I had what can only be described as a vision. In it, I was wandering around The Whitney Museum in New York City, but the walls were completely blank. It was kind of like in Harry Potter when Harry is dead and sees an empty King’s Cross Station. I was just kind of moving in this vast, infinite, blank space within my consciousness. 

Not every experience was that vivid, and often during meditation I was distracted or in my head. It is really hard. But even if I only achieved one minute of the meditative state, I was presented with something valuable, some new understanding of myself or of the universe— or I at least just got one minute of peace, free from the noise of my consciousness. It was eye-opening to realize firsthand how much information is available to us, if we are only willing to be still and listen. 

I wasn’t aware of any inner transformation as it was happening— I was just trying to be in the moment and enjoy myself. It was when I got home that I really noticed a difference. Things that used to set me off no longer had any effect on me. My life was filled with purpose and direction when it used to be one big anxious question mark. And I loved myself more than I thought possible. It was like the gentle breezes and the stunning rainbows of Maui had followed me home. I just felt lighter. 

Not everyone has the resources to drop everything and take off to Hawaii for a few weeks— I was extremely fortunate to make it work out like that. However, there are loads of teacher training programs that are structured over several months, or even self-paced online courses. If there is something itching at your brain, telling you to go on a teacher training, I highly encourage you to listen. 

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    Breagh is a yoga teacher, actor and writer currently living in Chicago, IL. She is passionate about fantasy novels, sitcoms, theatre and health/wellness, and is excited to share her passions with The Tempest!